China’s Olympic PR nightmare
April 07th, 2008 | Category: Mark My Words
After a week in the depths of the French countryside without access to the internet, I returned yesterday to the utter madness of the Olympic torch relay procession through London.
How could this blatant PR stunt for the Chinese government have been allowed to take place? The front pages of most of today’s dailies show Chinese security heavies jogging alongside the police to protect the flame from protesters. More power to the thousands who took to the streets to express their anger, I say, given that the Chinese have done little since winning the Olympics to address its human rights record. Make no mistake, the relay was a propaganda ploy.
There have been a number of low-key actions to try to persuade the world that the Olympic ethos is in safe hands. Let’s not forget how much money is being invested in PR by the Chinese to drive home this point. One of the more costly investments was to appoint Hill & Knowlton as the official public relations agency for the Beijing Olympics 2008. I suggest that this able global agency will engage in dark arts to spin China, and deflect its appalling record on dealing with Aids, Tibet, and its shameful influence in Darfur.
Not long after the first signs of unrest were first reported in Tibet, an online survey was released globally. “The Project 2008 Poll, a joint initiative of the Ogilvy Group in China and Millward Brown ACSR, probed Chinese residents in locations along the Torch Relay route in China for their attitudes and opinions regarding the Games. Launched in early January, the study utilized Lightspeed Research, Millward Brown ACSR’s online China panel, which collected 2,687 responses from citizens aged 12-54 “
I was not surprised to learn that the Chinese nation has greeted the Olympics with enthusiasm and excitement. The breathless release declared that there was a soaring pride in China for the games and the nation were excited for their athlete’s potential for Olympic Gold.
China, with the aid of it PR cronies, has tried to defuse pressure over its human rights record. Through remorseless lobbying diplomacy and skilful use of its growing economic clout, it has sidelined western complaints about human rights and marginalized the non-governmental lobbies that seek to promote them.
If yesterday was anything to go by, the next four months should be a PR nightmare for the Chinese. The Olympics provide China’s critics with a marvelous backdrop and focal point to highlight the woes of the regime. I hope activists can win the PR battle by baiting the Chinese authorities and using direct action over the coming months to try to bring this regime to heel and force them into providing the basic freedoms that we take for granted. Shame on anyone who does not use their voice to shame the Chinese at this crucial time; if this does not succeed then, once the Games are over, we can expect to see repeated use of the heavy hand that Beijing uses to deal with dissent and protests