China's Online Persuaders

China's webspace is infamous for censorship, but increasingly, public relations firms there are helping their clients "manage" online conversations. China-based firms such as Daqi, Chinese Web Union and CIC "charge $500 - $25,000 monthly to monitor postings and squelch negative information or to create positive buzz," reports BusinessWeek. Their clients include Nike, PepsiCo, McDonald's, Toyota and L'Oreal. Chinese Web Union (CWU) "pays thousands of people to write nice things about clients, and it compensates forum leaders who spread positive information and quash bad publicity." For Subaru, the firm helped manage criticism that the company's Chinese name "sounds like 'death to the Eighth Route army,' which was perceived as insulting to a Chinese unit that battled Japan in World War II. CWU urged forum leaders to delete negative comments, then asked its writers to post positive news about Subaru." Daqi and CIC "acknowledge pampering online opinion leaders," including by inviting them to events "where they can test and discuss new products."