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Airbnb wants to expand in China with help from firms there

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HONG KONG >> For large Internet companies in the United States, the prevailing wisdom has long been that China is off-limits. Beijing’s concerns about being unable to control foreign sites, combined with regulations that require companies to censor and monitor users, has led many startups to heed the experience of forebears like Twitter and Facebook and refrain from opening a local China site.

But that may be changing. With its announcement last week that it was expanding in China, Airbnb joined a growing list of large U.S. Internet companies that have begun experimenting with new models to enter the Chinese market. With more than 600 million Internet users, China is a rich prize.

In a statement on its blog, Airbnb said outbound bookings from Chinese tourists had risen 700 percent during the last year, making it the company’s fastest-growing market of customers booking stays outside their home country. Airbnb, a startup based in San Francisco, allows people to offer their homes for rent.

Airbnb said it wants to “create a truly localized platform” while being “prudent” in establishing operations within China. To help, the company said it would work with the Chinese venture capital firms China Broadband Capital and Sequoia China, the local affiliate of the U.S. firm, to increase its presence in the country.

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