China’s self-promotional ad at Times Square thumbed down by Chinese netizens
January 23, 2011Jing Gao8 Commentscitizenship, civic-minded, civil journalism, discontent, dissidents, emigration, green card, Kuomintang, microblog, national image, Nationalist Party, New York City, permanent residence, Propaganda, publicity, Sina, Times Square, weibo
China’s self-promotional ad has finally been unveiled and made an even bigger impression than anticipated: launched on January 17, two days before Chinese President Hu Jintao’s three day visit in the United States, the 60-second ad will be displayed on six giant screens in New York City’s Times Square 300 times a day for a grand total of 8,400 times between now and Valentine’s Day.
The self-promotional ad, called by Chinese authorities National Image, showcases well-known Chinese grouped by realms, such as show-biz stars, scientists, athletes, and entrepreneurs. Among them are Yao Ming, the basketball player with Houston Rocket, Zhang Ziyi, who was featured in Oscar-winning film Crouching Tiger and Hidden Dragon, and Jack Ma, the CEO of Taobao, the largest online-trading site in China.
The ad has been uploaded to Youtube as well as China-based video-sharing sites. Some nationalist Chinese feel proud of the fact that their motherland is the attention of the focus at one of the world’s most monumental sites. However, The majority feel it is façade deliberately designed for show and glossing over the internal problems and crises, and choice of the spokespersons went wrong.
Attentive netizens noticed that among the elites handpicked to represent the country, seven of them are“Green Card” holders, or U.S. permanent residents, and three of them have relinquished Chinese citizenship to become U.S. citizens. “How can they represent China?” A Sina microblog user questioned. Many Sina microbloggers echoed by saying, “The National Image Video actually tries to tell us that awesome Chinese either have already become or are well on their way to become U.S. citizens, which can put those Americans who are watching the video at ease.”
Some also dug out a U.S.-themed video which was allegedly displayed at the U.S. Pavilion during Shanghai World Expo in 2010. Netizens pointed out that there is no Bill Gates or Steve Jobs. No elite is featured in the video. Their national image is represented by ordinary people from all walks of life, whereas China’s is represented by extraordinary people sifted from 1.3 billion. The smile on American people’s faces in the video is a telling proof that life in the U.S. is happy and rewarding.
One Sina user wrote in his microblog, “The best national image consists of Chilean miners rescued safe and sound after being trapped for 68 days, 7.2-magnitude earthquake in New Zealand that had zero death, Passport of Republic of China (Taiwan) that can visit 96 countries and regions without visa, German low-rent flats that charge less than 1 euro per year, U.S. politicians who sleep on the couch at the office in D.C., and Japanese nailhouse that frustrates the reconstruction plan of Tokyo Narita Airport.” The message has been shared by 4,522 Sina users.
Netizens also use the discussion of the National Image as an outlet for venting discontent with the governance and the regime itself. They list moments captured by civil journalists as good candidates for the Real National Image, including a migrant worker who has failed to come by a train ticket for going home in the past four years, and a 90-year-old veteran who once fought in Anti-Japanese War during the WWII and was recently told by the local authorities that if he wants to get social security and pension, “go to Taiwan to seek Kuomintang (Nationalist Party) for help!” Microbloggers who shared the these candidate photos and videos commented, “This is the damn real National Image.”
Chinese authorities have been tight-lipped about the cost of producing and running the ad. One person in charge insisted that contrary to the rumor that the production cost 45 billion yuan, all people featured in the film did not ask for any pay, which made the production cost “too little to be worth mentioning.” Many netizens replied by demanding an exact figure, “No matter how much or little the cost is, as taxpayers, we have the right to know.” However, some grapevine estimated the total cost of airing the ad at 86 million yuan, or 13 million dollars, by using the price quoted by Times Square. Many were infuriated by the colossal sum, “Five provinces in China’s Southwest suffered drought that landed people on the brink of death, and the government only appropriated 15 million yuan. Is it kidding?”
“The much-anticipated publicity video by China lacked creativity and resembled a staged family portrait, filled with elite posing but bearing no humanitarian touch. Is this the image of China that we want to convey?”Ma Hongtao, a China Central Television host, wrote on his Sina microblog.