Recently it was GSK, highlighted by the Chinese for the corruption in promoting their drug sales in China. Not only was GSK caught, something not really denied, but the Chinese Government has a well focused communications strategy too. Using Social Media, the focus on the corrupt foreigners is quickly whipped into a storm with state owned media also joining in with leader writers in papers piling on the pressure.
Before long GSK was in a very bad place and its future in China very bleak. And for what, doing what everyone was doing in a bent market. Now, this is not to excuse them because in business if you take those kinds of risks, then you can't complain too much if you get your comeuppance.
However, GSK was part of a pattern quickly emerging. Now it is the turn of McDonalds to face the test of Chinese media aggression. A woman was sadly beaten to death by a cultist group in broad daylight and now the Chinese Government is pressing to blame McDonalds for not having security in its restaurant. Clearly the real story is the murderous cultists ability to get away in broad daylight - but as ever with China (and many countries) it is easiest to blame the 'corrupt foreigners.'
A pattern is emerging of trying to undermine Western brands and there are several reasons for this.
1) Strong Chinese nationalism is being promoted by the Government as an alternative and control on any wish for democratic change
2) Corruption is openly rife in China, accusing the rest of the world companies of being behind this serves the Chinese Government well to muddy the subject.
3) Western companies seek market share whilst Chinese companies do too, hurting the Western brands domestically will be seen as helping to promote China own corporate base.
There is little that Western companies can seemingly do about this, particularly McDonalds who surely in business in China to serve food and not provide civil security - but it will be very uncomfortable in the boardrooms of any major Western brand-led company who has China growth as their central strategy, knowing they could be next.
Social media in China too is an interesting issue, perhaps for more depth in another post - it certainly is showing all the signs of being able to be as misused as the printing press and camera were too by repressive regimes.