Baidu VP resigns amid backlash over controversial remarks

Zhang Long
Baidu official Qu Jing, who sparked significant controversy with her candid comments about corporate culture, causing a public relations crisis for the company, has now resigned.
Zhang Long

Tech giant Baidu is at the center of public backlash after its vice president made controversial remarks on the workplace, corporate culture and employee relations during the May Day holiday.

It has been confirmed that Qu Jing, who was also head of public relations, resigned on Thursday.

During the May Day holiday, a social media account belonging to Qu began posting videos sharing her experiences and thoughts on the workplace. The account has nearly 960,000 followers and became a trending topic on Weibo, garnering over 100 million views.

On May 6, a video titled "the regrets of a career woman" was posted, in which she mentioned forgetting her eldest son's birthday and which grade her younger son was in, expressing no regrets for choosing to be a career woman.

Qu Jing's remarks have sparked controversy, with most comments criticizing her for lacking human care as a leader in a big tech company.

In her first video, she commented: "If an employee wants to resign over a breakup, I approve it instantly," indicating that the relationship with employees is purely contractual. She stated: "Why should I consider an employee's family? I am not their mother-in-law. My main concern is whether they can deliver results on time at their post..."

Baidu VP resigns amid backlash over controversial remarks

Qu's Douyin page.

Public records show that Qu, a graduate of the China Foreign Affairs University, was a reporter at the Xinhua news agency, and served as vice president of public and government affairs at Huawei. She joined Baidu as vice president of public relations in August 2021, responsible for the company's public communications department.

Qu deleted all the videos from her Douyin account on May 7.

Baidu VP resigns amid backlash over controversial remarks

One of the comments on Qu's "regrets of a career woman" video said: "As Baidu's vice president, her remarks represent the company's image and values. After viewing her videos, I feel that Baidu is a scary company."

On May 9, Qu clarified and apologized on her Wechat Moments. She said she had not obtained the company's approval before posting the videos, which did not comply with relevant procedures and did not represent Baidu's stance.

Several insiders revealed that the public relations crisis stemmed from a "short video project" Qu recently pushed within Baidu's PR department, according to a Jiupai News report.

The project required all PR department members, from Qu down, to open personal short video social media accounts. Non-participation would affect annual performance evaluations. After this requirement was announced, several PR department employees chose to resign.

A leaked chat record shows that on April 21, Qu informed her team that by May 2, employees had to choose one or multiple platforms such as Douyin, or lifestyle platform Red to open accounts and submit a summary of their account positioning and publication count.

She mentioned that publishing fewer than three posts unrelated to Baidu or obviously evasive would be considered substandard.

Baidu VP resigns amid backlash over controversial remarks

A screenshot in which Qu asks team members to start their own social media accounts and post at least three videos about Baidu in late-April.

Jiupai News confirmed from several internal sources that before the incident, a full PR department meeting led by Qu had informed over a hundred members of the aforementioned policy, with the alternative to non-compliance being resignation. Subsequently, several PR department employees did leave.

Several Baidu PR employees have opened personal accounts, with content related to Baidu's business, including its smart driving systems and trade show activities.

Some insiders expressed confusion over the move, noting that even though employees were operating personal accounts, many did so reluctantly, treating it like a task to be checked off. A close source to Baidu's PR department said: "It's just ticking a box; there wasn't much experience before, and they treated it like posting on Wechat Moments."

Baidu VP resigns amid backlash over controversial remarks

Qu Jing.

Regarding Qu personally engaging in short videos and the resultant public relations incident due to controversial comments, senior public relations expert Yao Suxin stated: "The content communicated by PR with the public should represent the company, not the PR themselves. Such statements, whether coming from a top public relations officer at Baidu or a senior executive at a larger company, are likely to elicit negative reactions."

Other industry leaders such as Zhou Hongyi, CEO of 360, Lei Jun of Xiaomi, and Zhang Chaoyang, CEO of Sohu, had set precedents, making Qu's personal account not particularly unusual. Internet industry analyst Zhang Shule said that for these big tech companies, choosing this approach often stems from the company's brand and services aging and losing touch with younger audiences, necessitating the rebuilding of bridges.

"The Internet influencer route is a shortcut," Zhang said. "The Qu Jing incident is a case of Baidu's PR going too far, eager to break out and falling into a pit because of its statements."

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