LinkedIn has just announced the beta launch of a Chinese version of its site. While the company already has four million members in China, this is the first time it has localized its site.

The expansion will take place as a joint venture with Sequoia and CBC Capital. CBC has several Chinese success stories in its portfolio, including Evernote and Dianping. It also invested in MySpace China, though I’d be hard-pressed to call that a success.

LinkedIn’s Chinese version includes integration with popular local social networking services, such as Sina Weibo and Tencent WeChat, but it also lacks some features from the main site, such as Groups. Now that it has a local presence, the company also opens up itself to greater monitoring from the Chinese government.

In a blog post, CEO Jeff Weiner stated that the company disagrees with China’s approach to censorship, but it will abide by any necessary laws in order to operate in the country. Weiner also outlined the following three guidelines that LinkedIn will maintain for the venture:

  • Government restrictions on content will be implemented only when and to the extent required.
  • LinkedIn will be transparent about how it conducts business in China and will use multiple avenues to notify members about our practices.
  • The company will undertake extensive measures to protect the rights and data of our members.

Based on the company’s launch post, LinkedIn appears to be treading carefully as it enters China. Foreign Internet companies have historically struggled to gain traction in mainland China, even as they faced criticism in their home countries for submitting to government censorship.

Weiner noted in his post that LinkedIn consulted with human rights organizations as it weighed whether to enter China. In the end, the company decided that the venture would have greater benefits for its user, both in China and abroad, than the downside of increased regulation.

Image credit: LinkedIn