The (Propaganda) Empire Strikes in China

For the Asia Times, Kent Ewing writes on China’s latest charm offensive plan, and why — despite events like the Olympics and the World Expo — China has yet to win the world’s affection:

When seven-foot, six-inch Yao Ming dunks a basketball, does the world smile on China? When pianist Lang Lang, the Chinese Liberace, sparkles in concert, does China’s political star glow a little brighter in the firmament of nations? And when Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing, the richest person of Chinese descent in the world, banks another billion dollars on shrewd investments, is the image of the Chinese nation also enriched?

That’s what China’s leaders are hoping for as they enlist 50 Chinese celebrities in an unprecedented international advertising campaign to improve the country’s global image. The charm offensive is set to begin this September, ahead of celebrations for the 61st birthday of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) on October 1, and will also feature Olympic diving diva Guo Jingjing, film director John Woo and movie star Jackie Chan. The famous 50 will appear in 30-second television commercials as well as a 15-minute promotional film selling China’s virtues to the rest of the world.

In the words of the State Council, China’s cabinet, the campaign will present an image of “prosperity, democracy, openness, peace and harmony” as a counter to the negative stereotypes about the country that its leaders have long blamed the Western media for promulgating. How effective this strike will be, however, remains highly uncertain.

August 23, 2010 10:10 AM
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