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Twitter CEO is visiting China but still has no plans to launch there

ChinaBeijing (China)Media IndustryTwitter, Inc.NetworkingLenovo Group Ltd.

SAN FRANCISCO -- Twitter Chief Executive Dick Costolo is on his first trip to China.

Costolo is spending three days meeting with Shanghai government officials and university administrators. He will also participate in a roundtable discussion with students at Fudan University in Shanghai, which sponsored his visa.

Costolo will not visit Beijing, a Twitter spokesman said.

Twitter, which has been blocked in China since 2009, tamped down speculation that it is eyeing the Chinese market, the world’s most populous with 600 million Internet users. Twitter also is not expected to ask Beijing to lift the ban on Twitter.

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

Major U.S. Internet companies have struggled to find a way to get a foothold in China without giving in to government's censorship of the Internet.

Google, which began offering a censored version of its search engine in China in 2006, pulled out of mainland China in 2010 in a rare act of defiance.

LinkedIn, which already has more than 4 million users in China, recently launched a Chinese-language version of its website as part of a broader expansion in the country.

Entering China would be a far tougher proposition for Twitter, which has staked its reputation on championing free speech and pushing back against government requests for users’ personal information.

China continues to crack down on bloggers and other dissidents on social media such as Sina Corp.’s Weibo, which is similar to Twitter.

In June, Costolo told the American Society of News Editors convention that he would "love to be able to run Twitter as Twitter in China,"  but said the company would not sacrifice its principles to do so.

That’s not to say that Twitter does not have business interests in China. Its subsidiary MoPub serves up ads inside mobile apps from Chinese developers, and Beijing-based personal computer maker Lenovo Group advertises on Twitter.

Costolo also hopes to learn more about Chinese innovation.

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