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Top internet exec sacked in social media storm

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Top internet exec sacked in social media storm

Baidu head of PR becomes the story and loses her job

Baidu’s head of public relations, Qú Jìng 璩静, has abruptly left the Chinese internet search giant after sparking a public backlash. 

Qu posted five short videos on Douyin between May 1 and 5, presenting herself as a “tough female boss” (女霸总). 

The titles of her short videos are all you need to know to get an idea of the content, which include:

"Public relations professionals don't have a holiday during the Spring Festival weekend" (公关人春节周末没有假期)


"I bought my colleague a gift but forgot to say happy birthday to my son.” (给同事买礼物,忘记给儿子说生日快乐)

One of the most-quoted lines in the social media commentary is:  

“Why would I take an employee’s family into consideration? I am not her mother-in-law.”


A few years ago, perhaps, these comments might have been applauded in China’s tough working culture.

Qu Jing joined Baidu from Huawei in 2021, which is known for its “wolf culture” (狼性文化), where employees are expected to emulate the teamwork, fearlessness, and resilience of wolves. So maybe in Huawei at that time she could get away with her “tough female boss” persona.

But changing attitudes to work in China, and the rejection of the gruelling “996” working hours in its tech industry, meant her recent remarks stirred outrage against both Qu and Baidu.

On May 8, rumours began circulating that Qu had been sacked. 

She did publish an apology letter on May 9 on her Weibo:

Before releasing the short video, I did not consult the company in advance, which does not comply with the procedures, nor does it represent the company's position. I hereby clarify and apologise.


But that was not enough to calm the intense criticism against her and the company. 

Media outlet, The Paper, confirmed on the same day she had left the company. 

This not Baidu's first major PR disaster.

In the critical comments about Qu Jing on social media, there were also references to another Baidu PR crisis, the Wei Zexi incident (魏则西事件) in 2016. Wei was a 21-year old Chinese college student from Shaanxi who died after taking an experimental treatment for a rare form of cancer. He learned about it from a promoted search result on Baidu. Before Wei died, he accused the internet search company of promoting false medical information. 

Back then Baidu was criticised for a lack of social responsibility, and its handling of the scandal. “One-hundred poisons” (百毒 bǎidú) became a slang term for the company, a play on words of the Baidu name. 

Critics of Baidu in its latest media scandal, “the Qu Jing incident”, are in the context of a very different media environment.

There’s now a huge pressure on companies, their founders, and executives, to establish their personal brands on social media, and become “KOLs”, or wǎnghóng 网红. 

Robin Li (李彦宏), Baidu's founder, keeps a low profile. He couldn't build the same persona of other "wanghong" entrepreneurs like Lei Jun 雷军, the founder of Xiaomi. 

Many thought Qu Jing was emulating Lei Jun, the founder of Xiaomi. The trend of executives becoming 'internet celebrities' has spread from the automotive industry to the internet sector.

看到璩静的视频,认为她是在学习小米创始人雷军,“网红化”的高管已经从汽车圈蔓延到互联网圈。 [2]

Qu's job as head of PR was to build her public profile on behalf of the company, and she instructed her team to do the same: 

She told all members of the public relations department to create an account for WeChat short videos, Douyin, or RED. The ultimate goal was to establish a media matrix for the company itself, thus generating momentum for dissemination.

她要求公关部全员都要做视频号,抖音号或者小红书,最终的目的就是让企业自己形成一个媒体矩阵,这样传播的势能就有了。 [1]

Comparisons were also drawn between Qu Jing's dismissal and the sacking of the former CEO of East Buy, Sūn Dōngxù 孙东旭 in December last year, who came under fire from angry fans when he suggested the company's star livestream seller, Dǒng Yǔhuī 董宇辉, was taking too much credit for the company’s success.

In a sign of changing attitudes to working culture in China, those who called for the sacking of Sun were also critical of Qu Jing. Both executives are seen as supporters of China’s toxic 996 working culture, and oppressors of “working people” (打工人).  

As the Qu Jing incident continues to occupy hot searches on social media, there are also rumours she was plotting her exit from Baidu to start her own business, and this was part of that plan.

So, that's what we're exploring this week!

Favourite Five

Artwork by Derek Zheng

1. 秒批 miǎo pī

instantly approve

在一场声量巨大的流量洪峰过后,百度公关一号位的离职也被“秒批”了 -  After a huge surge in traffic, the resignation of Baidu's top PR exec was also instantly approved. [2] 

2. 反噬 fǎn shì


没有考虑到当下的舆论环境、经济形势、公众心理,最终被公众情绪反噬的失败案例 - A case in point on how the failure to take the current public opinion, economic situation, and public sentiment into consideration eventually led to a backlash. [1]

3. 霸总 bà zǒng

aggressive boss

百度副总裁璩静(已离职)因为自己的一系列“霸总”言论,引发大量关注与争议 - Baidu's Vice President Qu Jing (already resigned) sparked a lot of debate due to her series of agressive remarks. [3]

  • Related:

    • 霸道  bà dào - tyrannical, domineering

    • 狼性 láng xìng - wolf-like aggressiveness (famously a characteristic of the corporate style in Huawei, Qu's previous employer)

    • 女霸总 nǚ bà zǒng - aggressive female boss

4. 走火入魔 zǒu huǒ rù mó

go over the top

但输出企业形象,不能剑走偏锋,更不能走火入魔 - When projecting a company's image, one should not do things which are too unconventional, or even go over the top. [3] 

  • More: Read more about this phrase in the Sinica Phrase of the Week tomorrow. 

  • Related: 

    • 剑走偏锋 jiàn zǒu piān fēng - take an unorthodox path

5. 有过之而无不及 yǒu guò zhī ér wú bù jí

to be no less than, to be just as much as

更多线索和爆料指向璩静平时的工作风格,比视频内容有过之而无不及 - Qu Jing's management style in real life, as revealed by many posts, is no less aggressive than what's shown in the videos. [4]

Consuming the Conversation


Useful words

6. 收割 shōu gē


一个本意是收割流量、制造网红的行为 - She acted this way with the intention to attract internet traffic and make herself an internet celebrity. [1]

7. 流量 liú liàng

internet traffic

璩静希望打造私域流量,后续方便公司发声 - Qu Jing hoped to generate traffic for her personal brand as a way for her to communicate with the public on behalf of the company in the future. [2]

8. 葬送 zàng sòng

to ruin, to seal one's own fate

怎么却葬送了自己的职业前途,成了一个流量之殇的反面教材呢? - How did she end up ruining her own career and becoming a negative example showing the perils of seeking popularity? [1]

9. 人设 rén shè

image, persona

璩静的视频传达的人设就是老板喜欢的工作状态 - The image conveyed by Qu Jing's videos presents the employee that the boss likes. [1]

10. 漩涡 xuán wō

whirlpool; media storm

坏的品牌叠加巨大的流量,岂不是让企业陷入巨大的漩涡之内 - A bad brand with huge internet traffic, is it not bound to plunge the company into a huge media storm? [1] 

11. 倨傲 jù ào


基于其百度高管的身份与这番言论的倨傲姿态,引发负面舆情并不意外 - Given her status as a Baidu executive and the arrogance of her remarks, it's not surprising that it sparked public backlash. [3]

Three-character phrases

12. 导火索 dǎo huǒ suǒ

fuse, spark

璩静做的几条抖音视频引发了巨大争议,也是导致其最终黯然离职的导火索 - Several TikTok videos made by Qu Jing sparked huge controversy and were also the trigger of her resignation in dismay. [1]

13. 大厂病 dà chǎng bìng

big company syndrome

“上级沟通全靠下属传话,结果烂尾还说漂亮话”等大厂病被一一点出 - Symptoms of big company syndrome were listed, including "communication between superiors relies entirely on subordinates passing messages, and a failure would be named as a success". [2] 

  • More: "big factory" (大厂) refers to major companies, normally meaning big internet firms like Baidu.  

14. 基本盘 jī běn pán

foundation, mainstay

这(拍视频)是工作之一,我的工作就是公关,短视频是基本盘  - Making these videos is part of my job. My job is public relations, and short videos are the mainstay of it.  [2]


15. 一厢情愿 yì xiāng qíng yuàn

wishful thinking

但公众品牌传播的作用或许是一厢情愿,因为它缺少一个核心的东西,就是公信力 - However, it might be just her wishful thinking to use this for public brand promotion, because it lacks a core element, which is credibility. [1]

16. 猝不及防 cù bù jí fáng

caught off guard

猝不及防的舆论热度将璩静与百度裹挟其中 - Qu Jing and Baidu were caught off guard by the heated discussion and became victims of it. [2]

17. 始料未及 shǐ liào wèi jí


璩静高估了公众对于情绪的共情,对内容角度的判断选择,再加上过去百度的品牌舆情负担,结果始料未及 - Qu Jing overestimated the emotional impact her videos could have on the audience and picked the wrong angle to approach the issue. Coupled with Baidu's past scandals, it resulted in something that she didn't expected. [2]

18. 高高在上 gāo gāo zài shàng

high and mighty, aloof

一些企业应该与那种高高在上的管理姿态彻底割席 - Some companies should say no to the aloof management attitude. [3]

19. 不近人情 bú jìn rén qíng

inhuman, lacking human touch

其强势刻薄的语气和不近人情的内容很快在网上炸开了锅 - Her aggressive and harsh tone, along with her heartless content, quickly stirred up controversy online. [4] 

  • Related: 

    • 人情味儿 rén qíng wèi’r - human touch, warmth (the opposite meaning)

20. 急功近利 jí gōng jìn lì

seeking quick success and instant benefits

急功近利下关注视频媒体又被流量反噬 - She sought quick success by attracting internet traffic, only to be engulfed by it. [4]

21. 忍气吞声 rěn qì tūn shēng

to endure humiliation without daring to voice one's grievances

新生代00后和忍气吞声地将“996”加班视为常态的80后、70后不同 - Gen-Z is different from those born in the 70s and 80s, who treat the 996 working culture as the norm and dare not voice their grievances. [4]


22. 翻车事件 fān chē shì jiàn

car crash; a public relations disaster

此次翻车事件,或源于当下一些企业严重的形象输出焦虑 - This PR disaster may stem from the severe anxiety about public image in some companies today. [3]

23. 自我IP zì wǒ IP

personal brand

自建流量渠道、打造自我IP,就成了一些企业管理层的选择 - Building their own channels and creating their own brand has become the choice of some top management. [3]

24. 流量焦虑 liú liàng jiāo lǜ

internet traffic anxiety

社交媒体时代,一些企业也普遍面临“流量焦虑” - In the era of social media, some companies also face "internet traffic anxiety". [3]

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