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Engineering the Continuation of a Non-judgmental U.S.-China Relations
in the Tumultuous Post-Cold War World: An Overview of the Chinese
Public Relations Campaign in the U.S. in 1990s
Author: Xiaowei Chen
Status: Doctoral Student
Affiliation: Manship School of Mass Communication
Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge
Mailing Address: 201 A Hodges Hall
Manship School of Mass Communication
Louisiana State University
Baton Rouge, LA, 70802
Tel: 225-578-0727 (O)
E-mail: [log in to unmask]
This case study of the Chinese public relations campaign examines the
geopolitical-ideopolitical context, identifies the key stakeholders,
interprets their message strategy and issue management, and finally,
illustrates how the Chinese public relations contributes to the
delinkage of the U.S.-China trade from human rights issue. Overall,
the Chinese government has orchestrated both the American China
lobbying, which relied on grass root mobilization, and the Chinese
foreign propaganda operation to engineer the delinkage, and hence,
the survival of a non-judgmental U.S.-China diplomacy in the
consensus-rebuilding post-Cold War world.
Engineering the Continuation of a Non-judgmental U.S.-China Relations
in the Tumultuous Post-Cold War World: An Overview of the Chinese
Public Relations Campaign in the U.S. in 1990s
This descriptive case study of the Chinese public relations campaign
in the U.S. in 1990s looks into the geopolitical-ideopolitical
context of the campaign, identifies the key stakeholders, examines
their message strategy and issue management expertise, and finally,
characterizes the campaign as a combination of the American China
lobbying and the Chinese wai xuan (foreign propaganda), both
endeavoring to secure a non-judgmental U.S.-China relations in the
tumultuous, consensus-rebuilding post-Cold War world.
Accordingly, this case study concerns two subjects. One is the
American China lobbying carried out by corporate America, which
dedicated to annual renewal of China's "Most Favored Nation" (MFN)
status in 1990s and congressional ratification of "Permanent Normal
Trade Relations" (PNTR) with China in 2000. The other is the Chinese
wai xuan operation, namely, "2000 Experience – Chinese Culture in the
United States." Particularly, the latter one is a cultural festival
administered by the Chinese Communist Party's (CCP) wai xuan
apparatus. This foreign propaganda event, while masquerading as an
extravagant exposition of Chinese culture and aesthetics, was staged
in the U.S. to cultivate good will among American constituency in the
eve of PNTR passage and to aggrandize China President Jiang Zemin's
visit of the U.S. then.
The investigator tries to examine: (1) How did the American China
lobbying work hard to influence U.S. China policy in terms of
delinking China's trade status from human rights record? (2) How did
the Chinese wai xuan reach out to produce a new image of China?
(1) The U.S.-China relations in 1980s-1990s: From cohabitation to
Throughout the 1990s, the CCP government maintained a poor human
rights record, remained unrepentant about the Tiananmen shooting, and
thus, clung on "the wrong side of history." However, the U.S.
China policy experienced a tumultuous adjusting: the consensus of
indignation toward the 1989 Tiananmen brutality was replaced by an
engagement policy and "a broad national consensus in support of
strong U.S.-China relation."
In the wake of the Tiananmen Massacre, President Bush expressed "gut"
outrage toward the goriest shooting on civilians and announced a
series of sanctions. The massacre also set off the debacle of a
geopolitical-context-contingent consensus on U.S. China policy
implemented in 1970s-1980s and generated a new consensus of outrage
toward China. Both the right and the left on the political spectrum
called for tougher sanctions against China (Perlmutter, 1998, p.81).
However, in China, while showing none penitence, the CCP government
felt upset and confused with American "lao pen you" (old friends).
Some senior CCP leaders thought that the American "lao pen you" had
reacted too harsh and too erratically toward the event while they had
shown a drooping eyelid toward China's human rights abuses in the last decade.
The reason for the confusion lies in the time-gap of geopolitical
reorientation between the U.S. and China in the beginning of 1990s.
Deadly ideological adversaries notwithstanding, the U.S. and China
have engaged in a "marriage of convenience" from 1972 to 1990 (Gertz,
2000). During that time, the U.S. has promised a non-judgmental
friendship based on mutual interest and respect (Bernstein and Munro,
1997). Beginning in 1990, the "marriage of convenience" was seemingly
out of place in the post-Cold War world (Gertz, 2000). The sudden
loss of geopolitical influence left Chinese leaders feeling betrayed
by American "lao pen you." Meanwhile, the U.S. public was appalled at
the Tiananmen shooting, just like they had been astound to
anti-communist crusader Nixon's sudden visit of China in 1972.
The astonishment lies in the fact that "America's governmental links
with China were probably more secretive and more narrowly based than
those with any other major nation in the world" (Mann, 1999). The
secret U.S.-China diplomacy was carried out by a remarkably small
number of people who were always fearful of what might happen if
Congress or the U.S. public learned or thought too much about what
the U.S. was doing with China or about the barbarian characteristic
of the Chinese leadership (Mufson, 1999; Brookes, 2000).
Besides secrecy, the other characteristic of U.S.-China diplomacy is
its persistence when confronted by ideological indignation. Beginning
in 1980, presidential candidate Reagan flirted with rolling things
back, vowing that he would dump communist China. However, there was
such an enormous consensus in the U.S. for a better relation with
China that President Reagan "had to change his hymn book very quickly
after the election" (Beschloss, 1998). Actually, Reagan realized that
the U.S. must seek to protect its national security "even in those
areas of the world where there are regrettable violations of personal
liberty" (Winter, 1982, p.1203).
The meltdown of communism in Eastern Europe and the ex-Soviet Union
released the U.S. from the moral ambiguities of the Cold War era.
Without a global struggle against the Soviets, the U.S. could be much
more unequivocal in its support of human rights, and "the terrible
American hypocrisy on human rights" could be trashed (Waldron, 1999).
Deng Xiaoping detected the upcoming conflict and asserted in 1991
that a new Cold War was under way between China and the U.S
(Huntington, 1996, p. 25). Samuel Burger admitted that the collapse
of the Soviet Union removed the then-prevailing strategic imperative
for U.S.-China friendship. "Why retain a China card when the Soviets
had folded their hand?"
(2) Non-confrontational China-U.S. relations: The top priority of the
CCP in the 1990s
The global bankruptcy of communism threw the CCP into a deep anxiety
because, "for the vast majority of the world, democracy is the sole
surviving source of political legitimacy" (Zakaria, 2003, p. 13). In
this new political order, it is no wonder the CCP government was
treated as an international pariah in the early 1990s (Crampton, 2001).
Facing the legitimacy crisis, the CCP elders nailed down a new party
line: prosperity-for-stability, i.e., to survive the global setback
of communism, the CCP must strive to maintain a long-term economic
prosperity. The CCP struck the following bargain with the Chinese
people: "you let us continue to rule, even though communist ideology
is no longer functional, and we will guarantee rising living
standards" (Friedman, 2001).
For the CCP to fulfill its side of the bargain "it needs a steady
inflow of investment and technology from the U.S. and, more
important, it needs access to the U.S. market for China's exports"
(Friedman, 2001). Therefore, maintaining a non-confrontational
China-U.S. relationship, at least at the economic level, becomes the
lifeline of the CCP (Yan, 2002).
Ironically, both the U.S. and China have been enmeshed in the global
economy of the post-Cold War world (Friedman, 2001). Both cannot
afford to alienate each other too far and too long. The CCP knows
well that the U.S. businessmen need a stable China and a
non-confrontational U.S.-China relation for making profit there.
Shortly before the Tiananmen shooting, Deng Xiaoping envisioned,
"China cannot allow people to demonstrate whenever they please…
Tightening our control in this area will not deter foreign
businessmen from investing in China; on the contrary, it will
reassure them." Indeed, in the post-Tiananmen era, the U.S.
companies have become the largest foreign investors in China and have
been instrumental in China's economic takeoff (Friedman, 2001).
(3) The transformation of U.S. China policy in 1990s: From outrage to
The U.S.-China friendship was structured in the context of the Cold
War but lingered in a post-Cold War, post-Tiananmen, and increasingly
democratic, world, to an extent that "a president as capable as
Clinton has been unable to change it" (Waldron, 1999). From Reagan to
Clinton, every president has attempted to break out of the mold of
the 1970s' China policy, but ended up practicing that policy more
vigorously than its originators (Mann, 1999; Waldron, 1999).
In 1992, presidential candidate Clinton accused the Bush
administration of coddling the "butcher of Beijing" with a kid-glove
China policy (Bernstein and Munro, 1997, p. 96). He declared that
Bush's policies toward China had been shamefully weak and that his
would be tougher. He vowed that his administration would ruthlessly
punish all those tyrants from Baghdad to Beijing. In 1993, the U.S.
Congress led a campaign to pressure members of the International
Olympic Committee (IOC) to vote against China's bid for hosting the
2000 Olympic Games. The U.S. Senate's resolution insinuated that the
2000 Olympiad held in Beijing would be the same as 1936 Berlin
Olympiad, just legitimizing the political oppression. In 1993, from
July 23 to August 29, the U.S. fleets and aircrafts, based on
intelligence that China was shipping chemical weapon precursors to
Iran, detained China's "Yin He" (Galaxy) cargo ship for 33 days on
the high sea to conduct an exhaustive and offensive inspection. While
nothing suspicious was found, the U.S. refused to apologize for its
All those anti-China rhetoric and deeds notwithstanding, Clinton's
China policy soon was characterized as relentless flip-flops (Safire,
2000) and outrageous "betrayal" of the U.S. national interests (Gertz, 1999).
The turning point of the U.S. China policy lies in that, once in
office, President Clinton, using the end of the Cold War as cover,
created a new mercantilism and cemented economic concerns as the
cornerstone of foreign affairs; many of his most senior officials
were eager to do business with China (p.83). He formed an unusual
alliance with American high-technology industrialists and "treated
China with kid gloves" (p. 81).
Broadly speaking, after the Cold War, the U.S. foreign policy began
to revert to dollar diplomacy (Dreyfuss, 1997). The rationale is:
"Now that the Cold War is over, it's economic policy that's most
important. We won the war, let's reap the benefits" (Dreyfuss, 1997).
In the globalization times, the needs of doing business increasingly
take precedence over all other concerns, such as political freedom.
"Nobody wants to prevent Americans from getting richer" (Sontag,
2000). Eventually, President Clinton, who threatened in 1993 that he
would not renew China's MFN unless there was significant progress in
human rights, declared on May 26, 1994 that he would extend China's
MFN regardless of human rights record (Bernstein and Munro, 1997, p.
108). President Clinton, who rejected in 1992 the coddling of
Beijing, turned out to be "the Coddler-in-Chief" (Waldron, 1999).
Actually, beginning in the mid 1990s, a new bipartisan consensus of
engagement with regard to U.S.-China relations has replaced the
consensus of outrage. The new consensus theorizes that (1) over time,
growing interdependence will have a liberalizing effect on China, and
ultimately, universal values will prevail in China as they are around
the world; (2) the new engagement policy "would not let China off the
hook for human rights abuses"; and (3) the U.S. government "knows
clearly where to build a bridge when possible and where to draw a red
line when necessary" (Friedman, 2001).
In summarizing the background information, it is clear that both the
American China lobbying and the Chinese wai xuan have (1) strong
incentive to be initiated, (2) appropriate medium to be carried out,
and (3) sympathizing ears in the U.S. society to be heard.
3. Theoretical underpinnings
(1) Engineering the metamorphoses of political paradigm by mass persuasion
The reorientation of the U.S. foreign policy with regard to
geopolitical powers could be taken as a paradigmatic change of U.S.
geopolitical diplomacy. Therefore, looking into the process of
consensus engineering via mass persuasion initiated by key
stakeholders is highly relevant to interpret the Chinese public
relations campaign which has aimed at strategically planning,
organizing, and managing the U.S.-China relations in the tumultuous
post-Cold War world.
Kuhn (1962) observes that there is "a generic aspect of the parallel
between political and scientific development" (p. 93) in that
paradigm change in both areas occurs whenever a sense of malfunction
that can lead to crisis is widely accepted by research community as
well as by political community (p. 92). So long as a given paradigm
is in dominance, "both fact collection and theory articulation became
highly directed activities" within the paradigm (p. 18). Paradigm
changes "cause scientists to see the world of their
research-engagement differently" (p.111).
Similarly, in political life, whenever a crisis happens, "the society
is divided into competing camps or parties, one seeking to defend the
old institutional constellation, the others seeking to institute some
new one" (p. 93). The parties to a revolutionary conflict could
resort to the techniques of mass persuasion (p. 93). The mass
persuasion, by way of "fact collection and theory articulation,"
could be a promising device employed by policymakers as well as by
stakeholders, such as issue advocacy groups, governmental
institutions, and corporate community, to enlist public support, to
produce a specific climate of opinion, and finally, to facilitate
paradigmatic transformation and policy reorientation in favor of
their specific advantage. Consequently, mass media and various public
forums, the major carrier of mass persuasion, could be battleground
where competing political camps struggle to defend or institute their
favorite political paradigm.
(2) Issue management as strategically planned public relations
Issue management as strategic planning of public relations could be
highly valuable to the engineering of political consensus. Both
consent engineering and issue management presuppose that politics and
communication techniques have been inextricably interwoven. Thus,
both corporation and government institutions could employ issue
management program, which is a creative fusion of journalism,
advertising, and public relations, to "predict problem"; "anticipate
threats"; "minimize surprise"; "resolve issue"; and "prevent crises"
(Wilcox et al, 2001, p.136).
Issue management, according to Coates et al (1986), "is the
orchestrating of a positive plan for dealing with issue, rather than
merely reacting to them" (p. 15). To be specific, issue management is
the organized activity of identifying emerging trends, concerns, or
conflict likely to affect an organization in the future and
developing a wider and more positive range of proactive program to
control, to manage, or to influence the future (preface & p.1). The
practitioners of issue management presuppose American society as a
totally man-made world. In this resilient, unstable, and forgiving
man-made world, foresight-based issue management offers new
advantages in planning and managing for an uncertain future. "It can
make an organization an active participant in shaping its future,
rather than a reactive victim of inadequately considered legislative
and regulatory responses to problem" (Coates et al, 1986, p. 15).
Harrison (1984) notes that corporate community "has the moral and
legal right to participate in the formation of public policy and not
submit to and commit suicide before the whims and pressures of
bureaucrats and activists" (Harrison, 1984, p. 9). Accordingly,
public relations counselors must have not only expertise in
publicity, but also a broad understanding of the social economic, and
political forces which play upon public opinion, and hence, intimate
contact with policy-making officials. They must have expertise to (1)
"identifies, monitors and analyzes social, technological, political,
and economic forces and trends which will affect an industry or an
organization"; (2) "interprets and defines implications and options";
and (3) "sets in motion the shorter and longer term operational and
strategic actions to deal with the situation."
Issue management program include strategically planned activities
targeting specific segment of publics and "communicate with those
segments through channels that differ from those used by mass
audiences" (Berkowitz & Turnmire, 1994, p.109). Miller (1999) notes
issue management constitutes a link between organization reality and
public perception, lack of which results in failure of corporations
"to effectively address the concerns of the public on whose support
the success of the organization depends" (p.10).
Overall, issue management assists corporations and institutions to
anticipate emerging issues, define or frame the issues in its own
terms, and respond to them before they get out of hand. It is
proactive because it tries to identify issues and influence decisions
before they have a detrimental effect on an organization (Gaunt and
Ollenburger, 1995, p.199). Through issue management, large
corporations, which are increasingly becoming social and political
institutions as well as economic institutions, could influence the
framing of issue, sway interested publics' viewpoints, and achieve
more effective participation in the shaping of public policy (Jones,
1980, p. 27).
This case study examines the Chinese public relations campaign in the
light of issue management because the U.S.-China diplomacy in the
post-Cold War era has seen a proliferation of issues and its
continuation depend heavily on successful issue management
administered by both corporate America and the CCP's wai xuan apparatus.
(3) Lobbying in domestic and foreign policy making
In a case study of Robert Keith Gray's "selling of access and
influence" in Washington, Trento (1992) notes that compared with
public relations, lobbying is a more personal, individualistic,
focused effort to influence a handful of people with regard to a
given policy position. Lobbyists' job is to influence Washington's
minds. Every piece of legislation, whereas not actually drafted by
lobbyists, is affected in some way by them. They represent every
imaginable interest group and can either get government to do
something differently or prevent it from changing the way it is
currently operating (p. 63-64). Before the growth in the General
Accounting Office, the Library of Congress, and the myriad other
agencies set up to provide legislators with nonbiased, in-depth
information, the legislators had very few resources to know "how a
piece of legislation might affect a certain industry except through a
lobbyist" (Trento, 1992, p. 64). The legislators would be in the dark
with issues if not for lobbyists who furnish them with information
(p. 64). Thus, lobbying changed the way the U.S. is governed, "moving
the political power base farther away from the voters and the
political parties, to a group of unelected, unregulated, and
unaccountable executives who dramatically and daily influence
government" (p. 65).
Increasingly, lobbyists are hired by foreign clients to handle
diplomatic or trade issues. Robert Keith Gray observed that, in
Washington, D.C., "interests that span the globe are beating a path
to the most sought after people on earth – the American voters"
(1984, p. 762). All over the world, "American citizens are sought
after for their dollars, opinions, taste preferences, political
sympathies, and support" (p. 763). Those who want to see change in
U.S.'s trade or foreign policy "take their cases directly to the
people where in this country the real power on those issues resides"
(p. 763). Therefore, as Robert Keith Gray indicated, the successful
foreign lobbying should put their emphasis of a lobbying campaign
"not in Washington, D.C., but instead on working with our media
specialists to reach constituents in congressional districts" (p.
763). Obviously, grass-root mobilization could be an effective tactic
of foreign lobbying endeavor.
Based on the three theoretical frameworks, the investigator examines
how the Chinese public relations administered issue management of the
U.S.-China conflicts and enlisted both the American foreign lobbying
and the Chinese foreign propaganda to secure desirable policy result.
4. Case description
(1) Statement on methodology
Case study usually relies on how multiple relevant evidences are
organized and analyzed. Specifically, it depends on "an
investigator's own style of rigorous thinking, along with the
sufficient presentation of evidence and careful consideration of
alternative interpretation" (Yin, 1993, p. 102-103). One of the
common case study strategies is to display, categorize, and interpret
the textual evidence according to theoretical propositions (Yin,
1993, p. 103). In this case study of the Chinese public relations,
the investigator tries to conduct his inquiry this way.
(2) The CCP government has quietly orchestrated the American China lobbying.
The reasons that the American China lobbying constitutes an integral
part of the Chinese public relations campaign lies in that China's
government has artfully motivated and orchestrated, though quietly,
the American China lobbying. Knowing that "people who trade do not
fight," the Chinese government has exploited the economic
interdependence between the U.S. and China to weather through the
tumultuous U.S.-China relation, and thus, maintained a booming
economy to justify its political legitimacy (Bernstein & Munro, 1997,
p. 106; Friedman, 2001). On the other hand, corporate America has
done a good job unofficially representing the Chinese government in
Washington (Dreyfuss, 1997). Many giant U.S. corporations that do
business in China have their own in-house or retained public
relations consultants who help China on a case-by-case basis (Crowell
& Hsieh, 2000).
In the post-Cold War era, the U.S. Congress has shown an assertive
posture in China policy-making (Tan, 1992, p. xii), and thus,
constituted a recurrent irritant for China to make a secret deal with
the executive branch of U.S. government (Lim, 1996). To cope with the
new ecology of China policy-making in the U.S. the CCP formed in 1995
a "Central Committee Task Force on the U.S. Congress" with Jiang
Zemin as its head. At least a dozen U.S. Senators and Representatives
of both parties were invited to visit China in 1996 with all expense
paid by the CCP government and were treated like heads of state when
they came (Fritz, 1997c).
As an unpopular dictatorship in the post-Tiananmen era, the CCP
leaders are wistful of the U.S. endorsement. The red-carpet reception
in the South Lawn, the 21-gun salute, and the summit meeting in the
White House are all what Jiang Zemin has long coveted to consolidate
his authority. Many American friends of China lobbied hard to work
out Jiang's state visit of the U.S. in 1997 (Wehrfritz & Liu, 1997,
p.44). The state visit and Jiang's showy charisma were intensively
covered by the CCP propaganda and were hailed as Jiang's political legacy.
According to the Congressional Research Service (CRS), China is not
one of the top 10 countries lobbying in Washington. While
occasionally hiring professional lobbyists, such as Hill & Knowlton,
to take care of MFN and to handle public opinion whitewash
(Silverstein, 1997; Silverstein, 1998), the CCP government wisely
kept a low-key strategy before the American public given their
unpopularity among the American public. However, behind the scenes,
the CCP government actively uses the stick of trade retaliation and
the carrot of access to the Chinese market to mobilize the U.S.
companies to do its bidding (Fritz, 1997b).
Tyson (1998) notes that, the poor human rights record
notwithstanding, the CCP government has not bothered to take care of
the MFN issue because they knew "Beijing's interests would be better
served by allowing the U.S. business group to speak for themselves"
(Tyson, 1998). Therefore, different from the "old China lobby"
conducted by Taiwanese, the "new China lobby" is indeed the "U.S.
China lobby" (Dreyfuss, 1997). It is Chinese public relations
operations, but carried out by corporate America.
In the post-Tiananmen years, the CCP government has accurately
discerned "a split in the Clinton administration between the human
rights promoters at the State Department and the business-industry
elements elsewhere in the government" (Bernstein & Munro, 1997,
p.107), and thus, skillfully and quietly orchestrated American China
lobbying for delinking the MFN renewal from the human rights record
(p.108). Step by step, the CCP government had figured out a way, by
the end of the last decade, to stop U.S. human rights campaign "with
an economic offensive aimed at enlisting American corporate support
on behalf of China" (p. 105).
For most American corporations, it had never been easy to make quick
money in China. However, beginning in 1994, a cascade of lucrative
contracts and windfalls came to them. In January 1994, the CCP
government "floated a total of $1 billion in bonds in American
financial markets" (Bernstein & Munro, 1997, p. 105). In February,
Ford China Operations kicked off. In April, China held "trade and
investment fairs" in Los Angeles and New York, drawing 700
businessmen from 300 U.S. corporations to foray billions of dollars'
worth of deals. At the fair, Wu Yi, Chinese foreign trade minister,
tantalized 200 businessmen with prospects of huge profits for
investing in capital-and-technology-intensive projects of China (p.
108). In the end, China signed contracts and agreements worth $11.1
billion with the U.S. companies (p. 106). In the meantime, Bill Gates
met with Jiang Zemin to boost Microsoft's sales in China and publicly
criticized any American "interference in China's internal affairs"
(Kagan, 1997); Shanghai officials hosted guests from Time Warner and
IBM to discuss joint ventures; China vice premier Zou Jiahua
journeyed to AT&T's office in New Jersey to sign contracts worth $500
million. In May, Boeing was about to complete a $5 billion sale of
jetliners to China. The time coincided with the remarks of Tome
Foley, the then Speaker of the House, that "Clinton shouldn't link
trade with human rights" (Bernstein & Munro, 1997, p. 106). Foley
represented the Spokane area of Washington State, the home of Boeing.
Indeed, there are no China critics among the legislators coming from
Washington State (p. 107).
On June 2, 1994, President Clinton announced his administration would
extend MFN for another year despite continued human rights abuses in
China. In the meantime, the Clinton administration drafted a
"voluntary code of conduct" for U.S. businesses operating in China
where human rights violations are a regular occurrence (PR Watch,
1997) and where market usually has a "morally disorientation effect
on American businessmen" (Kagan, 1997).
By delinking human rights and economic investment, President Clinton
has removed uncertainty from corporate America's China business. More
important, by delinking human rights improvements and trade status
renewal, the CCP government established a diplomatic precedent that
human rights could be excluded from bilateral discussion and that
"American pressure could not possibly succeed in curbing Chinese
behavior on any issue" (Kagan, 1997).
To accomplish the delinkage, the CCP government has used to great
effect the threat of economic punishment to enlist behind it one of
the broadest business lobbying efforts to influence U.S. China policy
(Bernstein & Munro, p. 109). For example, in 1996, China Premier Li
Peng punished Boeing by buying $1.5 billion worth of Airbus jets
because European leaders "do not attach political strings to
cooperation with China, unlike the Americans who arbitrarily resort
to the threat of sanctions or the use of sanction" (Kagan, 1997).
Boeing responded by redoubling its China lobbying in Washington and
by being willing to do almost anything for the CCP government to hold
on to its share of China's huge jetliner market. Although Boeing's
spokeswoman said that the Chinese government was in no way directing,
financing, or influencing Boeing's lobbying effort, she admitted that
Boeing could feel that the Chinese government was paying close
attention to Boeing's lobbying efforts. The CCP officials never asked
Boeing to lobby for them, but Boeing knew very well that the CCP
government would be comfortable with Boeing's lobbying efforts (Fritz, 1997b).
China's economic "carrot-and-stick" are accurately channeled to
Washington by corporate America in an anguished tone: thirty billion
dollars worth of telecommunications could be sold in the next five
years in China; over the next three years, American auto parts
sellers have extraordinary opportunities in China's market valued at
more than $29 billion; vigorous pursuit of China's huge emerging
market is the U.S.'s national imperative; if the U.S. lets the
business opportunity in China slip away, American industries may
suffer a long term disability relative to their foreign competitors…
and so forth (Kagan, 1997). Obviously, the CCP government has
effectively used overt promises of economic benefits or implicit
threats of economic punishment as means of exerting influence on the
U.S. business community, and consequently, on the U.S. China policy
(Bernstein & Munro, 1997, p. 109). By doing so, the CCP government
has successfully administered its issue management of U.S.-China
(3) Corporate America's issue management and grass-root campaign for
The primary focus of the American China lobbying has been the annual
Congressional vote on MFN (Dreyfuss, 1997). Human rights groups urged
revocation of MFN. But they were overridden by a business-driven
bipartisan consensus. Anti-communists, religious groups, AFL-CIO, and
human rights groups for a time appeared so strong that the House
might revoke MFN. In the end, however, the American China lobbying
proved far too influential, and the House voted to reject withdrawal
of MFN (Weissman, 1997). AFL-CIO's Mark Anderson deplored, "the most
ardent defenders of Chinese communism are US capitalists" (PR Watch, 1997).
The principle vehicle of the American China lobbying is the
U.S.-China Business Council, a group of more than 300 member firms
including Boeing, Philip Morris, and AT&T. A host of public relations
firms, lobby shops, think tanks, and consulting firms supplemented
the lobbying efforts of the Council (Weissman, 1997). The members of
the Council donated money to the major parties and to congressmen,
pressing strenuously for MFN renewal and ratification of PNTR with
China (Weissman, 1997). More impressively, they have orchestrated
multi-layered, synergistic grassroots lobbying and small business
lobbying for China business, with leading corporations taking
responsibility for delivering different states (Weissman, 1997).
In 1996, the election year, China's MFN became a hot-button issue
again. In Washington, a coalition of labor, consumer,
environmentalists, and human rights groups, joined in alliance with
the dwindling remnants of the "old China lobby," i.e., the Taiwanese
lobby, raised an uprising against China, and had the bright prospect
to win a congressional vote revoking MFN (Dreyfuss, 1997; Fritz,
1997b). Terrified by the situation, several U.S. corporations
launched a covert public relations blitz to convince the public that
"Chinese leadership is deserving of greater sympathy" (Silverstein,
1996). To coordinate the public relations campaign budgeted at
millions of dollars, these companies hired Hill & Knowlton to put
company representatives in touch with members of Congress and to rent
scholars to draft op-ed articles for major newspapers or to speak at
media events (Silverstein, 1996). These "third party" advocates, as
they are dubbed by industry, are well paid but do not need to reveal
their affiliations to the public (Silverstein, 1996).
The success of the American China lobbying in the election year lies
in that it relied heavily on small-business suppliers (Fritz, 1997b).
According to a news story, one small business which supplies Boeing
with appliances was requested by Boeing to assist the giant airplane
manufacturer in a drive to urge Congress to renew MFN for China. The
small company's executive agreed gladly to contact her congressmen,
and arranged for local business leaders to attend a luncheon with a
speaker recommended by Boeing. She did it because she realized that
the bright future of her company depends on Boeing's $124 billion in
orders, i.e., 1,900 airplane sales to China in the next two decades
Corporate giants mobilized local suppliers to create an image of
small-business support for renewing MFN (Fritz, 1997a). The ability
of major U.S. corporations to enlist their suppliers as lobbyists was
seen as the magic to their winning of the vote on MFN extension in
1996. The truth lies in that, in an election year, "members of
Congress respond more readily to the concerns of small-business
owners in their own districts than to high-pressure pitches from big
business lobbyists" (Fritz, 1997a).
PR Watch published a dot-connecting map to illustrate how each big
company in the "Business Coalition for U.S.-China Trade" was assigned
one or several states of the U.S. where it was expected to recruit
small-business people to press for MFN (Fritz, 1997a). For example,
under a "grass-roots" campaign initiative, Boeing acts as "state
captain" responsible for winning over congressional delegations in
Washington state and Kansas state; Motorola takes Illinois state and
Texas state. The "state captains" rallied small business to promote
trade with China by writing Op-ed pieces, staging forums, and holding
meetings with visiting lawmakers (Tyson, 1998, p.3). By enlisting
small business to participate in the lobbying campaign, the big
companies created a false appearance of "grass-roots" support for MFN.
The "Business Coalition for U.S.-China Trade" was coordinated by the
Emergency Committee for American Trade, the Business Roundtable, the
U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the U.S.-China Business Council. It
consists of over 1,200 leading corporations and trade associations
that support granting MFN and PNTR to China (Urbina, 2000). In the
1996 campaign for MFN, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce devoted six
months of intensive work to contact more than 200 local and state
chambers and 6,800 member companies to gear up support for MFN. Its
task force and congressional lobbying team worked strenuously to
provide educational and public relations materials to grass-root
companies. They developed a list of 103 House members who were
undecided but who might be convinced to support MFN. Next, they
mobilized thousands of smaller companies to contact members of
Congress, especially those 103 House members. Eventually, they got
101 of them to vote for MFN extension (Dreyfuss, 1997).
In the fall of 2000, China's entry into WTO was at stake before the
congressional ratification of PNTR with China. On behalf of the
Business Roundtable, Goddard Claussen Porter Novelli (GCPN), a
political consulting firm, managed a $4 million integrated campaign,
including strategic counseling, message development, advertising,
media relations, and grassroots communications, to win Congress'
ratification of PNTR. GCPN's PNTR campaign developed dozens of
specifically tailored print and radio ads aimed at more than 100
congressional districts, as well as television advocacy spots aired
nationally. For example, GCPN arranged TV advertisement series
broadcasted in ABC's "World News Tonight" to counterattack AFL-CIO's
commercial against PNTR. One spot, "Working Americans," argued that
working Americans – figureheaded by six men and women of ethnic
backgrounds – need "a new frontiers" in China's open market to build
a brighter future in the 21st century (Fenoglio, 2000, p.1304). With
the congressional vote on PNTR fast approaching, GCPN tailored ads
targeting specific districts, such as TV ads conveying tales of the
vast Chinese wheat market to Northwest farmers, or ads briefing
Floridians about the yet untapped Chinese colossal demand for citrus
Besides ads, GCPN assisted Business Roundtable to arrange dozens of
local press conferences, place op-ed items and
"letters-to-the-editor," and release 120 reports demonstrating the
value of China trade to local economies (GCPN). Their media efforts
firstly identified key stakeholders in China trade from across
America's business and agricultural sectors, then "provided texture
and key arguments in support of the legislation as the debate
evolved," demonstrating, district-by-district, why it was in
America's best interest to pass PNTR (GCPN).
The American China lobbying also enlisted support from many U.S.
consultants who advise corporate America about investing in China.
These consultants include many former administration officials
including Baker, Kissinger, Haig, Shultz, Vance, and Eagleburger
(Silverstein, 1996; Urbina, 2000). Most of them have considerable
financial interest in MFN extension. They wrote favorable op-ed
pieces, pleaded China's case in important U.S. public forums, called
congressmen, and appeared on TV programs presenting the positive
aspects of MFN or PNTR with China (Bernstein & Munro, 1997, p. 77).
Kissinger is the central adviser for the Business Coalition for
U.S.-China Trade. He represented numerous companies doing business in
China and has been paid multi-million dollars for advising the U.S.
government against imposing economic sanctions on China or "arguing
that no government in the world should be expected to tolerate
protesters' occupation of a public square," such as the Tiananmen
Square (Urbina, 2000). Haig, though not a registered lobbyist, has
effectively represented several U.S. companies doing business in
China. In one occasion, human rights advocates complained that Haig
"is a guy we worry about because every time we try to put together a
piece of legislation (critical of China) Haig gets on the phone to
Republican members and we suddenly find that we've got less votes
than we thought we did" (Urbina, 2000). Overall, these influential
former high officials have come to dominate the public debate about
China even as they profit from the policies they advocated (Bernstein
& Munro, 1997, p. 109).
The American China lobby has manufactured numerous opinion pieces,
briefing papers and reports and saturated the press with these public
relations products pleading for a human rights-blind U.S.-China trade
relation (Weissman, 1997; Urbina, 2000). Their main talking points
are: Economic interaction, and the ensuing interplay of trade, free
enterprise, people-to-people contacts, and transaction of ideas, can
do a better job to advance freedom and the rule of law than
unilateral trade sanctions, which have only backfired with crippling
effects on U.S. China policy. Therefore, U.S. trade and investment
are the best tools for supporting long-term progress on human rights,
democracy, and the rule of law in China (Weissman, 1997).
In summary, the American China lobby has argued vigorously for the
well-being of U.S.-China trade without the explicit request from the
CCP government. "China seems to command more loyalty from U.S.
business than do other foreign countries" (Fritz, 1997b). There is no
lobbying campaign having greater influence over any other aspects of
American foreign policy than the American China lobbying over U.S.
China policy (Bernstein & Munro, 1997, p. 124).
(4) China's 2000 wai xuan operation in the U.S.
From August 24 to September 18, 2000, in the eve of congressional
vote on PNTR, the CCP wai xuan apparatus conducted a 25-days
extravaganza, "2000 Experience – Chinese Culture in the United
States." The cultural festival was a succession of exhibitions of
photographic art, tourist spots, fine arts, ethnic costumes,
performances of national music, folk dance, disabled person's arts, a
children's choir, and so forth. The cultural roadshow crisscrossed
New York, San Francisco, Washington D.C., Chicago, Los Angeles, and
four other metropolises and displayed exuberantly the aesthetics of
Chinese history, arts, customs, and landscape, attracting millions of
Americans, especially opinion molders and community leaders, to come
to the cultural feast. The cultural festival was also well-planned
to aggrandize President Jiang Zemin's attendance of the U.N.
Millennium Summit in New York in September 2000.
According to Zhao Qizheng, director of China's 2000 public relations
campaign, this cultural charm offensive aimed at letting Americans
get a better picture of what China is like and promoting
understanding of the two peoples.
Before the cultural festival, the campaign's coordinators, the
Information Office and the Department of Culture of China's State
Council, conducted a formative research and survey to determine what
the image of China looks like in the mind of American public.
Zhao, who is also Cabinet Secretary of the State Council, the
director of the Information Office, and the wai xuan chief of the
CCP, told a Chinese reporter, as a top national secret, that the
culture festival is indeed an endeavor to project a new image of
China before the American public.
According to Zhao, the proposed new image should include these
elements: (1) China is a great civilization; (2) China is a beautiful
nation with peerless cultural treasures and landscape; and (3) the
Chinese people are extraordinary people in that they are diligent,
brave, hard-striving, warm-hearted, peace-loving, and patriotic. Zhao
asserted that all these elements have been encapsulated in culture
and tradition. Therefore, through this cultural exhibition and
performance, the new image of China would be naturally released from
the cultural capsule or text, and be presented dramatically before
the U.S. public.
The cultural festival was also goodwill diplomacy. According to Yang
Jiechi, Chinese Ambassador to the U.S., the cultural festival meant
to exhibit the magnificence of Chinese culture and the prosperity of
contemporary China, to let Americans know China better, and finally,
to build a firm and broad non-governmental foundation for China-U.S.
In one keynote speech, "America and Her People as Seen by Chinese,"
addressed to more than 100 reporters at the National Press Club on
August 23, Zhao emphasized that the U.S. and China had long forged
good cooperative relations, especially during World War II when
fighting the Japanese army, and that the Chinese people have hold a
profound fondness of the American people ever since. Ironically,
he avoided mentioning a virulent conflict between the two after the
U.S. B52 bombed the Chinese Embassy in Yugoslavia months before.
As to those "hot-button issues," such as Taiwan, Tibet, human rights,
and espionage that trouble U.S.-China relation every now and then,
Zhao found blame on the U.S. media because their China reports are
"often scanty, simplistic, inaccurate, and prejudicial." He
criticized the U.S. media for projecting China's development by two
radical measures: either diminishing China's role or exaggerating its
future strength. By the latter one, he insinuated that the U.S. media
has cooked up "China threat" sentiment among the U.S. public, and
thus, created a hostile opinion climate for China in the U.S. He
asked the U.S. media to play its due part of giving the American
public an "impartial description of China."
Zhao found no blame with the "old China lobby," i.e., Taiwanese
public relations operation in the U.S. He would rather not leave an
impression that China was competing with Taiwan in foreign public
relations. He also denied that the cultural showcase is a public
relations campaign, insisting that the cultural festival is a "pure"
cultural exchange activity. The CCP government would rather not give
the U.S. public an impression that the Chinese government is staging
the cultural festival to influence the U.S. China policy. However, in
the early 1990s, China's leader regretted that the Chinese government
had not done enough public relations in the U.S.
All the denials notwithstanding, the State Council Information Office
is the war room of the CCP's wai xuan campaign. It has another
official name, the Foreign Propaganda (wai xuan) Office of the
Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party (CCCCP). It is a
cabinet-level department of the Chinese government and a special
propaganda arm of the CCCCP. Zhao, the chief of foreign propaganda,
is the only cabinet-level official who has access to the meeting of
the CCCCP's Politburo - China's supreme decision-making organization.
Based on its wai xuan function, the State Council Information
Office's 2000 cultural showcase in the U.S. was substantially a
foreign propaganda operation under the direction of the CCCCP.
Indeed, according to the press release and Zhao's keynote speech, the
cultural festival was an image enhancement campaign directed by the
In another keynote speech, "Images of the United States," Zhao
reminded the U.S. audience that, while China's grievances and
animosity ran deepest against France, Japan, and Britain, who invaded
and looted China during 1840s-1940s, "China never singled out the
United States as a target of historical hatred and enduring
resentment." Part of the reason is that the United States, though
a member of "Eight-Power Allied Forces" who looted China in 1901,
returned war reparations to China later on. Nevertheless, the U.S.
has invaded and looted China. Again, Zhao avoided mentioning the
basic historical fact in his speech.
Zhao also avoided mentioning the government-approved anti-America
rally in Beijing after the U.S. bombing of the Chinese Embassy in
Yugoslavia. He calculatedly raised an issue to the U.S. media: While
the Chinese media has been so prudent toward and less critical of the
U.S., and hence, Chinese people "have a profound fondness of the
U.S.," why is the U.S. media so tough to China? Obviously, the
CCP government was expecting a nice coverage of China by the U.S.
media given that public opinion in China had been so friendly toward
During a 1998 conference dialogue between U.S. journalists and
Chinese journalists, a Chinese journalist raised the same question.
First, he insinuated that, during President Clinton's 1998 visit of
China, the Lewinsky-related story seldom appeared in Chinese media
while it was wildly covered in the U.S. media. Then, he asked his
American counterparts: while Chinese journalists have been so polite
to avoid covering the U.S. President's sex scandal during his state
visit of China, and thus, contributed to fostering a good atmosphere
for the President's visit of China, why cannot the U.S. media behave
themselves the same way, i.e. reciprocally avoid intrusion into
China's internal affairs and embarrassing Chinese leaders?
However, Zhao and the Chinese journalist failed to recognize that the
CCP's official media have worked hard in the 1990s to frame the U.S.
as world hegemony, imperialist, world sheriff, chief bully, human
rights hypocrite, bigot-in-chief, racists, warmonger, and so on. They
also failed to understand that media in a pluralistic political
system, such as the U.S., can by no way be controlled, if not
effectively, by any single institution, and thus, can by no way be
held accountable for the well-to-do of any specific foreign policy
Indeed, the Chinese government has made it clear that the cultural
festival meant to "enhance understanding, diminish trouble, advance
cooperation and avoid confrontation" between China and the U.S. 
Given that (1) the imminent U.S. support of China's entry into the
WTO is so crucial to the CCP government's "prosperity for stability"
strategy; (2) the nice coverage of China is so desirable to
aggrandize Jiang Zemin's visit of the U.S.; and (3) the U.S.
endorsement of Beijing's Olympic bid is so influential on the IOC
voting months later, it is a reasonable move for the Chinese
government to set aside the bitterness and to persuade the U.S. media
to "help to transform American people's perception of China."
Although Asiaweek reported that Zhao, the public relations supremo
and chief spin doctor of the CCP government, had no American public
relations assistance in the campaign (Crowell & Hsieh, 2000), and
although the annual report of FARA (Foreign Agents Registration Act)
has no record showing that any U.S. lobbyist or public relations
agents worked for the cultural festival, the investigator identifies
some of the American assisting factors through reading Chinese
media's coverage of the campaign.
For example, in the cultural festival of September 2000, Rupert
Murdoch's News Corporation hosted the Chinese Information Officers'
stop in San Francisco to address the Asia Society. According to a
Chinese news report, Warner Brothers, IDG, and New York Life
Insurance Company were among the American sponsors of the cultural
festival. Citigroup sponsored a TV programming: "Made in China:
Sound from China," which was broadcasted via networks during the
festival. IDG printed an excellent promotion brochure for the
festival. The $7 million cost of the Chinese wai xuan operation
was reportedly underwritten by the U.S. companies active in the China
market (Crowell & Hsieh, 2000).
Murdoch has been coveting China's media market for a long time.
However, in 1993, shortly after he controlled StarTV, he irritated
the CCP government with an offensive remark that "StarTV will be
proved to be a stark threat to all the tyrannies in the world." The
CCP government revenged quickly by banning all private-owned
satellite receivers in China. StarTV suffered a huge loss in
advertisement revenue. After that conflict, Murdoch began to mend the
breach by deleting the BBC News program from StarTV's program menu
(Gittings & Borger, 2001). He also dropped a publishing contract with
Chris Patten, Hong Kong's last British governor who has confronted
China with his democracy agenda (Gittings & Borger, 2001). Murdoch
made shrewd calculation when dumping Chris Patten's book: "some flak
in Britain was worth suffering when there are many millions of
dollars to be made in China" (MacLeod, 1998).
The CCP government saw the cultural showcase as an exciting success
in that the artificial news-event received intensive coverage from
the mainstream U.S. media. The wai xuan campaign was such a success
that the CCP government continued to stage the cultural festival in
the U.S. each fall afterwards except for the fall of 2001. Beijing
Evening News hailed the success of the festival with a flamboyant
headline: "Front Page Story of China on The New York Times Every
Day!" Other stories about the festival bragged: "Americans enamored
with Chinese Culture"; "Elite media lavished coverage"; "It is a
rarity that the U.S. mainstream media such as The New York Times gave
so intensive coverage to a given country during a given time span";
and so forth. One story exclaimed that, "with the festival of
'Chinese Culture in the U.S.' in blossom, a strong 'China wind' is
blowing across the U.S."
In one news commentary, a Chinese commentator acknowledged that the
cultural festival is indeed a large-scale glamour blitz. The Chinese
government was delighted that the cultural festival achieved an
effect of political propaganda, thought it did not take the form of
stark propaganda, such as indoctrination. The commentary also
acknowledged that the "cultural public relations activity" held one
month before the general election, when the China issue is usually a
hot topic, actually helped to offset some anti-China sentiments among
the U.S. political conversations in the election year.
According to a news report in Lianhe Zao Bao of Singapore, some
Chinese experts of international relations maintained that the
Congressional passage of PNTR on September 19, 2000 was the result of
tremendous public relations efforts implemented by the U.S. business
community as well as by the Chinese government. The "2000
Experience – Chinese Culture in the United States" has contributed
tremendously to the change of China's image in the mind of the
American public, which, in turn, has some pressure on the Senate
voting on PNTR.
Based on the investigation, it is reasonable to conclude that both
the American China lobbying and the Chinese wai xuan campaign have
significant contribution to the continuation of a non-judgmental
U.S.-China relations, namely, the human rights-blind U.S. China trade
relations, in the tumultuous post-Tiananmen, post-Cold War world and
in the consensus-rebuilding era.
Ironically, whereas the non-judgmental U.S.-China relations make the
world safer for American business, it is not so promising for
democratic enterprise. The business prosperity in China only
consolidates the legitimacy of the CCP dictatorship, and strengthens
its repressive party line, i.e., "stability-trumps-all." Economic
liberalization does not entail political reform; rather, it empowers
the current system of brutal inequity and wild corruption. The CCP
always uses the plausible economic accomplishments to justify its
oppression. "The Chinese government can expand freedom in economic
life without losing controls in society and politics" (Bernstein and
Munro, 1997, p. 60). The U.S. State Department's annual report on
human rights concluded that increased trade made little difference to
political freedom "in the absence of a willingness by political
authorities to abide by the fundamental international norms"
Just as the Clinton administration has anticipated upon sanctifying
the delinkage of trade from human rights, the bizarre socialist
market economy, characterized by brutal abuse of authority, wild
bribery, and ubiquitous cronyism, did have some morally
disorientation effect on American business. According to An Bang, a
non-governmental economic analysis institution in Beijing, in the
past decade, sixty-four percent of all the 5,000,000 business
corruption cases in China have involved foreign investors and
traders. Other reports showed that Cisco's firewall has been a
big assistance for the CCP to censor Internet and to track dissidents
(Gutmann, 2002). Overall, as Viacom's CEO admitted, corporate America
is very conscious of the taste of the Chinese government, and
therefore, "do[ing] the things we think will endear us ultimately to
China," and "don't produce material that invites criticism from
China" (Zawadzinski, 2004).
It is not prudent to exaggerate the magic power of the Chinese public
relations campaign. It has only constituted a short-term issue
management to the fundamental conflict between the U.S. and China. It
seems that Zhao has theorized that the U.S. publics do not like China
because they do not know China better, or because they only know the
Tiananmen, and therefore, his wai xuan operation could correct those
bad impressions and represent a beautiful, lovable, and peaceful
China before the U.S. public. It might be true that China reporting
in the U.S. is partial and stereotyped, and hence, the less positive
image of China in the mind of American public. Nevertheless, to
improve its image, the CCP government should avoid doing something
that would leave a bad impression to the U.S. public. Zhao's
initiative – the Chinese culture festival in the U.S. – is an
impressive public relations campaign targeting the U.S. public and a
demonstration of China's goodwill to improve the bilateral relation.
However, as Sasser, former U.S. Ambassador to China, indicated, there
is long long way to walk in increasing the mutual understanding
between American people and Chinese people.
Finally, the investigator acknowledges that the explanatory power of
this study could be more buttressed by (1) adding content analysis of
mediated debated on U.S. China policy in 1990s to identify the media
approach of corporate America's issue management with regard to China
issue and (2) adding specific public relations cases with regard to
specific trade negotiation between the U.S. and China to illustrate
the interlocking of politics and economy as well as the domestic
politics of foreign policy, namely, the "intermestics," in the
All those weaknesses notwithstanding, this descriptive case study of
the Chinese public relations campaign in the U.S. in 1990s could
constitute a prudent reminder that (1) the entangling aspect of
global political economy in the post-Cold War world could make the
liberal democracy porous to the conspiracy of the rich in America and
the intrigue of the tyrants abroad; (2) the globalization could make
the world homogeneous in terms of "profitability trumps all"; and
thus, (3) the most serious side-effect – a toothless human rights
agenda world-wide in the post-Cold War world.
 In Chinese, wai means "foreign" or "external," opposite to nei
("domestic" or "internal"); "xuan" means "propaganda." All the
propaganda departments of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) at
various level carries out wai xuan operation in addition to its
staple work of nei xuan (internal propaganda). The target receivers
of wai xuan are foreigners in China and abroad and expatriate
Chinese. Wai xuan usually delivers news stories in a different tone
and technique compared to nei xuan. As Li Changchun, propaganda chief
of the CCP, indicates, wai xuan presents and promotes China to
foreigners and reaches out to the struggle of public opinion in the
international level. One of the significant characteristics of wai
xuan is that it is a combination of ideological propaganda and
intercultural exchange. News stories for wai xuan are less slanted
and less dogmatic. Usually wai xuan resorts to "human interest," and
appeals to "readers' judgment" rather than to party indoctrination.
Nevertheless, wai xuan is well-encapsulated propaganda of the Chinese
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