C Gopinath

China and its charm offensive

C. Gopinath | Updated on November 15, 2017 Published on January 15, 2012

One of my pleasant memories, after a trip to Beijing, was the calm and settled feeling I had after watching television. There was none of the stuff of murders, street protests, homes burning, or varied other crises, that seems to overwhelm the rest of the world. In China, people are always happy. They are out on a picnic, families are happy to take care of their elderly, and see, how nice this hospital is. China rightly feels that its brand of news should enlighten the rest of us.

A few years ago, China began transmitting its TV programmes in the US through a channel called CCT, or China Central Television. China Radio's English language news service provides radio programming at some local AM stations.

The most recent effort is a newspaper, China Daily, which is being printed in eight major cities including Boston. Boston Globe, the local paper that I subscribe to, has the contract to print and distribute the Boston edition, and provided me with my free copy as part of a four-week promotion. The paper, like a regular broadsheet, runs into about 40 pages. So I set about trying to decipher the paper from the free issues that landed on my doorstep.

It was first very clear that there are no major problems or crisis in China at present, at least in the perspective of the editorial staff of China Daily. A couple, though, were worth mentioning, such as the issue of bad school buses. 19 children had died in a collision between an overloaded school bus and a coal truck.

The head of the school was detained and the Ministry of Education urged all schools and kindergartens to conduct safety tests of their buses. Illegal buses which charge lower fares appear to be part of the problem. And another problem reported was that one boy who died from suspected pesticide poisoning from a dairy drink made by a subsidiary of Coca Cola. And you thought only Chinese companies sold contaminated products.

Frenzied buying

People generally behaved very well in the country. Did you know that even though a government bureau made a mistake and gave out subsidies to people who were not entitled to them, the people turned up at the agency to return the amounts? Why, if the person wanted to return the money but ‘did not have the time to come to the exchange', a team from the exchange would go to his house to recover the money. Talk about a civil society!

The people were also clearly very prosperous. They were buying gold in large quantities and I learnt that China has beaten India to first place as a market for gold. There were even ‘crowds swarming' during a National Day holiday at a gold ATM in Beijing's Wangfujing shopping area which dispensed gold bars and coins. Wow! How long before the roads were paved with the stuff! And oh, another article reported that the demand for diamonds was rising and China was the world's largest market after the US.

People were in line from up to 24 hours earlier awaiting the opening of a clothing store, H&M, which was going to sell a new line of designer clothes in Shanghai. The arrival of this line of clothing apparently caused ‘frenzy among Chinese consumers.'

One shopper, we are told, walked out with three bags and had spent $1,600 (about Rs 83,000) on items such as gold-studded shirts and was seen getting into a ‘red BMW parked in a side street.' But wait, a ‘rural couple' bought some clothes and was found by the reporter to be re-selling them not too far from the store, at a premium. They admitted that the clothes were too expensive for them.

It's not as though the Chinese were only spending their money locally. Another report pointed out that Chinese tourists in the US are crowding luxury shops and buying handbags and so on. Some of them were trying to choose between a bunch of items they had gathered because the store had ‘purchase limitations.' I read that Chinese tourists spent 107 per cent more in 2010 compared to 2009, and spent about 50 per cent more than tourists from the US and Japan.

Good advice for US

The Chinese are also doing their bit to create jobs in the US, a piece of news that will gladden the heart of all the presidential contenders here. Apparently, over 70 per cent of the applications under the EB-5 programme are from China. This US immigration programme gives investors preferential residency status if they invest and create jobs in designated areas in the US.

There is some good advice for the US too. One opinion piece describes how the US seems to do long-term planning only for its military, while facing crumbling infrastructure, and declining education quality. So the author wanted the US to follow China's method of doing ‘wonderful five-year plans.'

For the China watchers in India, here is something to chew on. In an interview, the English author of a book, Rivals, who is also the former editor of the UK magazine, Economist points out that China is the first among the three rivals — China, Japan and India. After all, he says, on different measures, India is between 15 and 20 years behind China.

One survey gives us a clue of what is the effect on the citizens when the media project a rosy picture of the society. Asked to select a four-word cluster that best describes their capital, 60 per cent of the residents picked ‘patriotism, innovation, inclusion and social morals.'

The paper concludes from the survey results that honesty and integrity ‘depict the major qualities of the citizens.' Now that the US citizens are also being treated to the same brand of journalism, I'm hopeful that before long, election times in the US will not be one long slime fest but a glorification of the bold and beautiful.

(The author is professor of International Business and Strategic Management at Suffolk University, Boston, US. >[email protected])

Published on January 15, 2012
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