Baidu executive tells staff: ‘I’m not your mum’

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The head of public relations for Chinese search giant Baidu has created her own public relations crisis after posting several videos on social media humiliating staff, the latest example of sometimes brutal labor practices in China’s technology sector.

“I can make you lose your job in this industry,” Qu Jing, vice president of Baidu, said in a video. She added that she needed employees dedicated enough to complete 50 consecutive days of business travel alongside her and didn’t care if it affected their personal lives. “I’m not your mother,” she said. “I only care about the results.”

Qu also said she was so devoted to Baidu that she ignored her son’s grade at school.

The executive posted the videos on Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok, intending to serve as examples to her team on how to use social media to promote Baidu. Instead, they reignited criticism of workplace culture at Chinese tech companies.

“Employees will never feel comfortable in a company that doesn’t have even a little bit of warmth,” one user wrote on social media platform Weibo, where Qu’s comments are trending .

By Thursday, the discussion had attracted 150 million views and a former employee said Qu was no longer with the company, echoing Chinese media reports. Baidu did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“She wanted to create an ‘iron lady’ image, but the context changed,” said Wang Qingrui, an independent technology columnist. “Now people do not agree with the logic of those in power.

“She not only represents herself in the videos, but also Baidu’s culture and values,” he added. “This worsens Baidu’s image problems.”

Qu’s comments also reignited concerns about working conditions. The long hours often expected of tech employees are known as “996,” meaning they start work at 9 a.m., leave at 9 p.m., and work six days a week.

Although there was some improvement after Beijing cracked down on the country’s tech giants in 2021, Qu said she still demanded long hours from her staff. In a video, she said PR employees had to be available 24 hours a day and could never go on vacation.

Many industry employees have reported that the recent tech sector downturn and large-scale job cuts have revived long work hours amid intense competition. In other cases of harsh practices, PDD Holdings tracked down and sued former employees who violated non-compete agreements, while social media group Kuaishou began firing staff over the age of 35.

Baidu has struggled to reinvent itself as its search advertising business has stalled and bets on other lines of business have fallen short. The group has recently gone all-in on artificial intelligence, vying to be China’s answer to OpenAI.

On Thursday, Qu had deleted the videos from her Douyin account and apologized, saying she had “carefully read people’s opinions and reviews” and would “think deeply about it.”

“I sincerely apologize that my videos have caused external misunderstandings about Baidu’s values ​​and culture,” she wrote on social media.

Amid the controversy, another video spread on Chinese social media showing Qu addressing a negative article from the South China Morning Post newspaper.

The clip shows a paper doll hanging in Baidu’s offices with four red knives pointed at “SCMP” written on its chest. Qu is seen whipping the doll with a rope.

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Sara Adm

Aimant les mots, Sara Smith a commencé à écrire dès son plus jeune âge. En tant qu'éditeur en chef de son journal scolaire, il met en valeur ses compétences en racontant des récits impactants. Smith a ensuite étudié le journalisme à l'université Columbia, où il est diplômé en tête de sa classe. Après avoir étudié au New York Times, Sara décroche un poste de journaliste de nouvelles. Depuis dix ans, il a couvert des événements majeurs tels que les élections présidentielles et les catastrophes naturelles. Il a été acclamé pour sa capacité à créer des récits captivants qui capturent l'expérience humaine.
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