|March 27, 2008|
|Fanning the Flames of China's PR Syndrome|
|By Greg Hazley|
|Could things really could get much worse for China’s image at this point?|
Violence in Tibet beamed around the world is just the latest in an unbelievable string of PR disasters for the People’s Republic. In a simplistic view, taking into account the last six months of headlines, China has tainted the U.S. drug supply, its toys are dangerous, its air is poison, its water might be worse – and this all comes as the world is about to take a closer look when the Games open in Beijing in August. Seemingly at every turn, China is faced with a new crisis to defuse (or gloss over) as the Games approach. [American distance runners have already been advised to wear special masks to protect their lungs from air pollution. How’s that for a photo op?]
The Olympic torch relay, which begins on March 25, could make things worse for China as the six-continent jaunt provides an opportunity for protestors to raise their issues locally, as well as globally.
The relay will be the longest in history, stretching 85,000 miles through 135 cities around the world. That route will include an attempt to carry the flame up the Tibetan side of Mount Everest to the summit.
The idea of the Olympic torch – this year fashioned by the Chinese computer maker Lenovo [Coca Cola and Samung round out the big sponsors of the relay] – representing “hope and dreams, sunshine and happiness, friendship, peace and equality” passing through politically oppressed Tibet is too much for some to take.
When the Olympic torch relay arrives in London, a thousand Tibetans will be protesting. From the London Times:
Protesters say that the torch, a symbol of peace, justice and brotherhood, should not be allowed to enter Tibet nor reach the top of the world’s highest peak because of the message it would send out. They are calling on the International Olympic Committee and Olympic sponsors such as Coca-Cola to prevent the Chinese from running the torch to the 29,035ft summit, which has been closed to climbers in preparation.
Jiang Xiaoyu, executive VP of the Beijing Olympic Organising Committee, said he head heard rumors of protests for the Tibet part of the journey. “Those activities will not win the hearts and minds of people and are doomed to fail,” he said.
He sounds pretty confident, considering his country is facing the PR challenge of the decade.
The torch relay could represent more of a PR nightmare for China and its agency, Hill & Knowlton.
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