2008 Beijing Olympic Games

Who is winning the Olympic PR war?

Who looks like the victim?
Image has been cropped - source

Today The New York Times published a piece titled Tibet Backers Show China Value of P.R. Excerpt:

As a result, the protesters have pulled off a publicity coup. Instead of basking in the glow of the coming games, China has quickly found itself on the defensive, and protesters have turned the subject from athletics in Beijing to the crackdown in Tibet, along with human-rights violations inside China and China’s investments in Sudan.

Such sentiments, often articulated with a tinge of schadenfreude, have been common on the opinion pages of Western newspapers in the last few weeks.

It is certainly true that China's image may take a battering in the West because of the Olympics. But this should be balanced against three factors:

1. Domestic PR for the Chinese government
On ESWN, Roland Soong has translated a report in and a forum/blog post about Paris Olympic torchbearer Jin Jing (金晶). Ms Jin is the pretty one legged fencer from whom a thuggish demonstrator tried to grab the torch. Ms Jin was in a wheelchair and photos like the one reproduced here are all over the Internet.

Soong also comments:

There is a public relations disaster, but the question is for whom?

On one hand, the pro-Tibet protesters have managed to turn the Olympic torch processions in London and Paris into huge publicity stunts. They have gathered global media coverage for their cause.

On the other hand, it would appear that the Chinese Communists have reaped a huge publicity bonanza from the same incidents. How so? For the Chinese Communists, the responses from western government, media and citizens are immaterial. If German Chancellor Merkel won't attend the Olympic opening ceremony, it only means tickets for some others who want to come. It won't impact their existence. The paramount goal of the Chinese Communists is to retain control of China, and therefore it is the response from the Chinese citizens that matter. Thanks to the protests, the Chinese Communists may have consolidated support by its citizens for years to come...

...Faced with the beautiful heroine with one leg, how is any liberal dissidence on behalf of Tibet independence going to work inside Chinese? This was a bonanza handed to the Chinese Communists by the pro-Tibet protestors...

The online patriotic movement has only gathered strength since the ESWN post was published last week.

The Sina.com online petition to "oppose slitting the Motherland and support the Olympic torch" has gathered almost 2.5 million signatures as of today. Nationalistic forum websites like Tiexue ('iron blood') are predictably exploding with aggression. The Youtube video Tibet was, is and always will be part of China has been viewed more than 2.5 million times as of this writing, and the video Riot in Tibet: True face of western media (based on Anti-CNN.com) has been viewed more than 1.2 million times.

The Chinese government appears to be winning the user generated propaganda war.

No torch grabbers in Africa

2. Third World support
The image reproduced here is from a Xinhua story captioned thusly

Tanzanian Caroline Mbaga, a Coca-Cola franchise marketing manager, passes the Olympic flame to the next torchbearer in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, yesterday. Tanzania became the first Sub-Saharan country to host the Olympic torch relay.

Western countries are not the only ones China hopes to impress with the Olympics.

Tanzanians and Argentinians, whose countries the torch has just been through, were much less enthusiastic than Londoners, Parisians and San Franciscans when it comes to protesting for a free Tibet. The governments of China's friends in South America, Asia and Africa are unlikely to boycott the Olympics, and any tickets thrown away by American senators will make nice little soft power gifts in Beijing's diplomatic circles.

3. PR fallout for France

Online PR 'disasters' in China often look worse than they are. In the past, dozens of 'boycott Japan' campaigns don't seem to have stopped any of the nations youth from buying Japanese digital cameras and other goods.

But the French brands named in this Tianya BBS post, a call to boycott French goods, can't be too happy. That post is in Chinese, but it includes a collage of the logos of a range of French companies active in China, so you can see whom the boycott is targeting even if you are illiterate in Chinese. The brands include Carrefour, Louis Vuitton, BNP Paribas, Alacatel and Danone.

The post also includes a few Photoshop prank images, for example, the 'Free Corsica' flag reproduced below that incorporates an image of Carla Bruni, French President Sarkozy's new wife, from a print that was recently sold at an auction In New York.


The Chinese slogan says "Independent Corsica needs our naked support". At least the angry youth have a sense of humor.

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There are currently 24 Comments for Who is winning the Olympic PR war?.

Comments on Who is winning the Olympic PR war?

We Chinese have own minds,so we have the right to express our own thoughts. We choose which better to us! So, we choose to do our business by ourselves, not by others!

PR is everywhere.

Of course the problem with the the protestors is that "success" appears to be measured in how much PR is generated rather than any actual progress for Tibetan autonomy/independence.

That is generally what happens when a political cause gets hijacked by Western youths and Hollywood stars. They'll laugh, they'll cry, they'll run amuck in the streets, and then they will go on their way.

What did anti-WTO kids do with their sea turtle suits? Let me check E-bay...


Richard Spencer has an interesting viewpoint, which is more or less why I support the protests myself- it's not like by not protesting would anyone convince Chinese people that something was wrong with the CCP's Tibet policy. At least there's some awareness of the problem.

With the announcement by both Australia and Japan that Chinese torch attendants will not be allowed to accompany the torch runs in Canberra and Nagano, it will be interesting to see if any Australian or Japanese torchbearers have Tibetan flags up their sleeves.

In San Francisco there was a torchbearer named Majora Carter from New York (chosen by Olympic sponsor Coca Cola) who got immediately bounced by Chinese torch attendants when she tried such a trick.

Will Australian and Japanese security forces be politically savvy enough to spot sinister plots from any Tibet sympathizers who might be carrying the torch?


> "Independent Corsica needs our naked support"
Now, that banner added more shit slogan in China.
"free to bed"

Could it be that whatever problems exist in Tibet are exascerbated by the naivitee of both Tibetans and their Western "friends". That's basically the position of Patrick French.

If the Cherokee Nation erroneously thought that a world superpower would help them win back the American Southeast, would some of them take to the streets? Would they be justified? If the international community were to sponsor a Native American exile government, would there be more violence on Indian reservations?

I have some sympathy for Tibetans who I think are a unfortunate victim of geopolitics, though not uniquely so.

I think most Westerners protesting ofr Tibet don't understand what they are doing and are causing immense harm. The skin in the game is somebody else's but the momentary delight is theirs.

Not that it matters much, but Etam is British-owned, Sloggi is part of the German group Triumph International, Arcelor is based in Luxembourg (is that a suburb of France?), Wacoal is Japanese, Yiselle is based in Shenzhen (nice undies if you're looking for a gift for the better half), and what the heck are "Autason" and "FRCPorts"?


for the record, there's no shortage of opinion in the Western press that recent protests have "back-fired." the most straightforward example is here.

yes,you know what,many chinese now got angry,and they take action to boycott the french products.

chinese now take action to boycott the french product!

Online PR 'disasters' in China often look worse than they are.

you are right. I don't think majority Chinese care about this issue. people say BBS viewers are losers.

In reading some of the comments, I can't help thinking Jeremy's point has been largely missed or misunderstood.

The point is the Tibetan group is "winning" the PR war in the west, consolidating western thought behind them.

While the Chinese government is "winning" the PR war in China, consolidating Chinese thought behind them.

We all are "losing" despite these PR "wins". People in power usually need to create an "us versus them" mindset to keep power.

That's the key point to keep in mind here folks.

This being a media focused site, that would probably be the correct interpretation.

The point I was trying to make is that protestors (Western ones especially) don't quite care about much else except PR stunts.

They will push back progress in Tibet by 20 years to get a photo of themselves snatching the Olympic torch.

It would be nice if Danwei followed up on the success of the anti-French boycott with a report from a local Carrefour (Jialefu). Historically, the Chinese have often called for boycotts as a means of expressing their displeasure - with only very intermittent success. I remember a photo in a major U.S. paper in May 1999 (following the bombing of China's embassy in Belgrade) in which several students carried a large banner showing President Bill Clinton - his face distorted to look like the devil, with a pig's snout, swastikas all over the place, and the caption "Cannibalistic Demon" (chiren de mogui) written underneath. Just behind this banner was another advocating a boycott of all U.S. goods. Funny thing, however, was that one of the students carrying the first banner was clearly holding a Starbucks coffee cup. Less than a week after the embassy bombing, Chinese students were protesting again in front of the U.S. consulate in Shanghai - this time because the consulate had still not re-opened to process applications for U.S. visas.

China is clearly losing the propaganda war. Everything I've seen in the media of the countries that matter (India, the US, Canada, the EU, Japan) is pretty negative. I imagine it's different in places like Russia, Venezuela and Burma, but still, I'd say China is on the losing side.

Here is an interesting article,

More PR wars expected. The loser, this time, seems to be western countries involved; the winner? none.

Here is my speculation (take it as non-sense)

China will speed up Plan of Big Aircraft, and the aircraft market will decline eventually.

urr, how so?

“China will speed up Plan of Big Aircraft”
Airbus go go go!!!
Everyone is losing. Who is winning? none.

The wife of the French President is real fucking good. Omph, sorry for the interruption.

I profess that I do not have enough knowledge when it comes to the issue of China and Tibet. I have two things in mind though. First, fighting for independence is good. Second, protesting and using the Olympics as a backdrop is not good.

What am I saying? Tibet has the right to fight for independence. But please, don't ruin the games.

This shows it is futile to use international PR agencies like Hill & Knowlton to fight a war against NGOs who are more successful carrying out guerrilla PR warfare on a much smaller budget .. because international PR agencies like Hill & Knowlton only know how to stage glamorous performance with a mindset that this is a corporate / crisis and issue management project - it is not a PR project stupid; it is part of a global geopolitical warfare !

Public Relations is the management function which evaluates Public attitudes, identifies the policies and procedures of an individual or an organization with the public interest and plans, executes, and evaluates a program of action to -earn- public understanding and acceptance. With that being said, public relations in its true form cannot exist within a communist society.

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