Public Relations, Business and Technology

These posts cover the business and challenges of PR and communication in China, and analyze major crises and events such as the dairy industry’s melamine catastrophe, the woes of American Internet firms in China, and technology and Internet censorship.


Facebook’s China playbook: Every time Mark Zuckerberg is sighted in China, the tech press loses its mind. Here is my analysis of why Facebook’s prospects in China are somewhere between snowball + hell. With a handy chart! Published on sister blog March, 2012.

I apologize if anyone felt killed: On the dark art of the PR apology, something most people screw up entirely. Personally, I blame the lawyers. Published on sister blog March, 2012.


Apocalypse Box, Part One: Thinking Unthinkable Thoughts: Why it’s important for PR people to ask themselves, “What’s the worst that could happen?” Go on, be a Cassandra. April, 2011.


So you want to work in PR in China… I often get e-mails from young, western PR pros or students asking how they can get into the PR industry in China. I like replying, but I got tired of writing variations on the same response, so here is my definitive guide. Your mileage may vary. April, 2010.

A handy cheat sheet for interpreting the Google China story: After everyone pushes their duelling and incompatible narratives about Google’s withdrawal from China, I provide a handy tool for decoding them. March, 2010.

Google detonates the China corporate communications script: In a country where multinationals usually sprain limbs demonstrating their commitment to the market, Google suddenly, shockingly and publicly withdraws. I analyze the communications. January, 2010.


Communication is the real lesson from the Green Dam Youth Escort fiasco: Looking at the Chinese government’s failure to anticipate and communicate around a key difference that separates Green Dam Youth Escort from other censorship efforts. Follow-up to the post below. June, 2009.

Why I’m not in a tizzy over China’s new Internet filtering software: In which I successfully call the dim prospects for the ill-fated Green Dam Youth Escort software. Honestly, not a hard call. But nevertheless, a sign of things that were to come. June, 2009.

Coke, Huiyuan and the audiences that matter: Analyzing communications implications of the failure of a high profile Sino-American acquisition. The lessons still apply. April, 2009.


Sanlu melamine milk powder crisis becomes a national issue: The second of my analytical posts covering the tainted milk scandals of 2008. The crisis had exploded from Sanlu to cover the entire dairy industry and any part of the industrial food chain incorporating dairy. September, 2008.

Melamine in Sanlu milk powder? Now that’s a crisis! People often refer to things as “crises” even when they aren’t. This was a real crisis. My definitive post on the great tainted milk powder scandal of 2008. One of the most amazing business episodes from my years in China. September, 2008.

Why I don’t care about the opening ceremony’s fraudulent footprints: So BOCOG cheated the Olympic opening ceremony with some special effects and created a mini-scandal. We knew that would happen. But tell me, in what way did that diminish the spectacle? August, 2008.

Tibet and the trouble with unassailable national myths: Following the Tibet riots of 2008 this was my analysis of how the government’s propaganda efforts have painted China into a corner in resolving its ethnic tensions. One of my better pieces of analysis. March, 2008.


China problems create rewards (and problems) for PR risk takers: During the height of China’s 2007 product quality crisis, Mattel invites the New York Times to see the quality their China manufacturing facilities. I hailed that decision in a blog post. Within about 24 hours, the whole thing blew up in Mattel’s face. This combines two posts that bracket the issue. July and August, 2007.

Nobody said media-whoring would be easy: In the wake of his ambush of Google China, Imagethief has sage advice for Zuola, then China’s best known citizen-journalist. June, 2007.

How to turn one terrible scandal into twoGasp! It’s the China Railway 12th Bureau Group Co.! And  I have the photo to prove it. Proving once again that the coverup is always worse than the crisis. Incorporates two original posts. April, 2007.


Foxconn shoots themselves, Apple in foot: Yes, it was happening even back in 2006, compounded by ham-fisted media intimidation and a fast climb-down. (This post consolidates three back-to-back original posts on this incident.) August, 2006.

What if Yahoo abandoned China? With Yahoo under severe pressure due to their missteps in China, I speculate about what might happen if they abandoned China altogether. Five years early, and I picked the wrong Internet company. June, 2006.

Press releases with Chinese characteristics: Chinese and western press releases are both totally formulaic. But they use different formulas. March, 2006.

The disappointing silence from the top: I wonder why “visionary” CEOs of US Internet firms aren’t more visible as their firms wrestle with their China entanglements: February, 2006.

BadBranding@Singapore: There isn’t enough hate in the world for the use of the “@” symbol in brands. But I muster as much as I can. February, 2006.

In praise of Google in China: In the midst of the 2006 controversy of US Internet firms in China, I make my case for the value of Google being here. So much for that. January, 2006.

Congress to grill US net firms on China: Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and Cisco are compelled to testify about their businesses in China before congress. Years later, they still struggle with these issues. Also, I get called “an arrogant China hand.” I’m still proud of that. January, 2006.


Harbin aftermath: Government vows to thoroughly scape all goats: Analyzing the government’s actions and communication after the Songhua river benzene spill. A follow-up to the post below. December, 2005.

The Harbin water crisis: My extensive analysis of the coverup and communication surrounding the nasty Songhua river benzene spill of 2005. The post that established Imagethief as a “serious” China blog. Prompted by a request from Roland Soong. Long. November, 2005.

American Internet firms in Chinese perilSad sack American Internet firms can’t do anything right in China, apparently. The Shi Tao affair drags on and Taobao trounces a defensive Ebay. November, 2005.

Are PR and MNCs corrupting Chinese business? My response to a fellow blogger’s post speculating about whether global PR practices are corrupting Chinese businesses. Short answer: We’re not the problem. One of the most discussed posts of 2005 (though original comments are lost). Long. November, 2005.

Do you, uh, Yahoo? You’re busted: Analyzing Yahoo’s Shi Tao affair, which haunted them mightily for several years, and which still hangs over the heads of American Internet firms in China. September, 2005.

Why American tech companies betrayed me, not China: Analyzing the death of my own idealism about Internet firms, in the context of increasing control of the Internet in China, way back in July, 2005.

A scholarly analysis of the economics of PR in China: Rationalizing the hong bao for journalists attending press conferences in China, with humor. Beer prices have risen since this is written, which is material to my conclusions. The first post that Danwei linked to, which was a big deal for a struggling, new China blog in March, 2005.

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