Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A Xinhua in Times Square

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Panda. Source
OK, China may not be buying the world a Coke -- but it is leasing real estate in the same neighborhood: Times Square to be exact, where its logo will soon be rubbing shoulders with that of Coca Cola and Samsung, among others.

According to Reuters, China's state-sponsored Xinhua news/PD agency "will take over one of the highest-profile advertising locations in New York's Times Square starting Monday, in perhaps the most visible step in its recent American expansion."

If this sounds familiar, it's probably because you're remembering China's recent Times Square ad campaign, which received less than enthusiastic reviews (with Chinese reporting, of course, being one notable exception).  

Xinhua will replace a 60' x 40' sign currently emblazoned with the HSBC Bank logo, but while it's bound to increase Xinhua's recognizability, the public diplomacy implications of the move are less clear. The influence of the state on Xinhua reporting is fairly clear, and it's unlikely that many New Yorkers (or Americans in general, for that matter) will mistake it for an independent news source. 

I've written before on China's media expansion and its implications on the (forgive me, I'm about to get really geeky here) noosphere. That's right, I'm referring to the global abstraction of ideas that eventually become meaningful influences on foreign policy. 

China seems to recognize, both ideologically and financially, the importance of state-sponsored information institutions in a way a U.S. PD scholar can only dream of. More and more, I'm starting to agree with Secretary Clinton that the U.S. may be losing the information war... 

Clinton called it realpolitik. Arquilla and Ronfeldt would have called in noopolitik. Either way, it boils down to this: ideas matter, and in an information-saturated global environment, the nation whose ideas get the most traction has a serious political advantage.

1 comment:

  1. "Xinhua will replace a 60' x 40' sign currently emblazoned with the HSBC Bank logo..."
    Interestingly, HSBC stands for "Hong Kong Shanghai Bank" (a HK company). Growing up in pre-handover HK, people used to joke about how the HSBC building's architecture made it look like it constantly had guns pointing at the Bank of China's building. See here (the Bank of China building is on the far left, while the HSBC building is on the far right.