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Greasing the Reels: Advertising as a Means of Campaigning on Chinese Television*

  • Daniela Stockmann (a1)
Abstract
Abstract

This article examines a major change in campaigning through the means of mass media during the reform era. As the media commercialized and partially privatized, the state has tried increasingly to involve societal actors in the production of public service advertisements (PSAs) on television. Today, PSA campaigns are initiated by state and Party units, but their funding, production and broadcasting is made possible by a collaborative effort between broadcasters, advertising companies and commercial enterprises who voluntarily support their further development. I conducted 27 in-depth interviews with officials, broadcasters and producers in Beijing to tap into the policy rationale behind the use of public service advertisements in campaigning and the incentive structure facilitating collaboration between companies and state units. Interviews with judges of PSA competitions and content analysis of price-winning advertisements reveal the standards of the central government to employ public service advertising as a means of campaigning.

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1 Zhou Yongming, China's Anti-Drug Campaign in the Reform Era (Singapore: Singapore University Press, 2000); Manion Melanie, Corruption by Design: Building Clean Government in Mainland China and Hong Kong (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2004); Rooij Benjamin van, “Implementation of Chinese environmental law: regular enforcement and political campaigns,” Development and Change, Vol. 37, No. 1 (2006), pp. 5774.

2 Perry Elizabeth J., “From mass campaigns to managed campaigns: ‘constructing a new socialist countryside’”, in Heilmann Sebastian and Perry Elizabeth J. (eds.), Mao's Invisible Hand: The Political Foundations of Adaptive Governance in China, (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press), pp. 3061, 2011.

3 Manion, Corruption by Design.

4 Teets Jessica C., “Post-earthquake relief and reconstruction efforts,” The China Quarterly, No. 198 (2009), pp. 330–47.

5 Brady Anne-Marie, “The Beijing Olympics as a campaign of mass distraction,” The China Quarterly, No. 197 (2009), pp. 124; Landsberger Stefan R., “Harmony, Olympic manners and morals – Chinese television and the ‘new propaganda’ of public service advertising,” European Journal of East Asian Studies, Vol. 8, No. 2 (2009), pp. 331–55.

6 See also Brady, “The Beijing Olympics as a campaign of mass distraction”; Perry, From Mass Campaigns to Managed Campaigns.

7 Interview with two producers, December 2008 (nos. 7, 26). Chen Peiai, Zhongwai guanggao shi (A History of Advertising in China and Beyond) (Beijing: Zhongguo wujia chubanshe, 2008).

8 Wang Yun and Feng Yichi, “Gongyi guanggao shiwu nian” (“15 years of public service advertising”), Xinwen daxue (Journalism University), Vol. 76, No. 2 (2003), pp. 7679.

9 Interview with central-level official, December 2008 (no. 13).

10 Interview with two central-level officials and competition judge, December 2008 and October 2009 (nos. 6, 10, 7). Guanyu kaishan “Zhonghua hao feng shang” zhuti gongyi guanggao ye huodong de tongzhi (Announcement on the Zhonghua Hao Feng Shang PSA Activity), SAIC, 18 June 1996, available at http://www.pt.fjaic.gov.cn/law_show.asp?law_type=GSXZ1305, accessed 24 November 2009.

11 Interviews with three central-level officials and two competition judges, December 2008 and October 2009 (nos. 3, 6, 8, 10, 11). For an example see Guanyu kaizhan “ying guoqing, jiang wenming, shu xinfeng” gongyi guanggao xuanchuan huodung de tongzhi (Announcement on the “Welcome the Anniversary, be Civilized, Follow the New Trend” PSA Propaganda Activity), CPD, GCBSC, SAIC, SARFT, GAPP, 25 May 2009, available at http://www.wenming.cn/gygg/2009-06/03/content_16701018.htm, accessed 11 January 2010.

12 In addition to the four main institutions mentioned above, other political actors were involved in these campaigns. E.g. the first one in 2009 was initiated by the top leaders and the second by the central-level Discipline Inspection Committee; “Ethnic groups unite to build a harmanious society” (minzu tuanjie, shehui hexie) in 2010 by the CAA. Interviews with two central-level officials, October and November 2009 (nos. 8, 14).

13 Interviews with two central-level officials, December 2008 (nos. 3, 6).

14 Brady Anne-Marie, Marketing Dictatorship: Propaganda and Thought Work in Contemporary China (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2008).

15 Lynch Daniel C., “Dilemmas of ‘thought work’ in fin-de-siécle China,” The China Quarterly, No. 157 (1999), pp. 173201.

16 Wang Shu-Shin, “The rise and fall of the campaign against spiritual pollution in the People's Republic of China,” Asian Affairs, Vol. 13, No. 1 (1986), pp. 4762; Stross Randall, “The return of advertising in China: a survey of the ideological reversal,” The China Quarterly, No. 123 (1990), pp. 485502.

17 Lynch, “Dilemmas of ‘thought work’.” After its establishment GCBSC immediately started to investigate the spread of falun gong among Party members, a concern that may have also affected the decision for its creation. Zhongyang jingshen wenming jianshi zhidao weiyuanhui di yi ci quanti huiyi jiyao (Notes on the First Full Gathering of the Guidance Committee on Building Spiritual Civilization Construction), GCBSC, 26 May 1997, available at www.godpp.gov.zn/zlzx/zywj.htm, accessed 5 November 2009.

18 Interviews with two central-level officials, December 2008 (nos. 3, 6). The GCBCS appears for the first time on public announcements by the SAIC in 1999. Guanyu jin yi bu zuo hao gongyi guanggao gongzuo you guan wenti de tongzhi (Announcement on Gradually Solving Problems Related to PSA Work), CPD, SAIC, 22 October 1999, available at http://www.jxcs.org.cn/system/2008/08/06/002814574.shtml, accessed 24 November 2009.

19 Conversation with central-level official (no. 13), December 2008. See also Brady, “The Beijing Olympics as a campaign of mass distraction.”

20 See Jieyang City Consumer Council website, available at http://www.gdjy315.gov.cn/zxzx/ShowArticle.asp?ArticleID=2458, accessed 8 July 2010. For the National Research Centre for PSA innovation see http://www.cnpad.net/nirbpsa/xueshu/tuandui/, accessed 7 October 2011.

21 See Xuzhou GCBCS website, available at http://www.xzwmw.com/html/zyjh/2010/201001203664.shtml, accessed 8 July 2010.

22 Percentages are based on the China Survey 2008, conducted by the College of Liberal Arts of Texas A&M University in collaboration with the Research Centre of Contemporary China at Peking University. It is based on a random stratified multi-stage probability sample of all Chinese adults, employing the GPS sampling technique and thus included migrant workers. See also Landry Pierre F. and Shen Mingming, “Reaching migrants in survey research: the use of the global positioning system to reduce coverage bias in China,” Political Analysis, No. 13 (2005), pp. 122.

23 6.7% for Beijing TV, 4.4% for Guangdong TV and 3% for Qinghai TV. PSAs were measured as advertising initiated by Party or state units and did not include those financed by companies, thus underestimating their percentage. Zhongguo guangbo yingshi (China Radio Film and TV Magazine), December 2009.

24 Interview with competition judge, December 2009 (no. 10). See also Shambaugh David L., “China's propaganda system: institutions, processes, and efficacy,” The China Journal, No. 57 (2007), pp. 2558; Brady, Marketing Dictatorship: Propaganda and Thought Work in Contemporary China.

25 See Shambaugh, “China's propaganda system.”

26 Interview with competition judge, December 2009 (no. 10).

27 Announcement on Gradually Solving Problems Related to PSA Work.

28 Quan guo chengshi ceping xiti (Evaluation System for Nationwide Civilized Cities), GCBSC, 14 September 2004, available at http://www.godpp.gov.cn/zlzx/2004-09/27/content_2941774.htm, accessed 11 January 2010. See also Brady, Marketing Dictatorship: Propaganda and Thought Work in Contemporary China.

29 Announcement on Gradually Solving Problems Related to PSA Work.

30 Interviews with two central-level officials and competition judge, December 2009 (nos. 10, 13, 26).

31 Conversation with central-level official, November 2009 (no. 14)

32 Interview with central-level official, November 2008 (no. 6).

33 See e.g. Whiting Susan H., “The cadre evaluation system at the grass roots: the paradox of party rule,” in Naughton Barry and Yang Dali L. (eds.), Holding China Together: Diversity and National Integration in the Post-Deng Era (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004), pp. 101–19.

34 Interviews with two central-level officials, October and November 2009 (nos. 8, 11).

35 Interview with central-level official, December 2008 (no. 7).

36 Interviews with central-level official and producer, November 2008 and November 2009 (nos. 6, 12).

37 Interviews with central-level official and competition judge, November 2008 (nos. 6, 10).

38 Interview with central-level official, December 2008 (no. 3).

39 Interview with central-level official, October 2009 (no. 8). On the relationship between advertising companies and CCTV see Wang Jing, Brand New China: Advertising, Media and Commercial Culture (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2008).

40 Landsberger, “Harmony, Olympic manners and morals.”

41 Announcement on the “Welcome the Anniversary, Be Civilized, Follow the New Trend” PSA Propaganda Activity.

42 Interview with producer, November 2009 (no. 15).

43 Participant observation of a meeting at an advertising company, November 2009.

44 Interviews with two producers, director and two competition judges, December 2008 and November 2009 (nos. 2, 4, 10, 11, 12).

45 Quan guo xixiang daode gongyi guanggao zuopinku, available at www.cnpad.net, accessed 22 October, 2009.

46 Interviews with central-level official and producer, October and November 2009 (nos. 8, 20).

47 Landsberger, “Harmony, Olympic manners and morals.” According to my interviews, the Ningxia case is not representative of SARFT reactions to violations of PSA regulations. SARFT only rarely intervenes even after several warnings have been issued.

48 Guanyu zuo hao gongyi guanggao xuanchuan de tongzhi (Announcement on How to Do PSA Propaganda Well), CPD, SAIC, SARFT, GAPP, 4 August 1997, available at http://www.gapp.gov.cn/cms/cms/website/zcfgs/layout3/index.jsp?infoId=450908&channelId=782&siteId=48, accessed 24 November 2009. In 2002 this rule was changed towards “on average every day between 7 and 9 pm” Guanyu jin yi bu zuo hao gongyi guanggao xuanchuan de tongzhi (Announcement on Gradually Improving PSA Propaganda), CPD, GCBSC, SAIC, SARFT, GAPP, 12 December 2002, available at http://www.cnlyjd.com/fagui/fagui/bumenguizhang/xuanchuanguiding/200212/fagui_1767947.html, accessed 24 November 2009.

49 These figures only constitute rough estimates. Interviews with producer and competition judge, December 2008 and July 2010 (nos. 2, 10).

50 Interviews with two central-level officials and two producers, December 2008 and November 2009 (nos. 2, 6, 7, 8).

51 See n. 23.

52 Announcement on How to Do PSA Propaganda Well.

53 Guanyu kaizhan gongyi guanggao huodong de tongzhi (Announcement on Developing PSA Campaigns), SAIC, 7 April 1998; Announcement on Gradually Solving Problems Related to PSA Work; Announcement on Gradually Improving PSA Propaganda.

54 Interviews with central-level official, two competition judges and producer, October and November 2009 (nos. 8, 10, 11, 20).

55 Interviews with two producers, December 2009 (nos. 20, 7).

56 Interviews with three producers, December 2008, January and November 2009 (nos. 1, 2, 20).

57 See e.g. Commission of the European Communities, “Green paper: promoting a European framework for corporate social responsibility,” Brussels, 2001. On China see Buhmann Karin, “Corporate social responsibility in China: current issues and their relevance for implementation of law,” The Copenhagen Journal of Asian Studies, No. 22 (2005), pp. 6291.

58 Interview with producer, November 2009 (no. 19).

59 Interviews with journalist specializing on PSA, competition judge, producer and director, December 2008, October and November 2009 (nos. 9, 11, 2, 12).

60 Interview with central-level official, November 2009 (no. 26).

61 Interview with producer, November 2009 (no. 20).

62 Interviews with two central-level officials and producer, October, November, December 2009 (nos. 8, 19, 27).

63 Name of advertising company omitted by the author. Interview with central-level official, November 2009 (no. 26).

64 Interview with competition judge, November 2009 (no. 11).

65 Interviews with and two central-level officials, December 2008 and December 2009 (nos. 7, 26).

66 Interviews with two producers, December 2008 and November 2009 (nos. 4, 20).

67 Interviews with two producers, December 2008 and November 2009 (nos. 2, 20).

68 Similar mechanisms apply to the Chinese film industry. Zhao Yuezhi, Communication in China: Political Economy, Power, and Conflict (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2008).

69 For a test of PSA effectiveness see Daniela Stockmann, Ashley Esarey and Ji Zhang, “Advertising Chinese politics: how public service advertising prime and alter political trust in China,” paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, Seattle, WA, 2011.

70 Tsai Kellee S., “Adaptive informal institutions and endogenous institutional change in China,” World Politics, Vol. 59, No. 1 (2006), pp. 116–41; Chen Jie and Dickson Bruce J., “Allies of the state: democratic support and regime support among China's private entrepreneurs,” The China Quarterly, No. 196 (2008), pp. 780804.

* For excellent research collaboration I would like to thank Liu Linqing and Zhang Jie. I am also grateful for financial support provided by the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences and Communication University of China. Many thanks as well to Ben Liebman, Victor Shih and the participants of the China Law and Society Colloquium at Columbia University for helpful comments, and to Jin Yanchao, Sun Jia, Jia Muzi, Li Zheng, Jin Xi and Wang Mingde for research assistance.

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