27 October 2016
China needs fewer stories about buildings collapsing because of officials' dereliction of duty but more about how prosperous cities like Shanghai are. Photo: Xinhua
China needs fewer stories about buildings collapsing because of officials' dereliction of duty but more about how prosperous cities like Shanghai are. Photo: Xinhua

‘Exclusive’: PR firm’s plans for China revealed

Last week, it was revealed that the Chinese government has approached several international public relations companies to work with Beijing in a program to improve China’s global image.

This columnist managed to get hold of an internal memo written by the chief executive and central conceptualizer of Spin, Splutter and Reap Strategic Consultants, one of the firms invited to bid for this business.

The memo was written after several SSRSC associates (or staff members as they used to be called) expressed concerns over what they described as becoming “spin doctors for a repressive dictatorship”.

We can now exclusively reveal the contents of this memo: 

Dear Colleagues and Fellow Conceptualizers, 

Some of our team members appear to have forgotten that the words “spin doctor” were placed on the no-no list at SSRSC as far back as 2008.

However, let’s not dwell on the past, because the future is what matters.

And because it is in our core being to accentuate the positive and be proactively forward-looking, can I say that words like “repressive” and “dictatorship” have a very yesterday feel and should therefore be expunged from our collective dictionary. 

No one is more committed to liberal values and universal happiness than your senior colleagues at SSRSC — and it does no harm to remind you that, although we are all fellow conceptualizers, some are more senior than others, a status that correlates closely with job security. I trust my meaning is clear. 

So, and here I come to what I regard as being the crucial point at issue, let’s talk about China, hereafter referred to more respectfully as the PRC.

It is no secret that the PRC is very big and has a really whacking great big economy.

Anyone who doubts the international nature of the PRC’s leveraging of its economy need only ask our friends at Prada or maybe Gucci about who nowadays are their numero uno clients.

Sure, business is slacking off a bit, but ups and downs are what happen in the challenging, multifaceted world in which we live.

The PRC is not and does claim to be perfect, but I can tell you, and this is on the basis of some very high-level briefings in Beijing, that the nation’s leadership does feel misunderstood in the wider world.

There seems to be some kind of concerted effort out there to put a negative spin on everything they try to do.

When they produce more goods, they are criticized for unfair trade practices and flooding markets; when their citizens travel abroad and spend like there is no tomorrow, they are criticized for being vulgar and pricing domestic buyers out of the market.

This is all desperately unfair.

Moreover, the international media seems obsessed by the activities of a very small minority of malcontents who parade under the banner of “human rights”.

I’m not saying that China has an entirely wonderful record in this matter, but come on, we are talking about something like 0.0007 percent of the population who bothers about these things, yet their concerns run at the top of the news agenda.

I should add that as a result of our high-level briefings in Beijing, I can confidently say that the leadership under Xi Jinping, a truly inspiring and very tall man with a quite delightful wife, progress is definitely being made.

We were assured that rule of law and the development of freedom in a responsible manner are right up there on the to-do list. Corruption is on the way to being a thing of the past.

However, and most importantly, the PRC is determined to get on with business; economic prosperity is the name of the game, and don’t let words like “Communist” bother you.

I cannot illustrate this more clearly than to repeat an aside from one of our interlocutors in Beijing: “We call ourselves communists,” he said, “but it’s business we understand best.”

He was modest about his own business acumen, saying that money meant nothing to him as he sent it all abroad! Who says the Chinese have no sense of humor?

But I digress, the point here is we must learn to regard China through a different prism; we need to throw away our western eyeglasses and see the East in an eastern way.

This is the challenge, and one I truly believe that we at SSRSC can rise to.

There will always be those who shirk from tough challenges, but they have no place in the SSRSC family.

We are tough realists, prepared to go where others hesitate.

And before anyone else brings it up, I am well aware that were some hiccups during our engagement with Colonel Gadhafi, but it never was a black-and-white situation, and although our “Libya – Place of Dreams” campaign may have given rise to misunderstandings, the revelations of mass executions on launch day can only be described as bad timing.

People tend to forget the much greater success we had with the “It’s All Plain Sailing from Tripoli” media offensive.

But that’s all in the past – moving forward, we are mega-confident about taking on the PRC challenge: target date for the first draft of our “China Leads the World” submission is June 4.

I am sure you are all excited about this, as I am, and can I reiterate that the pending closure of our Hong Kong office will do nothing to undermine our efforts, as it is part of our global repositioning initiative.

– Contact us at [email protected]


Hong Kong-based journalist, broadcaster and book author

EJI Weekly Newsletter