BEIJING - In the global contest for business, Chinese brands struggle to rival big Western and Japanese names, but some are now looking to reinvent their identities to overcome image and political hurdles.

The world's second largest economy does not have a single one of the world's top 100 brands, as compiled by marketing consultancy Interbrand.

And according to a survey by HD Trade Services, 94% of Americans are unable to name a single Chinese brand, with a third saying they would not buy one they knew to be Chinese.

"Brand China has many problems -- transparency, ethical practices, treatment of employees, the quality of the products," Richard Edelman, head of public relations giant Edelman told a World Economic Forum meeting in Dalian.

"And unfortunately the China reputation for companies is too much overshadowed by reputation of government."

Chinese phone security company NQ Mobile dealt with the problem by effectively presenting itself as an American firm.

It created an entirely new headquarters in the Lone Star state, listed on Wall Street, has an American co-CEO brought over from U.S. banking giant Citigroup, and its English website proclaims: "Made in Dallas, Texas".

Henry Lin, the group's founder, told AFP: "All our employees in the U.S. are American people... the consumer will feel it's a U.S. company.

"We divided the global market in two parts, developing countries, for which the headquarters is Beijing... and developed countries, with a headquarters in Dallas.

"If you can be successful in the U.S., you would be successful in western Europe, Japan, Australia."

Others are simply buying foreign firms, as decades of inward investment into China begins to move in the other direction.

Last month a $7.1 billion takeover by Shuanghui International was agreed by shareholders of U.S. pork giant Smithfield Foods (IW 500/90), the biggest ever Chinese acquisition of a U.S. company.

Chinese car manufacturer Geely bought out Sweden's Volvo, while its rival Chery created a new brand, Qoros, in partnership with an Israeli group.

Most symbolically, electronics group Lenovo (IW 1000/134) took over the PC arm of venerable U.S. computer firm IBM in 2005, and went on to become the world's biggest PC maker.