Jon Russell was Asia Editor for The Next Web from 2011 to 2014. Originally from the UK, he lives in Bangkok, Thailand. You can find him on T Jon Russell was Asia Editor for The Next Web from 2011 to 2014. Originally from the UK, he lives in Bangkok, Thailand. You can find him on Twitter, Angel List, LinkedIn.
The iPhone 4S isn’t the only high profile Western tech symbol stepping into China today, but unlike Apple’s new smartphone — which is here to stay despite launch-day chaos — Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey is just visiting the country on business.
Dorsey is believed to be in China developing partnerships for mobile payments firm Square — which he founded and is CEO of — and he warned his 1.6 million followers that he would be unable to keep up with messages upon entering Shanghai, only to exchange a series of tweets with high profile activist and artist Ai Weiwei.
Weiwei, who has been reprimanded by the state for speaking out against the regime’s censorship, welcomed Dorsey to the “land of no Twitter” which kicked the conversation off. When the Twitter executive chairman replied calling the service’s blockage in the country “unfortunate and disappointing”, Weiwei joked that Twitter should remedy the situation in China before North Korea gets access to the microblogging site.
let’s make sure china has access to twitter ….sooner than northkorea has it! @jack: @aiww yes, it’s unfortunate and disappointing.
— 艾未未Ai Weiwei (@aiww) January 12, 2012
Weiwei has repeated used Twitter and Sina Weibo (it’s Chinese equivalent) despite authorities banning him from using social media after he was released after being detained for more than two months without explanation from the state.
Twitter CEO Dick Costalo recently described the company the “free wing of the free speech party” and it is clear from his tweets that Dorsey and the company are aware of the artist, his use of Twitter and the importance of social media for his efforts in the country.
Last year, Dorsey lamented China’s approach to Twitter, labelling the country “a challenge” as authorities forbid it from competing, despite the fact that Chinese microblogs can compete with it.
Although Twitter is blocked in China, Dorsey has been posted tweets through SMS and via Instagram, but he has not revealed any concrete details behind his visit. One tweet did hint that he may be on the cusp of a business deal in the country after “an amazing presentation”, but it is not clear what it relates to, or even which of his companies that he is representing.
We contacted Twitter to clarify the nature of Dorsey’s trip to China but the company is yet to provide a response.
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