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Top MSN China exec to step down

Xiao Chen, the online operation's vice president of sales, is leaving the company to launch his own start-up.

Microsoft's MSN China venture is losing a key executive.

Vice President of Sales Xiao Chen is resigning from his position at the end of March to start his own company, a Microsoft spokesperson told Reuters. Chen has been with Microsoft's Chinese MSN venture since its start in 2005.

MSN China has struggled to gain a foothold against QQ, a Chinese social network service that has grabbed a sizable percentage of China's Internet users.

And late last year, MSN China got into some hot water after it was revealed that its microblogging site Juku lifted programming code from a Canadian firm called Plurk. After a quick investigation, Microsoft admitted that the code was stolen. The company blamed the action on a third-party vendor but was forced to pull the plug on Juku.

It's a tumultuous time for online companies in China, following Google's assertion earlier this year that it may close its Google.cn operation rather than continue its practice of filtering search results. Microsoft has said it intends to stay the course in China.