News Corp.'s (NWS) popular social networking site MySpace launched a test version of its new China service on Friday, making a late entry into the intensely competitive Chinese Internet market.

MySpace China will be a Chinese-owned company with backing from MySpace Inc., the IDG venture capital firm and a Chinese investment fund, the company said.

Spokespeople for the company refused to give an ownership breakdown or say which investor would control it.

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MySpace allows users to share text, pictures and video. It was bought by News Corp. in 2002.

"Based on the MySpace global brand and technology platform, we will develop products and features that are tailored to today's Chinese citizens," Luo Chuan, a former Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) executive who is to lead the venture, said in a prepared statement.

The strategy of having a Chinese company operate the service follows the approach of Yahoo Inc. (YHOO), eBay Inc. (EBAY) and other Internet competitors that have turned to local partners to run their China operations after struggling to win market share.

News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch said in September the company was looking for a way to enter China without running into political obstacles and "heavy weather" faced by Google and Yahoo.

Murdoch said his Chinese-born wife, Wendi Deng, was playing a key role in helping to launch the China-based service.

News Corp. has tried to expand in China but has been stymied by restrictions on foreign media ownership.

China has the world's second-biggest population of Internet users after the United States, with 137 million people online.

The communist government promotes Internet use for education and business but tries to block material considered subversive or pornographic. Dozens of people have been jailed for posting political essays online.

Web logs and bulletin board services are immensely popular, with 7.7 million blogs and 17.5 million active bloggers, the government's Internet agency says.

MySpace will face competition from established Chinese networking sites.

The biggest, WangYou.com, with 11 million users, offers distinctly Chinese features such as a service to upload karaoke songs.

"MySpace China is not yet optimized to fully meet the needs of Chinese users and we continue to improve products and services based on the feedback and recommendations from our test and trial users," Luo's statement said.

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