The Tibet Issue: How can China launch an effective international public relations campaign

'Olympic Disciplines'                    [International Herald Tribune, France]



Wen Wei Po, Hong Kong

'Mental Complexes' Result in Western Sympathy for Tibet


Will it be possible to persuade Western governments and public opinion that China is the victim of Tibetan 'running dogs'? In this op-ed from Hong Kong's Wen Wei Po, published before the voyage of the Olympic torch began, Hong Kong television commentator Dr. Qiu Zhenhai explains how the Beijing government can turn the public relations battle in its favor. The key, according to the author, is to understand the flaws and contradictions in Western thinking and to mount a massive new public relations campaign.


By Dr. Qiu Zhenhai [邱震海], commentator for Hong Kong's Phoenix TV


Translated By Mark Klingman


March 22. 2008


China - Wen Wei Po - Original Article (Chinese)

Tibet's largest riot in 20 years has aroused international concern. Although over the past few days Chinese officials have released some news, they have yet to allow foreign reporters to interview the locals and the rumors are flying. Particularly European countries are of the belief that information from the Chinese government is wholly unreliable. This statement sounds harsh, but the Western world's inherent thinking and feeling on the issue of Tibet is a reflection of this. If we carefully study the mentality behind this thinking and improve China's international public-relations skills, we can try to overcome the limitations of the West's political culture.


The Olympic Games in Beijing are still four and a half months away. Although this is a moment of crisis, the crisis may also offer opportunities.


Tibet is a complicated issue. There does need to be a deeper, more respectful, civilized dialogue and an improvement in relations between Han Chinese and Tibetans. But long-term delays and the way the Tibetan running-dogs have acted in their own political interests have resulted in the growing complication of Tibetan affairs. But looked at in isolation, it's clear that the disturbances, rioting, vandalism and heinous disorder are being dealt with according to the law. If any incident of this kind took place in a Western country, regardless of the "complexity" of the surrounding issues, the local government would carry out effective programs to clamp down and maintain peace. The 1992 riots in Los Angeles as well as the 2005 riots in Paris are perfect examples.


Only on the Tibet issue do Western media and intelligentsia diverge from their usual thinking. In the past, Western intellectuals have almost unanimously condemned the Chinese government over Tibet. In regard to the current turmoil, they have condemned the use of force and demanded official Chinese restraint, regardless of the facts surrounding the riots. But the West's criticism is in stark contrast to its long history of intellectual and empirical rigor, because it is fully aware that the question of Tibet is a deep and complex one. Therefore we must take the first step: We must study the Western position on the question of Tibet, along with the international public relations measures utilized by Western intellectuals.




On the question of Tibet, Western intellectuals have multiple overlaid and intertwined complexes. So when they speak with the appearance of "rationality" on the issue of Tibet, they merely give vent to their own confusion and demonstrate the vicious circle that they've gotten themselves into.


COMPLEX NUMBER ONE: The long-standing, traditional liberalism and idealism of the West, which is concerned primarily with civil liberties, human rights, self-determination, and confidence in basic government, arose out of the Renaissance and the bourgeois [industrial] revolution. These ideas are the precious spiritual wealth of the West. The trouble is that for a variety of reasons, when this spiritual wealth encounters the Tibet issue, it gets twisted and perverted.


COMPLEX NUMBER TWO: Over the past few centuries because of the success of modernization, there has been a "tilting" process toward the West. The West has become a model for the world in human rights, democracy, freedom, civil law, and the self-determination of peoples. These have become so-called natural, mainstream values, and therefore in the exchanges between the West and China, the West has had a commanding position. China is not and should not reject these ideals due to their Western origins. Rather, China should take part in these universal values of freedom, democracy, and human rights, and should remain "inclined" toward dialogue with the West.


COMPLEX NUMBER THREE: Along with the rapid development of the West and shift of the East-West balance toward the West (especially the major European countries), there has also come an odd spread of primitive "hippie" culture - those in search of novelty and interested in "finding themselves" - as well as religious fanaticism, the leading representatives of this being Africa and Tibet. In itself, this cultural phenomenon is beyond reproach. The complication arises with the inevitable "non-cultural factors." For example, in regard to Tibet, its "primitive" culture elicits pious feelings of enthusiasm, "reverence" and other heartwarming feelings from Western intellectuals. The inevitable result is that it is impossible for them to hold an objective attitude on the Tibet issue.


COMPLEX NUMBER FOUR: There is still a huge difference between the ideologies of the West and China. Especially after the Cold War, the Western values have become mainstream for China and the majority of countries around the world, more so since its position has become so commanding and apparently "reasonable." So for example, police forces in the U.S. and France are permitted to handle rioters according to the law (regardless of how complicated the underlying issues may be), but for the same acts China is immediately condemned.



These four intertwined complexes have led to confusion and internal divisions among Western intellectuals, which can be summed up this way:


The West's critical, liberal, empirical tradition and the simultaneous ignorance of facts and logic due to simplistic thinking create a paradox. In Western Europe in particular, intellectuals are confused about the issue of Tibet, and to a certain extent, this affects Western public opinion and thinking. But on the whole, people should not think that such thinking is antithetical to the Chinese people or against China. On the contrary, within this staggering confusion and misunderstanding, there a huge opportunity for China to launch its own huge public relations campaign.




In terms of international public relations, this author has recommended responding rapidly, frankly, and following the principle of transparency. Because of its long-term nature and complexity, China can't ignore the Tibet issue. If it isn't handled properly, from now until the Olympics in August it could create even greater turbulence in the international community.



At the same time, we must realize that China's sovereignty over Tibet has long been recognized by the international community. This is one structural barrier between China and the West that has been settled. We should also be aware that even after the turmoil in Tibet, the vast majority of Western countries still hope that Beijing will practice restraint and try to keep open official channels of communication, especially in regard to the issue of boycotting the Beijing Olympics. So far, no countries or international organizations have decided to officially boycott. As long as the governments of most Western countries don't intervene, an Olympic boycott won't gather steam. In regard to the Tibet issue, if Beijing acts quickly to put down any disturbances and truthfully releases the facts, it can reduce the impact of any incidents on the Games.


In this regard, there are obvious short-term and long-term public relations considerations. In the long term, this will effect China's relations with the West, and of course it will affect Tibet as China gradually improves and adjusts its policies there. In the short term when journalists are permitted into Tibet to conduct interviews, the international community will gain a better understanding of the facts.


[Editor's Note: After this article was published, Western reporters were indeed permitted to take a supervised tour of Tibet. But things did not go well .]  


Whether in the long term or the short term, there are several keys issues involved with public relations:


First, a frank attitude toward the international community, even in the face of misunderstanding;


Second, keeping in mind the international community's blind spots due to their numerous complexes (described above), we much begin to form a common language that could eventually lead to constructive dialogue;


Third, we much open lines of communication with prominent Western columnists and intellectuals and those proficient in the West and persuade them write articles in the Western press.


[Editor's Note: The author is a commentator for Phoenix Television, which is a Hong Kong-based Mandarin Chinese television broadcaster. Being on good terms with the Beijing government, it is one of the few non-government TV broadcasters permitted to operate in mainland China . Read 'Behind the Scenes of China's Official Media Machine' by Reporters Without Borders ]






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[Posted by WORLDMEETS.US April 9, 9:04pm]











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