Bill Gates and Baidu CEO Robin Li recently announced the joint launch of an anti-smoking initiative entitled “Alliance for Healthy China”. Their slogan “Say no to forced smoking” is meant to encourage smokers to be respectful of their surrounding and not “force” second hand smoke onto their immediate company. Along with educating the public, this campaign is meant to provide resources for current smokers to explore methods that could help them quit.
Li Yanhong the president of Baidu Company is one of China’s outspoken anti-smoking activists. In fact, it is said that he enforces a very strict zero tolerance policy in his own offices. He had this to say about the campaign:
“Living healthy and green has become a common pursuit of mankind. We hope the alliance can bring together public efforts for this global cause, so that more people can benefit from our endeavor.”
With over 300 million smokers in the country, tobacco related deaths have reached about 1 million people a year in China. However it has been only recently that the Chinese government began to implement any real legislation for protecting nonsmokers as well as discouraging regular smokers.
For instance it was just May 1st this year that the government been enforcing its ban on smoking in public places.
What makes Baidu’s involvement in this campaign so curious is Baidu’s chief financial officer, Jennifer Li. Li, by coincidence sits on the Philip Morris International board. If you didn’t know, Phillip Morris International is considered a giant of the tobacco industry. We’re not sure what this means, but it definitely is peculiar being a board member of a company attempting to crack the Chinese market while also being a head leader in a company that is attempting to eradicate the formers very livelihood.
When questioned about the obvious contradiction of Jennifer Li’s two employers, Baidu international media relations chief had this to say “Jennifer’s decision to join that (Philip Morris) board was a personal one – and one she made because she wants Baidu to be a better run company.”
Regardless, we can only imagine that the future might be a little awkward between the two Li’s.
By Patrick Keefe