Twitter chief's Shanghai visit may signal growing interest in China

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 18 March, 2014, 1:11am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 18 March, 2014, 1:11am

Twitter chief executive Dick Costolo will meet Shanghai municipal government officials, academics and students in his first visit to China, signalling Twitter's interest in cracking a lucrative but thorny market with 600 million internet users.

Twitter, which has been blocked by mainland censors since 2009, has described the trip as a personal tour for Costolo. He was due to land in Shanghai yesterday and plans to spend three days in the business capital. He is not scheduled to visit Beijing.

Costolo will meet Shanghai government officials - including representatives of its free-trade zone, established last year to test market liberalisation measures, such as looser rules governing currency conversion and foreign direct investment.

Unlike at Facebook, whose chief executive Mark Zuckerberg is a frequent visitor to China and has openly spoken of his desire to enter the mainland market, Twitter's senior management has played down the likelihood of seeking a licence to do business there.

Costolo's trip is bound to stoke speculation about the company's mainland ambitions, but 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.

Costolo will also meet university administrators and participate in a round-table discussion with students at Fudan University in Shanghai, the official sponsor of his visa.