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China Finally Takes Capitalism Too Far

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While much of the world has become inured to the relentless march of corporate naming rights, students at China's Tsinghua University have had enough.

Last week, a campus building was renamed for Hong Kong-based clothing company Jeanswest:

After Tsinghua students had their fill of souvenir photos of the new name, the backlash began.

"I know it's a common practice to name university buildings after prominent figures who have given large donations," said one postgrad candidate. "I think it's improper to have the company's name on a classroom building."

"This name has made Tsinghua a laughing stock," an online commenter wrote.

"I feel that the Tsinghua spirit has been sold at a low price," another told the Xinhua news service. "Tsinghua should be noble and unchangeable. It just can not be changed so easily and frivolously."

The official line from the powers that be in the Chinese government plays both sides, supporting the students' concerns while leaving the door open to future, more appropriate sponsorships.

An editorial on, one of the country's official news services, reads, in part:

It is common to name a campus building after a patron. Universities do so to express gratitude and encourage public donations. Tsinghua has named many buildings in this way. However, the emerging Jeanswest building carries a glut of commercial interest. It seems to reward a commercial organization that naturally wants to maximize its profits by advertising on a campus building, rather than an actual person who wants nothing more than for their name to be remembered.

It does not mean all companies should be banned from naming a university building. A building like "Lenovo Building" is acceptable as it has a link to technology. The complete academic irrelevance of the Jeanswest Building added to the confusion.

Oddly, no one seemed to make a fuss when Tai Shan, one of China's most beloved giant pandas, was "adopted" by Sichuan Auto Industry Group last February in what Cao Guodong, the automaker's deputy general manager, said was an effort to develop an electric car for the United States market.

However, the beast's name wasn't changed to SQJ6451, after the company's popular bald-faced Subaru Forester ripoff:

Nor was the Chinese public up in arms when companies were solicited for sponsorships of the Great Wall of China.

"Premier" sponsors -- like Reebok -- are entitled to:

  • Exclusive product presence to Great Wall visitors (6 million visitors per year)
  • Individual Press Conference and Reception with major press coverage and meeting with Key Government Officials
  • Sponsor recognition on ticket face of all Great Wall admission tickets
  • Sponsor Name and Logo on main page of English and Chinese Great Wall websites
  • Appreciation page in Great Wall official exhibit guide (sales of 800,000 per year)
  • Opportunity to place half-price ads on back of all Great Wall admission tickets
  • Permission to hold a promotional event at the Great Wall
  • Right to Feature Great Wall images and name in all company publications, website, advertising and promotions
  • Complimentary passes to the Badaling Great Wall offered for sponsor personnel valued at up to 30% of sponsorship amount
  • Volunteer opportunities for all sponsor employees
  • Permission to host Banquets, Meetings or Conferences at the Great Wall
  • Sponsor Company Grove Recognition and Tree Planting Ceremony at the Great Wall Memorial Forest
  • 10 copies of the Special Commemorative Book of the Great Wall

In the end, Tsinghua students really don't have much to complain about -- at least Stephen Schwarzman didn't stick his name on their damn library:

POSITION:  No positions in stocks mentioned.