Cry Me a River

The Yellow River, the cradle of Chinese civilization, will soon be swaddling a new baby: the brand equity of a multinational company.

Chinese officials have confirmed that some 50 corporations—Disney, Coca-Cola, Pepsi-Cola, Wal-Mart and Samsung among them—are jostling for the right to put their name on a huge new bridge to be built over the famous waterway, known in China as the “Mother River,” Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post reported last week. The winner will also get to plaster a symbol or statue on the bridge, conjuring visions of a gigantic smiling Mickey Mouse becoming the de facto emperor of a region where the Three Sage Kings (the ancient Chinese ones, not the “Whassup?” guys) once plied their wisdom and virtue.

Zhang Qihan, deputy general manager of the Xinxiang-Zheng zhou Highway Construction company, shrugs off the notion that the initiative might be in questionable taste. “The provincial government has approved it. Besides, we are not changing the name of the Yellow River,” he told the Morning Post reassuringly.

Money, of course, is the issue. The bridge will be a staggering six miles long, and the winning company’s outlay—expected to reach up to $7 million—will help offset the cost of construction.