Continue to Improve Our Ability to Plan the Development of Our National Image
Ever since the reform and opening up, although our international influence has been greater than ever before, the overall pattern of “the West is strong and China is weak” in public discourse has not fundamentally changed. To change this situation and knock down the barriers restricting the enhancement of our national image, we need to use a comprehensive approach for planning to upgrade our national image. Developing our national image is a systematic project that involves many steps, from formation of the strategy of dissemination to the formation of the promotion framework, from team cooperation to creating public opinion, from enhancing the art of communication to differentiating the audiences, from the concrete implementation of a procedure for press releases to the shaping of the spokesperson’s image, from the implementation of the policy to learning from experience, and so on. Every step and every aspect needs to be carefully planned ahead of time and adjusted in a timely manner according to the situation. Only in this way can the development of our national image achieve the desired results. Otherwise, it is easy to become too “fragmented” and “careless.”
At present, we should be quick to establish a chain of command and procedures, under the leadership of the Party and led by the International Communication Office of the Party, featuring up-to-date media, in which all sectors of society participate. In the organizational structure, we need to ensure that the planning is in good shape, the sources are effective and integrated, and the coordination is smooth. We should hurry to develop a long-term planning framework for our national image, which will mainly include the overall layout of the work, the main content, policy and measures, and so on. This will provide policy assurance for our country to be more actively integrated in international discourse, for changing the mode of modern media development, and for implementing a strategy of “proactive planning and comprehensive promotion.” We should quickly come up with specific action plans and provide specific “timetables” and “road maps,” which will quantify and refine the main content and major propaganda projects to enhance our national image; scientifically determine the timing, order, and progress; and clearly assign responsibilities. This will ensure that our efforts to build a more positive national image will be efficient and orderly.
Actively Shape and Enhance Our National Charm
The Party’s Seventeenth Congress called for developing China into “a country that is more open and friendly to the outside and makes greater contributions to civilization.” Enhancing our national charm will help reduce the distance between China and other countries and will make a significant contribution to a lasting peace and common prosperity; it is an integral part of the development of our national image. Since the reform and opening up, especially in recent years, we have made full use of modern media, constantly enriched the propaganda content, broadened the channels of dissemination, and increased the intensity of our propaganda. The result has been a steady improvement in how the rest of the world views us. Internationally, the mainstream media, especially in some developing countries, have an increasing desire to understand China, know China, and experience China; their voices are even louder in expressing their hopes for China to play a larger role in international affairs. It should be noted, however, that currently a number of Western developed countries are hastening their efforts to Westernize and divide our country; they are using every possible resource to compete for dominance in international discourse. At the same time, as we reform and develop, we still face some outstanding problems and areas of disharmony, and all these, to some extent, influence and restrict the improvement of our national image.
To begin with, to rectify this situation, those of us in control of the modern media should play the role of a “cheerleader” to enhance our national charm. Next, we need to guide modern media to continue to emancipate people’s minds, firmly grasp and make good use of the current important period of strategic opportunities, actively participate in the national cultural strategy of “going global,” and unswervingly promote regional and global strategic cooperation with international mainstream media. We need to learn from others, make an effort to improve the proportion of our original work, of publications that we first publish, and the coverage of our work; (we need to) seize the high ground of dissemination and communication, effectively enhance the trust and recognition we receive from the international community, eliminate their anxiety, resolve conflicts and friction, and build a broader and deeper foundation for improving our national image. On the other hand, we need to encourage media to actively carry out the strategy of “inviting the outside world to our country.” We should provide ideas, build platforms, and create an atmosphere for organizing multi-level and multi-type activities, such as cultural exchanges, academic seminars, forums, “Trips to China for foreign media,” and “Experience China” programs. This way we will be able to attract a larger foreign audience, provide media support to deepen cooperation and exchanges, strengthen the depth of “overcoming cultural barriers,” deepen mutual understanding, and enhance mutual trust. It will also help to promote an image of China that is humble, kind, friendly, honest, and cooperative.
Focus on Improving Our Ability to Guide International Public Opinion
To strengthen our national image, we should seize opportunities afforded by major events, major activities, and major projects to showcase a favorable image of our country. We should also be taking a softer, more subtle, and quieter approach and integrating it into our daily propaganda work and activities, resulting in almost imperceptible but crucial effects. This requires us to carefully study and understand the psychological characteristics, habits for accepting ideas, and interests and needs of foreign audiences in-depth; we must find out what kind of information they want to know, what kind of help they are hoping to get, and what kind of formats they like or dislike. Based on this knowledge, we can improve on and develop new ways to communicate and disseminate information; use the methods and language that foreign audiences understand and accept; use more facts and numbers, and involve more parties as we speak; support our position and point of view with objective reports of the facts; and use the power of the facts themselves to persuade, guide, and move foreign audiences.
To meet the above goals, we should make a greater effort to ensure that more branches of our modern media “become fully participating members in” the international community, so that they can grow rapidly into major media with strength and influence. To become a big name media, we need to “be creative, easy to communicate with, and easily marketable,” creating a large number of influential films and television shows that will stand out by showcasing the unique charm of Chinese culture and win a greater market share in the international film and television market. We need to strengthen our research to produce a number of films that enhance our national image. Our main approach should be to produce human-interest stories that are “localized,” that take place in the present, that have an international perspective, and that highlight fairness and justice. These films need to show people, as well as their lives; they should also detail the achievements of our economic and social development and the true state of people’s ordinary lives, eliminate the prejudice and misunderstanding that come from the international community, and create more famous brands that are useful in promoting the dissemination of our national image.
Make an Effort to Seize the High Ground of Public Opinion on the Internet
The Internet is characterized by its many users, wide coverage, lack of national boundaries, and large influence. This important platform can reflect the dissemination of national power, just as it can act as an important channel to display our national image. In this Internet age, people’s words and actions can be amplified through the network and have a wide—even international—impact on society. From this perspective, in the Internet Age, every citizen’s demeanor embodies the image of the country and may have an impact on international public opinion. Currently, the Internet, mobile phones, and other new media are playing the role of originating global information. The cross-border impact of public opinion on the network is gradually growing, and, internationally, competition to win the Internet audience is getting fiercer. We must clearly recognize that fact at this stage. Our foundation for building an innovative country is not yet solid, we do not own many original technologies, and some Western countries still monopolize information technology. These are a serious challenge for us in our efforts to turn our advantage in modern media into a competitive advantage.
Actively responding to these challenges requires us to accelerate the pace of building new media, such as Internet media; strongly promote the restructuring of the government agencies involved; gradually step up policy support; and strive to expand and strengthen a number of new media that use the Internet as their main distribution channel. Following the principle of “joining the strong ones together and building on their strengths,” we must create a number of modern media groups that can function in multiple languages; reach a large, broad-based audience; disseminate a great amount of information; and have solid credibility. We must improve and perfect management measures, guide the new Internet media to scientifically set their discussion topics, timely and effectively disseminate information, actively fulfill their social responsibilities, and make a great effort to fight for the high ground and the right to participate in the discourse affecting international public opinion. At the same time, we need to make use of the Internet and other technological tools to increase the “marketing” of our citizen’s image and accelerate the project to upgrade the quality of our citizens. We should perform extensive activities to guide our Internet users to have a healthy attitude toward being honest, responsible, and positive. We need to make an effort to pay attention to public relations through the network, utilizing it for public diplomacy, enriching public relations work, broadening channels for public relations, and guiding all sectors in society to actively participate in enhancing our national image and making a positive contribution toward improving our national image.
(The author is the vice head of the Propaganda Department of the CCP’s Hainan Provincial Committee, as well as the Director of the Hainan Province Foreign Propaganda Office)
 People’s Daily, “Use Modern Media to Enhance Our National Image,” March 10, 2011.