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    Netizens Enraged by Baidu Executive’s ‘Unbearable’ Social Media Posts

    PR director Qu Jing launched an aggressive social media campaign styling herself as the ultimate hard-nosed tech executive. It backfired in spectacular fashion.

    The head of public relations at one of China’s leading tech firms has scored a spectacular own goal this week after her aggressive social media posts sparked fury among millions of working professionals across the country.

    Qu Jing, a vice president at search giant Baidu, launched a baffling campaign that saw her take to Douyin, China’s version of TikTok, to brag about being indifferent toward her staff’s feelings, denying them pay rises, and receiving hundreds of complaints.

    The videos were likely intended to style Qu as a hard-nosed executive who fully embraced the gung-ho working culture that has long prevailed in China’s technology industry. But they quickly triggered an avalanche of condemnation, with related hashtags racking up hundreds of millions of views on the microblogging platform Weibo.

    Users called out Qu’s working practices as “inhumane” and expressed amazement that she had been assigned to lead Baidu’s PR operations. Some have even called for a boycott of the company’s products over its toxic working environment.

    “It’s rare to see someone presenting such unbearable, exploitative behavior as something to be praised and encouraged,” read one highly upvoted comment on Douyin. “It’s quite a feat for a vice president in charge of the company’s public relations to create such a PR disaster,” another user wrote.

    Qu’s venture into social media began earlier this month. In her Douyin videos, which have now been deleted, she discussed a range of work-related topics, with a particular focus on managing staff and career development issues faced by female workers.

    From the beginning, Qu styled herself as an ambitious professional who never took annual leave and endured grueling 50-day business trips without complaint. She also made clear that she expected the same level of commitment from her staff — no matter their family or personal circumstances.

    “Whether you cry or not isn’t something that I need to care about as a supervisor,” she said in one video. “You have the right not to work on important projects, but that will mean that you don’t deserve a pay rise.”

    Before joining Baidu in 2021, Qu was a senior public relations executive at telecommunications giant Huawei. She also previously worked at the state news agency Xinhua as a journalist.

    Her social media campaign wasn’t an individual effort. According to domestic media reports, Qu ordered every employee in Baidu’s PR department to become more active on social media. Those who failed to do so reportedly received poor annual appraisals or, in some cases, were even fired. Several staff members left Baidu as a result.

    In a statement released Thursday, Qu said she had conducted her social media campaign without the company’s consent and apologized for misleading the public about Baidu’s corporate culture. “My initial intent was to do a good job, but I was too eager and used an inappropriate method,” Qu said.

    Baidu declined to comment on the issue.

    The intense backlash reflects a growing dissatisfaction in China with the tech industry’s intense working culture. For years, tech executives said openly that they expected staff to work “996” — or 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., six days a week — but the practice has since become highly controversial. Authorities have banned companies from forcing staff to work overtime, though enforcing these rules remains a challenge.

    Some comments on Weibo expressed a grudging respect for Qu, as she was at least upfront about her attitudes. “She’s just speaking the truth in an explicit way,” one user wrote.

    Qu is far from the only Chinese tech executive to embrace a high-profile social media presence in recent months. Earlier this year, Zhou Hongyi, CEO of tech giant 360, said that all entrepreneurs should seek to become “internet celebrities” to strengthen communication with their stakeholders.

    The trend appears to be a reaction to the success of Lei Jun, CEO of Xiaomi, who has been posting regularly about his company’s efforts to build a new electric car. These posts have won Lei a passionate following among younger workers, with the CEO receiving a rock star reception at the Beijing Auto Show in April.

    Zhang Zhule, a Chinese internet industry analyst, told domestic media that the trend reflects companies’ desire to reconnect with young people. But, Zhang added, the strategy can be risky — as Qu has discovered to her cost.

    (Header image: VCG)