"Sex capital" and "sweatshop city" were just two of the labels Dongguan earned during its heyday as a booming manufacturing hub in Guangdong, but the local authorities are now flexing their propaganda muscles to rebrand the city.
A 15-second promotional video portraying Dongguan as a mixture of modern infrastructure and traditional culture was screened at least 90 times a day in high-speed railway stations in Guangzhou, Wuhan, Changsha and Beijing between February 4 and 20, the Yangcheng Evening News reported yesterday
Full one-minute video of the new Dongguan promo
Featuring parks, lion dances, Cantonese opera, a basketball tournament and some well-known entrepreneurs, the video had also been screened in 50 cinemas in Beijing and Guangzhou since February 14, the report said.
It was produced by the Discovery Channel in September, the city's propaganda department said, without saying how much it cost.
It was well received by social media users, especially those in Dongguan, who said the city's image as a sin city was exaggerated and had "demonised" it.
Last year, some online posts on popular bulletin board sites mistook Dongguan as the location of a shocking crime in Anhui , in which a female student was badly beaten by several women.
The saying "a good husband would never step in Dongguan" - hinting at the city's sex trade - has become common.
"Why are all the bad things transplanted to Dongguan?" asked one internet user.
Another video, Hello, Dongguan, featuring celebrities including basketball star Yi Jianlian and IT mogul Wang Zhidong is also being produced in a bid to show the true spirit of the city, according to media reports.
Professor Fan Hong , from Tsinghua University, said Dongguan's poor reputation was a result of bad communication, "so that the outsiders' views of Dongguan are rather incomplete and prejudicial".
Xinhua, in a short commentary on its microblog, said a positive reputation could not simply be built through propaganda.
"Demonisation can only be eradicated when the city builds a strict mechanism to punish crimes," it said.