China’s recent crackdown on violent clashes in Tibet and its imprisonment of human-rights activists has spurred world-wide demonstrations and has turned its elaborate plans for a globe-girdling Olympic torch relay into a show of dissent.
According to The Wall Street Journal, despite the criticism, it appears that most sponsors have made the decision to refrain from criticizing Beijing rather than risk angering the Chinese government, gateway to the voracious consumers in the world’s fastest-growing economy.
“These political issues are not related with the Games,” says Phyllis Cheung, China marketing director of McDonald’s. “It has not interrupted us.”
Wishful thinking. Everything is related. But Chinese citizens and Americans do see things differently.
A recent survey by Los Angeles-based polling firm Kelton Research showed that one in four Americans surveyed are considering not watching the Summer Olympics due to concerns over China’s human-rights violations and poor environmental record. A recent Zogby poll also found 70% of likely American voters believe the IOC was wrong to award the Games to China, because of its poor human-rights record.
By contrast, 72% of Chinese people polled by Ogilvy Group and Millward Brown said they are proud of China’s role as Olympics host, and media buying agency GroupM estimates that 90% of television viewers in China will be tuned to the Olympics at any given time during the Games.
[IN RELATED NEWS] The New York Times is featuring an article on how the Beijing games are spurring pro-Tibet pr.
For all its business success and military power, China is still something of a naïf when it comes to Western-style public relations. In many ways, China is facing the same challenge that companies like Philip Morris and Wal-Mart have in recent years as protesters and union activists have grown increasingly sophisticated in delivering their message.