China's Great, Baffling Failure: Public Relations

Beijing completely misses 'crass value of cultivating the press'

By Clay Dillow,  Newser Staff

Posted Oct 16, 2008 5:00 PM CDT

(Newser) – It’s no secret that China is moving into position as a global superpower, writes James Fallows in the Atlantic, and this only further highlights its leaders’ baffling inability to understand how the country is viewed from the outside—and how to change those opinions for the better. Officials just don’t understand “the crass value of cultivating the press,” he writes.

China’s PR problem stems from leaders’ lack of understanding of foreign opinion. Worldly Chinese citizens get it, and exhibit it in business and academia every day. But the insular nature of the party and the way leaders rise through the ranks means “the closer Chinese officials are to centers of political power, the less they know what they don’t know about the world.”

A Chinese visitor walks inside one of three parks where demonstrators could legally stage protests. Almost a week into the Beijing games, there was no sign of demonstrations at the three parks.
A Chinese visitor walks inside one of three parks where demonstrators could legally stage protests. Almost a week into the Beijing games, there was no sign of demonstrations at the three parks.   (AP Photo/Alexander F. Yuan)
Very few people in China really understand how foreign opinion works, what the outside world reacts to and why, one expert says.
"Very few people in China really understand how foreign opinion works, what the outside world reacts to and why," one expert says.   (AP Photo)
For outsiders, the central problem is that a country that will inevitably have ... perhaps dominant influence on the world still has surprisingly little idea of how the world sees it, Fallows says.
"For outsiders, the central problem is that a country that will inevitably have ... perhaps dominant influence on the world still has surprisingly little idea of how the world sees it," Fallows says.   (AP Photo)
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The closer Chinese officials are to centers of political power, the less they know what they don’t know about the world.
- James Fallows

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