Public Relations in China

November 8, 2006 at 7:09 pm 3 comments

By this point in our lives I’m sure we are all very familiar with the phrase, “Made in China,” found on the objects and articles that litter our lives.  We’ve probably heard of the booming economy and exploding population in that country too.  However, if you are like me, you probably don’t think of public relations as a Chinese phenomenon.  The fact is, despite the Communist political and economic policies that control Chinese markets, PR in China has been expanding dramatically, and is becoming “the fastest-growing PR market in the world.”  

During the eighties and nineties, the Communist government in China began to implement economic reform policies, modernize government agencies and open up opportunities for private sector enterprises.  Initially, public relations programs were used to publicize the state and promote corporate images in China’s business community.  Later, massive publicity campaigns were undertaken to encourage investment in Chinese markets from both domestic and international stakeholders.  As multinational companies began to move into China, PR was required to market international products to the Chinese and then Chinese products to the rest of the world.  

Besides loosening economic restrictions by joining the World Trade Organization in 2001, China has also been relaxing its tight control over the media.  Since PR in China has been utilizing marketing and branding techniques to target the billions of potential consumers in the country, these recent political developments have been essential for the development of foreign media and PR in the country.  As noted before, PR in China is moving from public affairs into marketing and branding territory. International companies have discovered that despite being raised in a Communist nation, the Chinese are increasingly interested in the consumer market and many of the younger generation can now, literally, afford to be brand conscious. As PR practitioners move into Chinese markets, they must be culturally sensitive. It is essential for PR practitioners to be aware of the history, culture, and values of the specific Chinese market they are targeting before developing a communications plan. Further, research suggests that it is very important, as a multinational company, to hire and develop Chinese talent. Essentially, the one way the PR in China will be most effective is if it becomes Chinese.

It is important to remember at all times that despite its capitalistic economic progress, China is still a country under powerful Communist rule and PR practitioners must be willing to work within the laws and guides of the government.  While the government has relaxed media legislation, they still have the ability to control the content.  In order to have effective media relations and economic movement in that country, practitioners must stay within the boundaries of the regime. Despite the challenges, the growing field of PR in China has endless opportunities. As students entering the PR field, hopefully our knowledge of this country will come to encompass more than just the “Made in China” products that we own. 


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