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Director of International Communications
Rock musician, journalist, podcaster, and, now, respected corporate bigwig, Kaiser Kuo is an essential figure in Beijing’s booming media scene. After growing up in the US, Kuo moved to Beijing and co-founded rock band Tang Dynasty, before a career in journalism beckoned. In a recent edition of This American Life, Kuo is described by New Yorker writer Evan Osnos as “a traffic cop who stands at the intersection of China and the foreigners trying to make sense of it,” and has capitalised on his unique understanding of media, communication and culture to land a succession of top digital communications jobs, beginning at Ogilvy in 2007, before becoming director of international communications at leading Chinese search engine Baidu.com in 2010.
Where were you born
Endicott, in upstate New York.
Years in current role
Here at Baidu, my highlight to date was facilitating a visit to Baidu headquarters from US Ambassador Gary Locke, who held a town hall with Baidu employees that I moderated.
My father told me that in life one is constantly given choices between the high road and the low, between acting magnanimously or being petty, of being generous or selfish, and that I should always choose to be the better man.
Favourite PR campaign
I honestly don’t pay enough attention to PR campaigns to have a favorite.
I love being able to tell people about a company that’s innovative, well governed, and dedicated to the genuinely noble mission of expanding the information horizons of China’s Internet users. And I love that my job puts me in daily contact with China’s foreign correspondents.
Biggest career break
My whole career in China can be traced to a chance meeting with Ding Wu, the co-founder of my old band, Tang Dynasty. Had it not been for him and the band, I might not have immersed myself in China and found such compelling reason to stay.
Most important mentor
Easily, my father, who possesses wisdom that I find applicable in a myriad of circumstances in life, and who for me will always embody dignity and fairness.
A very partial list would include Russell Banks, Jonathan Franzen, John LeCarre, Hilary Mantel, Barbara Tuchman, Jonathan Spence, Will Durant, Joseph Needham, Edward O. Wilson, Richard Dawkins, and Barack Obama.
I’m still partial mainly to mainstream print media— the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal (excepting its editorial pages), the Economist. My favorite magazine is the New Yorker.
I guess I’d go with the iPad.
The future of public relations is...
About more than just social media, Goddammit.
This year so far, Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel. In the last few years, I quite enjoyed Ian Morris’s Why the West Rules (for Now) and Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom.