Category Archives: Propaganda

Chinese Media and Disaster Response: a Work in Progress

In the wake of the tragic explosions that recently shook the Chinese coastal city of Tianjin, Beijing’s flagship publication the People’s Daily published an online commentary last week titled “China Needs to Learn from the West to Work with Media in Crisis” – the loose translation of a commentary originally published in Chinese. The piece attempts to provide an explanation for theunscheduled halting of a press conference by authorities moments after a reporter questioned why the doomed toxic chemical facility responsible for the explosions that have so far killed 135 people was located so close to homes.

China’s “press spokesperson” system, only 12 years old, the commentary tells us, is still in its infancy: spokespersons have mixed levels of competence, and the handling of press releases during emergencies “needs to be improved.” But that’s where the navel gazing ends. Using 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina as examples, the piece proceeds to explain how the handling of breaking news by Western countries “is worth learning.”

Where Western countries seem to get it right, continues the commentary, is that their media tends to report a situation initially as direr than what it actually is, with subsequent reports presenting “better than expected” outcomes. Conversely, Chinese media, it suggests, “always want to play down the disaster, with the motivation to not arouse panic, whereas in fact, with the death toll rising, the public’s fear and tension will be inevitably upgraded.”

Read on at the University of Southern California’s Center on Public Diplomacy blog site.

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Chinese press stays on message in Yunnan quake coverage

Line 21 Project coordinator, Nicholas Dynon, recently provided insights to Agence France-Presse (AFP) on the Chinese media’s coverage of the devastating earthquake that shook Yunnan province earlier this month.

The example set by the People’s Daily, commented Dynon, shows us that Chinese media coverage of the quake has followed a thematic pattern we would expect of disaster reportage out of China.

“The state-sponsored press has adhered largely to officially sanctioned themes, including the responsiveness of the central government and military, swiftness and professionalism of rescue and recovery efforts, accounts of death and destruction, stories of survival, and solidarity in grief”, he stated. “These themes reinforce the key messages that authorities have reacted appropriately and that the nation is united in its support.”

The report, carried by Yahoo!7, can be read here

Civilisation-State: Modernising the Past to Civilise the Future in Jiang Zemin’s China

This research article by Nicholas Dynon in this April’s issue of the peer-reviewed China: an International Journal analyses the largely overlooked role of the Communist Party of China (CPC) in the promotion of “socialist spiritual civilisation” in contemporising the exemplary role of the Chinese state and in informing the state’s efforts to rehabilitate China’s cultural traditions.

Drawing material from handbooks, newspaper articles and posters published between 1996 and 2002, it may be argued that the ability of the Party to reclaim the achievement of “civilisation” as an ultimate goal in Chinese history has a direct impact on its continuing pursuit to underwrite its long-term legitimacy. The article departs from the existing scholarship to locate the CPC’s civilising discourses within an historical context that predates the apotheosis of the CPC itself and links them to the sacred mission of maintaining the Chinese civilisation-state.

Available here at Project Muse

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[Creating a civilised community – propaganda poster in a residential compound in Shawo, Beijing]

Shanghai 2010 World Expo at Street Level: The Local Dimensions of a Public Diplomacy Spectacle

Internationally, the 2010 Shanghai World Expo was a major tourism and branding draw card for its host city. Domestically, the Expo constituted a major source of national pride and a key vehicle for the promotion of official messages reinforcing traditional state propaganda themes. Like the Beijing Olympics two years prior, the Shanghai World Expo was an opportunity for the state to cross-brand its messages with the fervor and prestige surrounding a world-class event.

This essay’s seven photographs explore the domestic cross-branding of the World Expo with traditional propaganda messaging as it appeared in advertising posters/billboards throughout downtown Shanghai during the Expo. Although not all constitute direct political advertising, they all nevertheless perform a definite ideological role in reinforcing key propaganda themes.

The public relations machinery of the Chinese state has emerged as a formidable force in the production of messages in what some have referred to as a post-communist era. As these photographs suggest, this is due largely to an adaptation of Chinese Communist Party signs and symbols to the new advertising industry and media of the reform era and, importantly, to their increasingly decentralized and commercialized production. Read more at the USC Center on Public Diplomacy blog

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[Go Shanghai! – street-side poster propaganda in downtown Shanghai during the 2010 World Expo]

 

Soft Power Meets Social Management: New Tourism Law to Punish Unruly Travelers Overseas

The latest article by Nicholas Dynon featured in today’s Jamestown Foundation China Brief…

[“Ding Jinhao was here”]

Passed last April, the new China Tourism Law came into effect on October 1, in time for this year’s Chinese National Day “golden week” holiday. While the main thrust of the legislation is greater regulation of the domestic and outbound tourism industry and squeezing out unscrupulous operators, the law breaks new ground by legislating requirements for civilized tourist behavior.

Following a long run of bad international press about poorly behaved Chinese tourists, the new law comes as a decisive move by Beijing to reign in its unruly globetrotting citizens. It also serves as implied official acknowledgement that the negative press has hurt China’s “soft power” efforts to bolster its reputation among the world’s publics.

Furthermore, the law includes an ambitious effort to extend China’s social control strategies beyond its borders, providing a legal basis for Beijing to manage its citizens abroad just as does at home. Failure to tow the official line overseas can now land a tourist in hot water back home… read more

 

Chinese Public Diplomacy: Winning hearts and minds abroad or at home?

Nicholas Dynon’s first post for the USC Center for Public Diplomacy CPD blog asks whether Beijing’s public diplomacy efforts are actually targeted at a domestic rather than foreign audience… Read it and contribute to the discussion

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[Shanghai 2010 World Expo poster from the Line 21 Project collection.]

Dream of the Red Future: Will the Chinese Dream Become an Enduring Classic?

In a scene in Cao Xueqin’s epic 18th century classic, Dream of the Red Chamber, protagonist Baoyu drifts into a dream while in a courtly chamber. His unconscious journey takes him to the “land of illusion,” where the fairy, named Disenchantment, reveals the fates of several characters close to him.

John Minford, professor of Chinese at the Australian National University, suggests the underlying theme of this great work is one of “seeing through the Red Dust,” beyond the illusion of earthly “reality.” Richard J. Smith of Rice University notes its theme of the “interpenetration of reality and illusion,” and of true and false producing one another. Ultimately, the work is semi-autobiographical, and reflects lost dreams, particularly the waning fortunes of Cao Xueqin’s own family and, by extension, that of the Qing dynasty.

While perhaps seated in his chamber in Zhongnanhai, Chinese president Xi Jinping recently dreamt his own “Chinese Dream,” but rather than foretelling a future of ill-fortune and decay, this dream speaks of a China on the ascendancy and of the promise of national rejuvenation… read more at World Policy Blog