Showing posts with label Soft Power. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Soft Power. Show all posts

Saturday, August 8, 2015

The Red, White, and Blue on Motorbikes in Shanghai and Changsha

In the previous post about the motorbikes I saw yesterday in Shanghai with designs resembling the flags of the U.S. and the U.K., I mentioned I now often seen motorbikes in China with the latter design. Today in Shanghai, as usual, I was not searching for motorbikes. Yet less then two minutes after stepping outside the door, I saw another motorbike with a Union Jack design.


Again, I was not particularly surprised. But a couple of hours later, I was surprised to see yet another motorbike with the Stars & Stripes design, something I have seen far less often in China.


A couple of hours later though, another motorbike helped create a more usual balance for the day.


Today I also looked through photos from my stay in Changsha a couple of months ago. I don't have photos of any American-themed motorbikes from there and don't think I saw any. But I do have photos of three British-themed motorbikes. They definitely weren't the only ones I saw. I took a photo of one because of its setting.

motorbike with a Union Jack design parked in an alley in Changsha
Changsha, Hunan

And I took a photo of two others because they were parked near each other.

two motorbikes with Union Jack designs at a parking lot in Changsha
Changsha, Hunan

The motorbikes in the photos above and in the previous post appear to be similar models but the Union Jack designs are not exactly alike and often don't match the flag as much as would be possible. My main point for now is simply that the general design is not uncommon in Shanghai and a number of other cities in China — a change of pace from four years ago when a man felt safe claiming his Union Jack motorbike was "one of a kind" in Shanghai.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Oh Say Can You See the Motorbike in Shanghai

While walking across Xizang South Road in Shanghai today, I didn't see anyone wearing clothing reminding me of the flag of the U.S. as I did yesterday. But a motorbike with the familiar theme did zip by.

young man and woman riding a motorbike with a U.S. flag design in Shanghai

Although I don't often see similar motorbikes, in a number of Chinese cities I do regularly see motorbikes with a British-themed design. And I was not the least surprised when I noticed one a few hours later elsewhere in Shanghai.

motorbike with British flag design in Shanghai

More about the popularity of Stars & Stripes and Union Jack designs in China, whether on motorbikes or clothing, another day.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Signs of Socialist Core Values in Shanghai

sign in China for "socialist core values"

Today in Shanghai I saw the above sign. Along a wall, related signs promoting the various "socialist core values" — a focus of President Xi Jinping — accompanied it. Similar signs aren't uncommon to see in Shanghai or elsewhere in China, not surprising since Xi wants the values to be "all-pervasive, just like the air". On that note, Xi has stressed he doesn't want them polluted by undesired Western values or institutions. I will touch more deeply on this topic later. For now, I just want to say as a man wearing a shirt with a clothing design I have seen many times in China passed by, I wondered about the signs' impact. It's hard to know.

man wearing tank-top with U.S. flag design walking a signs promoting socialist core values

Monday, June 29, 2015

Sights and Sounds of the Land of the Free at a Fuzhou Mall

Yesterday at the large Baolong City Plaza shopping mall in Fuzhou, Fujian province, I stopped to admire a karaoke club advertisement which included a slightly altered Statue of Liberty.

Advertisement for a karaoke club with the Statue of Liberty holding a studio microphone

I then walked into a central courtyard area where a guitarist was either warming up or testing the equipment for a later performance.

central outdoor area of the Baolong City Plaza shopping mall in Fuzhou, China

As I made my way to lower levels, I realized the melody I heard was rather familiar. But simply recognizing it is not what caused me to do a mental double take.

After all, most days in China you don't hear a live performance of The Star Spangled Banner.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

American Affirmation: A Chinese Man in Chongqing Who Doesn't Like Black People

News on Hong Kong MTR train video monitor showing mass murderer Dylann Roof holding a Confederate flag
News about the U.S. debate over the Confederate flag appearing yesterday inside a Hong Kong MTR train

In China I have seen numerous examples of why the U.S. is considered a leader in soft power, especially in terms of American culture's influence through mediums such as movies, music, and sports. Usually the term "soft power" is used in a positive sense, at least from the perspective of the country yielding the power. One late night earlier this year in Southwest China in the city of Chongqing, though, I saw how American culture's influence isn't always a positive.

That night as I passed by an outdoor night market, a Chinese man and woman in their 20s invited me to join them for barbecued food and beer. I happily accepted, and soon we were speaking about a variety of topics. During our conversation, several young black men sat down at a nearby table. The woman expressed excitement and explained she was extremely interested in meeting them, especially since there are very few black people in Chongqing. She then left to introduce herself and chat. Her sudden and extended departure from her friend seemed awkward to me, but in light of racism being common in China I also saw a positive side to her actions.

As the man and I continued talking, the conversation soon took an unexpected twist. He suddenly stated that he didn't like black people, so I asked him to elaborate. Although his friend's action may have prompted his statement, it didn't appear to be a newly formed belief. After I pushed back against some of his following points, he sat quietly in thought, and I wondered if I had made an impression. A minute or so later he broke his silence and asked, "Are there people in America who don't like black people?"

I replied, "There definitely are." I assumed he was curious about racial issues in the U.S. So I thought it could be valuable to shed some light on the immense challenges the country still faces, despite recent progress.

But before I could continue, he triumphantly declared, "You see. So I'm right."

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Obama Sits Happily on a Bench in Chongqing

As I approached a restaurant which serves local-style food in Chongqing, I paused for a moment when I saw who was sitting in front of the restaurant's entrance.

A Barack Obama statue sitting on a bench

A group of Chinese later left the restaurant exclaiming "Obama!". A few had their photos taken while sitting on the bench. A server at the restaurant identified the statue as President Barack Obama. She said it was not theirs but was owned by the touristy complex where the restaurant can be found.

Obama may be pleased by this. Not only did he once sit on a bench with Chinese President Xi Jinping and give it to him, but he may see the Chongqing bench as indicative of a type of influence the U.S. has in China that China has less of in the U.S.

Barack Obama and Xi Jinping sit on a bench
Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

Friday, September 19, 2014

A Taiwanese Politician and Barack Obama Want Change

In the Tucheng District of New Taipei City I recently saw a small part of Taiwan's democracy in action. At one location people busily worked for an election campaign.

people working for Lin Jinjie's (林金結) city council campaign

Lin Jinjie (林金結), a member of Taiwan's Kuomintang party, is running for the position of councilor in the New Taipei City Council.

As I walked around Tucheng, I saw some of Lin's campaign signs. Most seemed run-of-the-mill.

sign for Lin Jinjie's (林金結) election campaign

sign for Lin Jinjie's (林金結) election campaign

One sign campaign sign stood out though.

Lin Jinjie (林金結) campaign "We Want Change" sign with Barack Obama

Yes, that is Lin with U.S. President Barack Obama. And the sign makes it clear both of them are full of hope for change.

During earlier primary elections some questioned Lin's use of Barack Obama's image and suggested it improperly implied Obama supported Lin or may raise copyright issues (see articles in Chinese here and here). Others commented on the prominent use of English on the sign. Despite the criticism, at least the above sign remains and an image of the sign posted on what appears to be Lin's Facebook page remains as well. Whatever its merits, that a Taiwanese political campaign believes it could be helpful to reference Obama says something about Taiwan and speaks to America's potential soft power as well.

On a related note, I have seen Barack Obama's image used for commercial purposes in mainland China. But due to differences in political systems and cultures, I doubt I will be seeing any similar Obama-themed political-campaign signs there anytime soon.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Julliard School Betting on Artistic Growth in China

Chengcheng Jiang in Time reported on the Julliard School's plans to open a campus, its first outside of the U.S., for pre-college & pre-professional students in Tianjin, China. Some of the reasons for Julliard's new campus highlight the different directions that China and the U.S. are headed in their commitment to the arts:
The Juilliard brand is landing in China at a time when interest in — and money for — the arts is on the rise. As part of President’s Hu Jintao‘s plans to build the nation’s soft power, the central government has established ambitious targets for the development of what it calls China’s ‘cultural industries.’ In the current Five Year Plan, the government’s blueprint for growth, for instance, 2 billion RMB, or about $315 million, has been earmarked for a national arts fund.

This level of enthusiasm and funding is a welcome change for American educators who are used to dealing with dwindling audiences and funding cuts. “The tradition of government funding of the arts has never existed in United States,” [The president of the Julliard School, Joseph Polisi,] told TIME on a recent visit to China to announce the new campus. “What has supported the arts for most of the 20th century in America was the value system where the public educational system saw the arts as being important as part of an overall education.” That, of course, has changed. But in China, he says, parents and school systems increasingly value music. “I see Chinese students, I see Chinese faculty members, I see Chinese educational administrators, who are all working towards an environment that is supportive of the classical arts.”
Like the aviation industry, the development of the arts could be representative of broader changes in China. And similar to some other fields, if the U.S. shoots itself in the foot and does not continue to support the arts, America could decline in a field where it now shines regardless of what China does.

Another set of issues raised by Julliard's plans relate to censorship. Julliard will be joining a variety of other American institutions of higher education with campuses or with plans to build campuses in China. They have had to consider how to best foster open learning in China. Isaac Stone Fish in The Daily Beast reported on the degree to which American universities have adjusted to China's censorship and how it is not easy when it is sometimes not clear what is off-limits:
Rowena He left China in the 1990s and is currently teaching 
courses at Harvard University about the 1989 Tiananmen Square movement
 and its aftermath—a course that she could not teach in China. “The 
problem is, we don’t know where the line is and what the punishment
 would be. That’s where fear and self-censorship comes from,” she says.
It would seem, though, that Julliard may have fewer challenges in this regard and may be less likely to have professors barred from China. Although there are many popular music songs which are banned in China, I am not aware of any cases where the style of music typically studied and performed at a school such as Julliard has been banned. However, there are certainly pieces which have the potential to be considered sensitive [if you are aware of any such pieces being banned, I would be curious to hear about it].

Regardless of the challenges that may be ahead, I think it is wonderful that Julliard is pushing forward in China. It will help to further spread the arts and creative expression in China. It will also provide Julliard a valuable mechanism to funnel talented and trained musicians to its main campus. Like other leading schools, it continues to draw many talented people to the U.S.

Whether the U.S. appreciates how valuable that can be and works to ensure it continues is another question.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

More on Chen Guangcheng and Yang Rui

I want to follow up my earlier post of links to pieces about Chen Guangcheng and Yang Rui with two more related links worth checking out.

1. In an earlier post I questioned some of the criticism of how U.S. officials handled the Chen Guangcheng case. An article by William Han in The Washington Post shares a taste of some of the challenges they faced. For example, at times U.S. officials could not even be sure of the identities of those present at negotiations:
The Americans were greeted at 10 a.m. on Sunday, April 29, by familiar faces from the ministry — chief among them Cui Tiankai, a diplomat they had dealt with countless times. But on either side of the Chinese diplomats were two men who did not introduce themselves and were not introduced by others.

Not until days later, with an initial deal in sight, did the Americans learn that one of them was a representative of China’s Ministry of State Security — a powerful branch in charge of foreign intelligence and counterintelligence operations. The other, the Americans later surmised, was from an unidentified branch of China’s intelligence apparatus.
The article is also valuable in highlighting some of the positive aspects in how China handled the negotiations.

2. Chinese television host Yang Rui is certainly not the only person in China expressing concerns about foreigners in China. The Chinese news site SINA English has posted an entire page titled "Beijing Welcomes You -- Decent Foreigners". I am hesitant to guess the true intended purpose of the site. Maybe it was to influence foreigners. Or maybe they just wanted to convince "higher-ups" that they were doing their duty. I suspect the second case would have a better chance of success.

It includes links to a variety of articles. One provides advice to foreigners:
As it happens, whether or not you are a popular guest and can win the due respect from the host will all depends upon your behaviors, and whether or not you wholly alienate or even hostile to the host.

It is advisable to bear in mind: “Only good scouting is likely to preserve the respect and freedom so dear to the heart of the eternal Boy Scout.”
I fear my year or two of Cub Scouts might not be enough.

One of the more notable sections of the page is the poll question which seems representative of some other online polls I have seen in China:
Beijing started a three-month campaign on May 15 targeting foreigners illegally staying in the capital. Your say?
  • Support, as management is desirable.

  • Hard to say.
I am torn as to whether it is better or worse than the paradoxical text message I received from China Mobile last year. What do you think?

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Chen Guangcheng and Yang Rui

Due to some frequent travel and being away from the computer quite a bit, I have not been able to post as much as I would have liked during the past week. To get things rolling again, I would like to quickly highlight two stories deserving attention before moving onto other issues.

1. Chen Guangcheng has left China and is now safely in the U.S. Unfortunately, that does not appear to be true for some of his family members who remain in China, nor for other activists who remain there. Although there are positives to be found in Chen being allowed to leave China, his need to do so says much that is otherwise. Lawyer Liao Rui wrote:
A Chinese citizen must go to America to get a safe life. As a Chinese citizen, I am deeply sad for this country and myself.
2. Yang Rui, the host of a program on Chinese Central Television that typically includes at least one foreigner guest, recently posted online (as translated by Josh Chin on The Wall Street Journal):
The Public Security Bureau wants to clean out the foreign trash: To arrest foreign thugs and protect innocent girls, they need to concentrate on the disaster zones in [student district] Wudaokou and [drinking district] Sanlitun. Cut off the foreign snake heads. People who can’t find jobs in the U.S. and Europe come to China to grab our money, engage in human trafficking and spread deceitful lies to encourage emigration. Foreign spies seek out Chinese girls to mask their espionage and pretend to be tourists while compiling maps and GPS data for Japan, Korea and the West. We kicked out that foreign bitch and closed Al-Jazeera’s Beijing bureau. We should shut up those who demonize China and send them packing.
At the moment, I will refrain from providing context for the above and commentary. Instead, I recommend reading Brendan O'Kane's post on It includes links to some of the other relevant posts worth reading and translations of additional comments by Yang that provide further insight into his mindset. It is not clear whether the discussion of Yang possibly being a "xenophobic racist" means O'Kane will now need to find a lawyer. After all, Yang recently said he is considering legal action against Charlie Custer due to "libel against a sincere and conscientious host who has been devoted to international cultural exchanges for 13 years". I suppose that means Melissa Chan can rest assured she has been called a "foreign bitch" in a sincere and conscientious manner.

I may provide some additional comments later. For now, I will just say that I hope Yang invites O'Kane and Custer onto his show for a frank and open discussion.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Ambiguity and Assumptions About Reporting in China

The Chinese government recently denied a visa for foreign correspondent Melissa Chan thereby making it not possible for her to continue delivering eye-opening reports in China. Mark MacKinnon explained why it mattered, Evan Osnos argued it was a sign that "China is moving backwards", Isaac Stone Fish suggested Chan's ethnicity and nationality played a role, William Moss observed that the "Chinese government has never been comfortable with an adversarial media", and Patrick Chovanec provided a list of Chan's work while describing her visa refusal as "China’s version of the Pulitzer Prize".

Official reasons for the visa denial have been hard to obtain as seen in an excerpt from a daily briefing by the Chinese Foreign Ministry. Spokesman Hong Lei did not clarify the "relevant Chinese laws and regulations" other than to say in a "relevant" statement:
I think our policies and laws regarding foreign journalists is very clear. In your work and exchanges with us we have briefed you on relevant Chinese laws and regulations which is also the basis for your work in China. With regard to relevant issue I think relevant media and journalists are clear about that.
From the relevant information I have seen, relevant journalists would still like some relevant clarification about the relevant rules. I would say that is relevant.

In the apparent quest to explain the "relevant issue", Shan Renping on The Global Times wrote an article that has already received the attention of James Fallows and others. It has inspired me to share my own thoughts. Below, I will provide excerpts of the article followed by my questions and comments.
In the past 14 years, there has been a lot of friction between China and other countries.
Yes, I look back wistfully to those frictionless days before 1998.
... Chinese officials acknowledge that it only makes things worse for a country's image if they take a confrontational position with foreign journalists.
What piece would be complete without ironic foreshadowing?
China didn't give a specific reason for expelling the reporter. This ambiguity cannot be criticized.
Pure gold. I suppose it stands to follow that the article itself cannot be criticized. Therefore, what I am writing here could not be criticism. Excellent, I would not want to upset anyone.
According to foreign journalist sources here in Beijing, Melissa Chan holds an aggressive political stance.
Which is...?
According to foreign reports, she has a tense relationship with the management authorities of foreign correspondents. She has produced some programs which are intolerable for China.
Which are...?

Oh, I see. Being ambiguous to justify someone else's ambiguity is unambiguously effective.
Interfering with foreign media's reporting is a retrograde act, and it is simply impossible to do.
After interfering has been described as "impossible to do", it will now be argued why an act of interference was justified.
However, foreign journalists in China must abide by journalistic ethics. They have their values and reporting angles, but the bottom line is that they should not turn facts upside down.
Like this: "˙sɹǝʇɹodǝɹ uƃıǝɹoɟ ɥʇıʍ sǝɹǝɟɹǝʇuı ʇuǝɯuɹǝʌoƃ ǝsǝuıɥɔ ǝɥʇ"? Or should I flip the text instead of rotating it? The ambiguity in the suggestion leaves me uncertain.
The scale of opinion expressed in the media, especially the Internet, has greatly expanded these last few years. The Chinese government's ability to accept criticism is greater than ever.
A clarification of "accept" would sure be interesting.
We don't want to see any confrontations between the Chinese government and foreign journalists here in China.
Not sure I agree. It depends on what is meant by "confrontations". But I would agree that an absence of hostile intent would be good.
Local authorities are more willing to cooperate with them, while foreign media should take an objective and balanced view toward the country.
I wonder what "less willing to cooperate" would look like for the local authorities in Linyi.
Foreign media should reflect on China's complexity, which is well-known to almost all foreigners in China. However, some media are only keen to show the wickedness of China to the world.
So a concern that foreigners will view China as "wicked" leads to an action that likely only increases any perception of "wickedness". This would not be the first time that a desire to avoid humiliation in foreign eyes has backfired in China.
According to some Chinese people who work or used to work in foreign media bureaus, it is common practice for some foreign journalists to just piece together materials based on their presuppositions when reporting on China.
Of course, The Global Times has high standards about piecing together materials. After all, I could never imagine someone saying, "they selected quotes from an interview, grossly modified my words on a key point, then made it look like my article". Oh, someone did. Well, at least The Global Times apologized after they were caught.
If a foreign reporter cannot stay in China, we can only assume that he or she has done something cross the line.
Which is...? Oh yes, ambiguity + assumptions = inarguable fact.

I have nothing more to say other than that I hope the conditions in China for foreign correspondents and Chinese journalists will improve. Among the numerous benefits of a free press will be more respect for China in the eyes of the rest of the world. This will in turn ensure more awareness of the many positive sides of China. But at the moment, even this example would be a less foolish display of interfering with people who want to report the truth--good or bad.

Added note: See Melissa Chan's new article "Goodbye to China, country of contradictions".

Added note 2: Removed a few superfluous sentences for clarity.

Added note 3: After the earlier link became nonfunctional, updated the link to the Global Times article.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Will Hu Jintao Slow Jam the News Like Barack Obama?

Previously, I shared photos of U.S. President Barack Obama's appearance in marketing for BlackBerry in Chengdu, Sichuan province. I commented on a difference it suggested between Obama and the current leader of China--Hu Jintao. For example, I doubted that a company would desire to use Hu Jintao (with his permission or not) for a U.S. media campaign in a similar manner.

The "soft power" I mentioned typically refers international affairs but "the ability to attract and co-opt rather than coerce" can apply to domestic affairs as well. I believe this ability can be found in the video below of Obama trying to influence his country's citizens about a publicly debated government policy. Yet again, I doubt we will be seeing Hu following in the footsteps of the "Barackness Monster".

H/T to Kaiser Kuo.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

McDonald's in China - Localized, Growing, and Influencing

When I compared a KFC and McDonald's in Yueyang, China, I mentioned that KFC has had much success in China and that one of the possible reasons is its localized menu. While McDonald's success hasn't been as great, that doesn't mean McDonald's hasn't localized its menu or that it is doing poorly in China.

Some examples of its localized menu include a taro pie and some different dipping sauces for its Chicken McNuggets -- such as chili garlic. See here for more examples of McDonald's food offerings in China (in Chinese and may not load in some browsers). I haven't bothered to try quantifying it, but my impression is that KFC's menu has been more modified from its US version than McDonald's. Whether that could be a key reason KFC has seen more success in China is another question.

And although the McDonald's in Yueyang wasn't busy at the time I visited, I've seen plenty of others that were. For example, recently I passed by a McDonald's in Hengyang, Hunan province:

inside a busy McDonald's in Hengyang, China

and another in Chenzhou, Hunan province:

Both were full of customers eating and drinking. There are also broader signs of McDonald's success in China. As reported on Bloomberg News this past summer:
McDonald’s Corp. (MCD), the world’s largest restaurant chain, should open an outlet a day in China as it challenges Yum! Brands [owner of the KFC and Pizza Hut brands] for dominance in Asia’s largest economy as rising salaries boost spending on fast food.

“We should be opening a restaurant every day in the next three to four years” in China, Peter Rodwell, company president for Asia excluding Japan, Australia and New Zealand, said in an interview in Singapore today. “We’re now opening a restaurant every other day.”
Even with that growth rate, though, McDonald's has its work cut out if it wants to surpass KFC. Not only is KFC currently far ahead of McDonald's in terms of number of stores in China, but it's likely to expand further. In fact, I've seen signs of potential new locations for KFC that I'll share in a later post.

McDonald's growth isn't good just for the company, but it has benefits for China as well. Again, from Bloomberg News:
The Oak Brook, Illinois-based company has said it plans to recruit 50,000 employees in China this year, including 1,000 university graduates as management trainees. McDonald’s, which trails Yum in number of Chinese locations, moved its China training center from Hong Kong to Shanghai last year.
Furthermore, the benefits aren't limited to McDonald's and China. For example, last April I had the opportunity to speak with these two employees of a McDonald's in Nanning, Guangxi:

Happy McDonald's employees

The young lady on the left was a college student and working part-time. The extra income was useful for her, and she preferred the job to what she did the previous year when I first met her -- promoting a brand of tea at a large park in Nanning:

Green tea promotion

What was most notable, though, was how she absolutely gushed about how much she enjoyed working at McDonald's -- the friendly atmosphere, the supportive management, etc. She didn't think she could have such a positive work experience in most similar Chinese companies, and her experience clearly influenced her view of the US in a positive manner. I can't provide any numbers, but based on other conversations I've had I know she isn't alone in her feelings. This is yet another example of America's "soft-power" that I have mentioned before in a very different context.

So, if McDonald's is localizing its menu for China and is playing a role in shaping Chinese people's opinions of the US it raises an important question.

Should McDonald's ever offer the McRib in China?

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

BlackBerry and Obama in China

After seeing some of the variety of mobile phones I've shared (see here and here) a reader and self-admitted BlackBerry fan, Pete, asked about BlackBerry's presence in China.

Recently, I saw BlackBerry's for sale at a large mobile phone store in Chengdu, Sichuan.

BlackBerry mobile phones for sale in Chengdu

Although it was just one small display amongst many others, it caught my eye since I hadn't seen BlackBerry's for sale in other cities I've recently featured, including Zhaotong and Zigong.  I can't provide any statistics but it's been very uncommon for me to see anyone using a BlackBerry (or other higher end phones, such as iPhone) in similar cities -- whether in my formal research (which I should note has focused on Chinese youth) or what I've seen being used in public.

The appearance of some Blackberry's in Chengdu is likely due to it being a relatively prosperous city, especially for Southwest China.

What most caught my attention, though, was how the phones were being promoted.  On the left side was this set of photos:

You may recognize a couple of the photos, including Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant.  Neither of them are too surprising given the NBA's popularity in China.  Kobe certainly has many ardent fans here and has been part of a number of marketing campaigns, including those for Nike.  That BlackBerry is using sports figures in its promotions may suggest something about how they are trying to position their products.

Regardless, on the right side were a few photos that you may find more intriguing.

Yes, that is Barack Obama giving a speech in one photo and apparently using a BlackBerry in another.  The views many Chinese have of Obama are likely more complex than those they may have of Kobe.  What is most important to note, though, is that it is very conceivable that the use of Obama's image would benefit BlackBerry's aims in China.

This isn't the first time for Obama (or a lookalike) to make an appearance in ads in China.

For example, I saw this ad in a shopping center in Shijiazhuang, Hebei.  Maybe it's not intended to be Obama but... well, you decide.

Look like Obama to you?

There was also an advertisement by KFC that involved Obama.  Although, apparently it only played in Hong Kong -- a market distinct in many ways from Mainland China.

For more about Obama in Chinese advertisements, including one not for BlackBerry, but BlockBerry, see here.

Now, let's do a thought experiment.

Would it be effective for BlackBerry's US sales to promote its products using this man?

Hu Jintao (source)

Would most Americans even recognize this photo as Hu Jintao and/or know that he is China's current leader?

If they did, would knowing he used a BlackBerry in any way impact their likelihood of buying a BlackBerry?  For the positive?

Even if Hu Jintao regularly used a BlackBerry I don't think his image will be appearing in any marketing campaigns in the US.  If BlackBerry decided otherwise, they may face the same fate as a failed PR campaign by China in the US half a year ago (see here).  Part of the problem was that the ads highlighted many "famous" Chinese who were complete unknowns in the US.

The familiarity Chinese have with a number of US figures and how they view such people is not a trivial issue and a sign of the United States' soft power in China.  The very different state of China's soft power in the US is very striking.  In a later post, I will discuss more about how this soft power may impact Chinese in the future, particularly in which online services they use.