Twitter CEO Costolo to make first China visit
By Gerry Shih
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Twitter Inc CEO Dick Costolo will meet Shanghai government officials, academics and students in his first visit to China, signaling Twitter's interest in cracking a lucrative but thorny market with 600 million Internet users.
Twitter, which has been blocked by Chinese censors since 2009, described the trip as a personal tour for Costolo, who is due to land at Shanghai's Pudong International Airport on Monday and plans to spend three days in the business capital. He is not scheduled to visit Beijing.
Costolo is scheduled to meet Shanghai government officials — including representatives of the Shanghai Pilot Free Trade Zone, established in 2013 to test market liberalization measures, such as looser rules governing currency conversion and foreign direct investment. But officials have denied media reports that Internet restrictions and censorship, including the blocking of Twitter, will be loosened there.
Unlike at Facebook Inc, whose CEO Mark Zuckerberg is a frequent visitor to China and has openly spoken of his desire to enter China to fulfill his vision of connecting the world, Twitter's senior management has played down the likelihood of seeking a license to do business there.
But Costolo's trip is bound to stoke speculation about the company's ambitions in the country. Major Internet companies including Google Inc and Yahoo Inc have been hampered by Chinese government intervention. Google pulled out of mainland China in 2010, unwilling to accept what it argued was heavy-handed censorship of the Internet.
Any attempt to enter China with Beijing's approval would be a delicate proposition for Twitter, which takes pride in its reputation for defending free speech and rebuffing government requests for private user data.
In a statement to Reuters, Twitter declined to disclose what Costolo intended to bring up with Chinese officials.
"Dick is visiting China because he wants to learn more about Chinese culture and the country's thriving technology sector," a Twitter spokesman said. Continued...