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Twitter's Mr. Costolo Goes to China

A quick trip to Shanghai for the Twitter CEO. But don't expect Twitter to enter China officially any time soon, the company says.

Asa Mathat

Twitter CEO Dick Costolo is currently visiting China in an attempt to learn more about the country’s tech and culture trends, according to the company.

Twitter insists that this trip isn’t to gain a foothold in the lucrative market, where Twitter has been blocked to users for six years by mandate of the Chinese government. Instead, it’s a temperature test for how the population uses technology in general.

“Dick is visiting China because he wants to learn more about the Chinese culture and the country’s thriving technology sector,” a Twitter spokesman told Re/code. “We have no plans to change anything about our service in order to enter the market.”

As Reuters first reported, Costolo plans to visit Fudan University, his visa sponsor for the trip, where he’ll sit at a roundtable with students from the institution’s school of journalism.

As Costolo’s first trip to China as a Twitter employee, however, a visit to a country where the majority of its 600 million residents don’t use Twitter is certainly significant.

For years, China has been an intense point of interest for American Internet companies. Google had its own set of problems with censorship upon entering China back in 2010. Mark Zuckerberg has made many trips to meet with leaders in China, where Facebook is also blocked. And LinkedIn recently released a Chinese-language site for Chinese users, though it has admitted it will bow to some censorship requests that the Chinese government makes.

As the company maintains, Twitter may not currently be making plans to set up a Chinese office or tweak its service to accommodate censorship demands. But Costolo’s trip could afford him valuable knowledge on broader technological trends and application uses by younger age groups in the country.

WeChat, for instance, is one of the most popular messaging apps in the country. Owned by Chinese conglomerate Tencent Holdings, the app has rocketed to popularity as both a communication tool and a gaming distribution app, and boasts 300 million registered users.

The visit also comes just days after Sina Weibo, which offers a Twitter-like messaging service for China, filed its documentation for a United States initial public offering in the coming months.

Costolo’s trip is expected to last through the week. He is also supposed to meet with Shanghai government officials, though the company has not disclosed the nature of those meetings.

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