Baidu VP And PR Chief Qu Jing

Recently a series of reels on the personal Douyin (China’s version of TikTok) account of Baidu VP and PR chief Qu Jing went viral in China, and a backlash so serious resulted in her apology and resignation. In Gen Z’s language, she got cancelled. So what exactly did she say, and what can we learn from this drama? First we see short snippets from her video uploads.

The Content

Officially, it was the content of her videos which pissed the public off. But what she said was actually not wrong, and this is the actual system of the workplace.

  1. If we do not take on important roles, then we will not be able to have salary increments (and by extension, promotions).
  2. The issues of our personal lives has nothing to do with our superior. No matter what, we need to deliver results in the workplace.
  3. If anyone wants to quit, she will approve his or her resignation immediately. This is especially true in this time of failing economy.
  4.  Our relationship with our bosses is mainly that of a superior-subordinate (employer-employee) relationship.

Additional content which she said but not reflected in the Youtube video above (as I was unable to find another suitable video with subtitles):

  1. A PR professional should not expect any time off and be on standby 24/7.
  2. She has the power to ensure that those who complained her will not find another job in the industry.
  3. She went on business trips for up to 50 days and expect her subordinates to do the same.
  4. She also has children and claimed to be older than her subordinates by 10, 20 years. So if she can take the intense workload, her subordinates have no excuses. Based on her personal history, I estimated her to be at 43 this year.

Anyone out in the workforce should already know the points mentioned above. While unfeeling, there is nothing wrong with what she said. Bosses threatening subordinates is not a rare sight as well. The workplace is a jungle in which the masses without power and network try to survive just so they can bring bread home to the family. Yet despite this, this series of interviews which has now been deleted triggered a backlash so severe it seems out of proportion.

Her Character In Baidu

From the interviews we can see that she is the type of ambitious career-minded who put her job above everything else. Else, she would not have become the VP as well as the head of Baidu’s PR department. Baidu is like the Google of China, so to get to that position is no simple feat and also a testament to her hard work, competency and sacrifice. In fact, to keep up with times, she paid a sum of money for a course teaching her about short videos / reels.

However from the way she talked in the videos we could get a glimpse of her character.

  1. She is very task-oriented person. We will talk only about work. Your personal problem is not my problem, and you better do not make it our work problem.
  2. She is a very forceful person. She does not allow others to have differing opinions.
  3. She does not have a life. Work is almost her everything.
  4. She is used to, enjoys and abuses her position of power.

It is not hard to imagine, and there has indeed been talks about how hated she is as a person, that she often handed out assignments in the middle of the night and that people did complain about her without success. However, as a VP and PR chief, her position of power also signified that she is almost untouchable in Baidu.

In the West, people may think why not just quit the job and work elsewhere? Truth is everywhere now the economy is not doing well. For every 1 vacancy there are tens or hundreds of people aiming for that post. This is especially so in competitive China where there are just too many people, and where the employment rate of even fresh graduates is frighteningly low. That is also why she dared to say she will approve any resignation immediately. She has no lack of people wanting to put down their pride to get a job, especially in Baidu.

baidu work culture

The Backlash

Although the Chinese economy is bad and people need jobs, but on the surface people are saying no to the 996 culture. The 996 culture refers to working from 9am to 9pm, 6 days a week. This is like although the US has been going around bombing people, on the surface they are the defenders of peace. Similarly, the reality on the ground is that many companies like Huawei is still famous for their intense and fast paced work culture (although they compensate their workers with a lot of salary). But even if that is so, one cannot openly go against this preset motherhood statements of ‘caring for workers’ and ‘say no to being squeezed dry’. It is like how every American president will tell the people they care for them, then proceed to kill their every hope.

Even a low-level staff knows this logic. Yet somehow, Baidu’s PR chief Qu Jing does not know that. Not only did she say not word it nicely, she spoke as bluntly and as harshly as she could, with confidence and with pride. This is rubbing salt into the wound of the many people who are sacrificing nearly all their time and energy in order to hold on to a job during bad times just so they can bring food back to the family.

Nobody can challenge her in Baidu. But out on the internet, it is a free for all world. And so, everyone jumped on the opportunity to sink her.

An Attempt At Analysing The Situation

I am not there in Baidu, neither do I know her. But we can approximate a guess as to what actually happened that led her to this path of career suicide.

  1. When one becomes too complacent and full of herself, one would inevitably make low-level mistakes.
  2. When nobody can challenge her or offer a different opinion, people simply shut up even when they see her doing wrong.
  3. When she pissed off enough people, people would be more than willing to see her fall.
  4. Such critical low-level mistake should not be the first she made. In the past, it probably could be covered up internally by finding a scapegoat or directing the lower levels to clean up the mess. Such repeated incidents gave her a false sense of superiority and confidence that whatever she did will be protected, cumulating to this incident.

Karma

Some may say it is karma, some say retribution, and some say cause and consequence. Whatever it is, life is always such an irony. She has become the very person which she threatened her staff would become if they disobeyed her.

  1. Baidu has approved her resignation immediately.
  2. Not only did she lose her job in Baidu, perhaps nobody in the industry dare to use her anymore.

Lessons Learnt

There are a few lessons which we can learn from it. Someone of her calibre making such a low-level mistake is not the first, neither will she be the last. I have known certain political ministers making really low-level statements as well, prompting either an uproar or mockery from the public. In our climb towards success, it is important that we do not throw away what we have achieved easily. It is one thing to fail because of unforeseen circumstances, because of a failed rivalry, of a change in policy etc. But it will be extremely frustrating if we fail because of a stupid reason which we should have known better. Below are a few points which we should remember at all times.

  1. Do not necessarily make enemies out of people. Note that I did not say do not make enemies.
  2. Treat people decently well and have your own support base.
  3. Do not be complacent even if you are very familiar with your job. Rome wasn’t built in a day, but it burned in one.
  4. Do not have the dangerous idea that you are untouchable. Throughout history kingdoms were sunk by the very people the kings once thought nothing of.
  5. Be open to taking advice from others if it makes sense. Pride is the downfall of many.
  6. Have a life. Build your own side income. Your relationship with the company is purely transactional.

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