Pao Pao seeks insights from Line 21 coordinator

Pao Pao, an internet news platform supported by Greatfire.org, RNW, Hong Kong Independent Media and the China Digital Times among others, has sought insights from Nicholas Dynon about the use of the term “terrorism” in reportage on violent incidents in China. For readers of Chinese, the report is available on the Pao Pao website.

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China’s Ideological ‘Soft War’: Offense is the Best Defense

Beijing regularly reminds us that its foreign policy eschews the export of ideology and meddling in the political affairs of other countries. According to its concept of “peaceful development,” China has no intention of exporting ideology or seeking world hegemony, nor does it seek to change or subvert the current international order. In the same breath, Beijing frequently chides the United States as a serial offender in exporting ideology to shore up its international hegemony as the world’s dominant superpower.

China sees itself as the target of powerful Western political, military and media efforts to pursue neoliberal strategies of ideological world dominance.

Beijing thus purports to maintain a defensive posture in relation to the export of ideology by other actors and the United States in particular. It articulates this in terms of safeguarding its “ideological security” against “ideological and cultural infiltration.”

Beijing characterizes its strategic intentions as mainly “inward-looking” while the United States’ are “outward-looking.” Thus, their strategic intentions do not clash (China Daily, September 9, 2013). While this inward versus outward characterisation appears prima facie to suggest a non-competitive arrangement, reality suggests otherwise. In addition to its defensive ideological posture—and as much as Beijing might state otherwise—there is an “outward-looking” element to this posture. While there exists no evidence that Beijing is exporting ideology for the purpose of universalizing its political values, there is evidence that it is doing so to safeguard its own ideological security in the face of a US-led “soft war.”

By examining Chinese discourse on the subject, this paper examines the extent to which Beijing is exporting its ideology to shore up support abroad, most notably among non-Western developing nations. To this end, it will be shown that Beijing is maneuvering to put its worldview forward as an alternative to the ideological hegemony of the West… read more of this article in the Jamestown Foundation’s China Brief

Better City Better Life

Shanghai 2010 World Expo promoted China and its culture to the world

Online Reputation Management for Governments: in the national interest or out of the dictator’s playbook?

According to media commentary, the flourishing business of online reputation management (ORM) straddles an ethical divide between protecting against falsifications and perpetrating them.  Its techniques inhabit several ethical shades of gray, from reputation monitoring, defamation clean-up and positive content promotion to SEO manipulation, negative review removal and astroturfing practices.  But if ORM poses ethical concerns in relation to its use by private businesses and individuals, how then should its use by governments be regarded?

Thor Halvorssen, president of the New York-based Human Rights Foundation, argues that ‘reputation management’ can be a euphemism of the worst sort.  “In many cases across Africa, it often means whitewashing the human rights violations of despotic regimes with fluff journalism and, just as easily, serving as personal PR agents for rulers and their corrupt family members”.  It can also work to drown out criticism, branding dissidents and critics as criminals, terrorists or extremists… Read more at DiploFoundation

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[Propaganda poster in Beijing reinforcing the CCP’s official ‘harmonious society’ narrative. From the Line 21 Project collection]

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Xinnian Daiji!

Happy New Year to all of our supporters!

Best wishes for a prosperous year of the horse!

The Fiji Airways Re-launch & the Decline of Region Branding

Fiji Airways

The success of Air Pacific’s relaunch as Fiji Airways speaks loudly to the declining use of the Pacific as a brand.

In 1971, Fiji Airways made the strategic decision to forsake the Fiji brand and rebrand as Air Pacific. In 2012, after over four decades of operation as Air Pacific, the airline reversed history, boldly effecting a total rebrand and returning to its former name. A year on and the Fiji Airways redux is proving an overwhelming success, but rebrands never come cheap nor without overwhelming risk. So, what led the airline to forsake its 40 year-old regional brand in favor of a new national identity?

At over five and a half thousand miles from either Los Angeles or Beijing, Fiji is separated from almost everywhere by the massive expanse of the Pacific Ocean and its sparse confetti of micro-states. Peripherality and economies of scale have been limiting factors in the development of the Pacific’s islands. Although the region’s major industry is tourism, for example, international air traffic tends to fly over rather than to it. In geographic terms it is a super-region, yet in human terms it is a minnow, often expressed as an after-thought (‘Asia-Pacific’) or as a marker to its more ‘important’ littoral neighbors (‘Pacific Rim’). Not surprisingly, place branding discourse on the region tends to be limited to obscure references in development assistance, ethnographic and environmental reportage.

Even under the best of circumstances, the challenges facing the formation of a region brand are immense. Marcus Andersen (2009), in his study of region branding in the Baltic Sea Region (BSR), identifies two major challenges: diversity “in terms of the multiple national identities and many potential stakeholders”, and the absence of a central decision-making authority. The BSR, he observes, lacks many of the prerequisites for building a brand, such as a political structure, common culture, common history, and linguistic affinity. The Pacific is no exception, yet in its case the challenges are amplified by the incoherence the region derives from the asymmetry of its geographic and human footprints. – Read on at The Public Diplomat

China and Nation Branding: The Diplomat

The latest piece by Nicholas Dynon in The Diplomat

In a speech to members of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee last week, Chinese president Xi Jinping called for renewed efforts to promote China’s cultural soft power. “The stories of China should be well told, voices of China well spread, and characteristics of China well explained,” Xi said.

Various commentators have long slammed China’s state-led efforts to strengthen the country’s soft power. Joseph Nye, to whom the soft power concept is credited, has commented that the Chinese government just doesn’t get soft power. Nye quotes Pang Zhongying of Renmin University as describing Beijing’s focus on promoting ancient cultural icons in terms of a “poverty of thought” among Chinese leaders.

Culture has emerged as the cornerstone of Beijing’s policies to develop soft power, yet the efficacy of this “all culture, no politics” approach has been widely criticized. Nation branding approaches also suggest that Beijing’s culture plugging is, at the very least, a monumental waste of effort. Read more

Beijing bird nest stadium

 

[Beijing’s national stadium, which hosted the 2008 Olympics opening ceremony – a stunning cultural extravaganza completely devoid of politics]

The Language of Terrorism in China: Balancing Foreign and Domestic Policy Imperatives

The latest article by Nicholas Dynon for the Jamestown Foundation’s China Brief…

In late October, central Beijing tasted terror when a flaming SUV rammed a crowd of tourists at the city’s iconic Tiananmen gate, killing the three alleged perpetrators and two bystanders. Authorities were quick to label the attack an act of jihadist terror.

The ensuing media commentary and controversy prompted questions around how terrorism is defined—and how terror incidents are framed—by Chinese authorities. Were the perpetrators of the attack radicalized Uighur Islamist insurgents or were they just normal folk marginalized and driven to extreme measures by an arbitrary and belligerent state?

Ultimately, the Turkestan Islamic Party (TIP), an extremist group with purported links to al-Qaeda, praised the attack in a speech given by its leader posted online—a move that seemingly vindicated official finger pointing. While this perpetuates Beijing’s narrative of China as victim of international terrorism, it takes the focus away from a more inconvenient truth. Self-immolation, bombings and other indiscriminate attacks have abounded in China in recent years, and most have been carried out by citizens with no known terrorist, separatist or ethnic minority links. Yet as frequent as these attacks are, the use of “terrorism” to describe them in official media reportage has been noticeably absent. Read more

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[Propaganda feature in Beijing Airport’s Terminal 3, where frustrated petitioner, Ji Zhongxing, detonated a homemade bomb last July]