This video of a team-building exercise – which was supposed to motivate the employees of a hotel in northeast China – has caused an uproar among Chinese Internet users, some of whom say that these methods remind them of those practiced in North Korea.
In China, it is not uncommon for companies to organise early-morning pep rallies designed to boost employees’ spirits before they begin their workday. These generally feature songs and chants. However, the unusually rigorous performance by employees at Arirang hotel in Dandong, in northeast China (near its border with North Korea), caused many Chinese Internet users to express their concern on social networks.
In the video, a group of female employees are shown taking part in a sort of drill, repeating slogans praising the company over and over and stamping their feet until they start panting. They also participate in strange exercises, like throwing themselves at a cloth rope, which is supposed to symbolise an obstacle.
The video was filmed on January 8 during the company’s annual employee meeting. It has been viewed over 2 and a half million times on Youku, which is China’s equivalent of YouTube, and has garnered hundreds of comments on Weibo, its equivalent of Twitter.
Contacted by RFI, a hotel employee explained that “this event was meant to strengthen team spirit. All the obstacles, all the difficulties we were faced with this past year, we try to turn them into strengths.”
Here are a few excerpts from the video:
At 28 seconds: “I greet this day with love in my heart. Because that is the secret of success. Muscles cannot pierce shields, nor destroy a life. Only the invisible power of love can open the human heart […] I will use my love as my greatest weapon, and nobody will be able to defend themselves against it. They can counter my arguments, be wary of my words, or disapprove of the way I dress […] but my love will melt all hearts like the rays of sun soften clay.”
At 1’24”: Team leader: “The quickest way to reach success is…”
Employees: “…to follow the right man; to do what needs to be done!”
At 2’36”: The Jiangcheng group teaches us how to make money, how to become somebody, how to give the company everything we’ve got, how to make efforts together.”
At 2’53”: Team leader: “Get ready! Our team’s motto is…”
Employees: “Never give up! Never give up!”
At 12’40”: Team leader: “To reach our goals in 2013, what do we need to do?”
Employees: “… Stay concentrated on our goals, and never give up! Stay concentrated on our goals, and never give up!”
At 14’24”: “Raise your hands! Put them on your heart! The first bow is for your parents, for their generosity that is deeper than the ocean.”
At 14’48”: “The second bow is for our customers, thanks to whom we feed our families!”
At 15’09”: “The third is for Arirang hotel, which opens the doors to happiness!”

“This is brain-washing”

Lu Haitao lives in Shanghai.
Numerous Internet users were shocked by these scenes. Apparently, the ceremony was meticulously rehearsed. The girls act like they’re in a paramilitary group. During the exercises, there was a relay race in which the girls tried to jump over a ribbon. Some of the girls fall down, but get up and try again. At about 10 minutes in, you can also see the team leader falling down, getting up and trying again. Over and over.
These scenes aren’t funny. They’ve actually got quite a lot of people worried. The exercise these girls are subjected to is cruel. It’s brainwashing meant to transform men and women into machines that do nothing but obey orders.
"Employees must serve their customers well, but they’re also entitled to their dignity"
Sure, employees must serve their customers well and contribute to their company’s growth, but they’re also entitled to their dignity and shouldn’t be forced to be eternally grateful to their employers. In China, hotel workers are not well paid. In my opinion, those who work at the Arirang hotel should find other ways to better their condition in life and achieve their dreams, and not waste a minute longer on these futile exercises. As for me, I certainly would never frequent a hotel that treats its employees like this.
Some of the angry comments posted on Weibo:
“This makes me sad. The employees’ performance, their tears, their sweat, and maybe even their blood probably gets them nothing more than their boss’ smile.”
“What is this, the army? Using the North Korean method to train employees is brainwashing. This is terrible.”
“This is how slaves are trained. This is how employees are transformed into machines.”
“Without trade unions, who will protect employees? We have to seriously ponder this question.”
“I can’t stand this! Is this corporate culture or a cult?”
“Is this supposed to inspire [employees]? Maybe organisers thought so. But for the spectator, it looks like an insulting brainwashing session. My sympathy goes out to these girls. This hotel’s managers disgust me! They’re animals.”