Thursday, January 20, 2011

Hu's on First?

The People's Republic of China has been donning its glad rags and batting its eyes at the international community in a targeted charm offensive, as this blog has noted before (here, here and here).

In honor of President Hu's visit (and, let's be honest, because I will accept the flimsiest excuse to put a panda picture on this blog), manIC takes a look at some recent PD efforts and boils them down to palatable and calorific soundbites and assigns them a grade.

What: Times Square Advertisement
Description: A 60-second spot in Times Square features images of dozens of prominent Chinese people, helpfully labeled for the many viewers who have no idea who they are. I can say nothing about it that Isaac Stone Fish's critique in Newsweek does not say better, so I highly recommend reading it.
Grade: C+.  The ad is bland and the message is unclear. While it does nothing to work against China's interests, it does little in terms of goodwill promotion, policy clarification or cultural education.

What: Panda Diplomacy
Description: No need for Mei Xiang and Tian Tian to hire a real estate agent! Hu extends their stay at the National Zoo for another five years.
Grade: A.  This is a devious arrangement. For a mere $10 million (for conservation research), the U.S. gets the privilege of feeding and sheltering these adorable animals which, as animal critic Jacob Lentz notes, invest so much energy in digesting bamboo that they have little left for non-essential activities such as mating, a situation that "could be Nature kind of hinting around the fact that they should collectively shuffle off this mortal coil." The animals get excellent care, China gets research funding, and the U.S. gets to feast its eyes on this.

What: The Confucius Peace Prize
Description: Shortly after discovering that the Nobel Peace Prize had been bestowed upon human rights activist Liu Xiaobo, a rival emerged: The Confucius Peace Prize. This was one small part of China's cranky overreaction to a symbolic gesture.
Grade: E.  Let's not forget that domestic actions influence PD too. By treating the Nobel Peace Prize like an act of war, China's response made it as petty and over-the-top as a bully on Glee, doing nothing to benefit its international image.


Update: 1/21/11

I had it in my head yesterday that there were four things I should highlight, but when I got through the first three I simply could not remember the fourth. Lucky for me, it happened to come up in class last night, and it's so obvious, I can hardly believe I managed to forget it.

What: The Opening Ceremonies of the Beijing Olympic Games
Description: With percussion that was more reminiscent of the orc battle drums in The Lord of the Rings than your friendly neighborhood drum line and a fantastic display of human coordination, China scared the bejeezus out of Bob Costas and more than a few armchair observers.
Grade: A.  The opening was nearly flawless and China presented an image of a nation united, coordinated, powerful and vaguely menacing.

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