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February 1, 2009 in The China Beat


Copyright February 1, 2009. Used by permission.


(And What was the Strategy for Dealing with the International Criticism on Human Rights)?

(This is a shortened version of a paper presented at the conference on ““The 2008 Beijing Olympic Games: Public Diplomacy Triumph or Public Relations Spectacle?” organized by the Center on Public Diplomacy, US-China Institute, and Center for International Studies at the University of Southern California, January 29-30, 2009.)

There was a common perception outside China that the Beijing Olympic Games involved a master plan to promote a positive image of China to the outside world and that this was one of the major goals of hosting the Olympic Games, if not the major goal. I want to argue that while there was widespread agreement in China that the Olympics were an excellent opportunity to promote an image of China to the world, the vast majority of the attention and effort was focused on the domestic audience; that there was never a concrete communication strategy for dealing with the human rights issue; and that in both instances, China’s ability to communicate a positive international image was hindered by the domestic political structure.

The People’s Olympics

Many Western journalists and Amnesty International accused China of failing to keep its promises with respect to its human rights record. But China had not made any such promises, and if journalists had read chapter five of my recent book, Beijing’s Games, they would have known that there was a big internal debate about even the one sentence about human rights that was made in China’s bid presentation in 2001.