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Twitter names its first managing director for China to find advertisers beyond the Great Firewall

TechCrunch TechCrunch 15/04/2016 Catherine Shu

Twitter has appointed its first managing director for China. A former general manager at Microsoft and Cisco, Kathy Chen will reach out to companies who can use Twitter to reach international audiences, even though the service is blocked by the Great Firewall.

Despite being banned by the government in mainland China, the country is still an important growth market for Twitter as it tries to overcome a plateau in the number of new users. Last year, Twitter opened an office in Hong Kong specifically to find new advertisers and media partners.

Chen will be based there and work with potential clients in the Chinese-speaking markets sometimes lumped under the term “Greater China.” In this case, it refers to mainland China, Hong Kong, and the country of Taiwan, as Twitter said in a statement about Chen’s appointment:

As a global platform, we are already engaged with advertisers, content providers, and influencers across Greater China to help them reach audiences around the world. Going forward, we will look to Kathy’s leadership to help us identify ways in which Twitter’s platform and technology assets can be utilized to created further value for enterprises, creators, influencers, partners, and developers in mainland China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan.

In an interview with the South China Morning Post, Shailesh Rao, Twitter’s vice president for Asia-Pacific, Latin America and emerging markets said that Twitter has seen 340 percent growth in the number of advertisers from China who use Twitter. They include companies that want to reach consumers in other countries, like Lenovo Group and Huawei Technologies, as well as state-run media like Xinhua news agency and People’s Daily.

Twitter plans to attract more enterprise clients in the region with tools like data analytics and Fabric, its platform for mobile app developers.

Twitter is not the only American tech company seeking new revenue opportunities in China even though its main consumer products have been blocked. Facebook is also wooing Chinese advertisers, while Google wants to cultivate relationships with developers, particularly those that use Google Play to make money in other countries.

Chen has a lot of experience striking strategic links between American tech giants and companies in China. Before joining Twitter, Chen was a general manager at Microsoft in China, where she oversaw the development of partnerships for cloud and enterprise products, like Microsoft Azure and Office 365.

Before that, she held a similar position at Cisco and served as CEO of Computer Associates-Jinchen Software, a joint venture between Computer Associates International (now known as CA Technologies) and China’s Ministry of Public Security.

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