LinkedIn Logo
The logo for LinkedIn Corporation, a social networking networking website for people in professional occupations, is shown in Mountain View, Calif., on Feb. 6, 2013. Reuters/Robert Galbraith

Mountain View, Calif.-based LinkedIn Corp (NYSE:LNKD) has hired Derek Shen, formally the founder and CEO of Nuomi, as the head of its Chinese operations, according to media reports and Shen’s own LinkedIn account.

The professional networking site’s move has been seen as another step in formally launching the service in mainland China. LinkedIn, which was launched in May 2003, now has 259 million members and employs nearly 5,000 employees in 26 offices around the world, including one in Hong Kong.

“Derek’s extensive experience in the China Internet space positions him well to lead our efforts to explore what makes the most sense for LinkedIn, our members and clients in China,” Hani Durzy, director of corporate communications at LinkedIn, said in a statement according to MarketWatch. “Ultimately, we hope to be able to help create economic opportunities for professionals in the country, including matching talented individuals with job and business prospects.”

Shen, who is a vice president at LinkedIn and also worked as head of business development for Google in China according to his LinkedIn profile, will be based in Beijing, the South China Morning Post reported Thursday. The report added that the company currently only has a mobile app in Chinese and no Chinese website, but, it has more than four million users in the country. According to the company web site, 66 percent of LinkedIn members are located outside of the U.S.

Skeptics point to China's record of blocking popular social media websites such as Twitter and Facebook as a potential roadblock for LinkedIn's ambitions in the country. However, there are others who view LinkedIn in a different light than its more informal counterparts and predict the country's policy makers would do the same.

"People on LinkedIn talk about their professional life, their work, news about their industries, it's not that sensitive," AdAge quoted Xiaofeng Wang, a Forrester Research analyst, as saying in a December report.

Will Tao, a Beijing-based analysis director at China's iResearch, told AdAge in the same report: "LinkedIn is a place where professionals can discuss issues, trends, other things like that, and China doesn't have a very good website with this service."

The company went public in May 2011 and the stock rose as much as 171 percent in its first day of trade on the New York Stock Exchange, Reuters reported at the time, noting that the stock closed at $94.25, more than 109 percent above the $45 IPO price.

On Wednesday, the stock closed down 0.1 percent on the NYSE at $216.