Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Communist party PR: who can, who can't

China has reaffirmed its total ineptitude with handing PR on an international scale in claiming the Dalai Lama is orchestrating suicide attacks. It looks like China will be spared a Taiwanese declaration of independence during the Olympics, but I doubt the Tibet crisis will be the last one before the end of the games in late August. I think China has grossly overplayed its hand in hosting the Olympics – at least in America, China is the villain du jour because of the latest anti-globalization backlash provoked by the longer-than-ever presidential election season. Europe has a similar antagonism, divided between intellectuals who look down on their human rights abuses and lack of freedom, and those who have been riled up by protectionist sentiment. The CCP has become so sure of its propaganda techniques at home that thinks that they'll work against world audiences. The truth is that they probably don't even work in China – the threat of the state coming down is strong enough to coax people into either apolitical or pro-party stances. I don't see this at all helping China anywhere where it matters (i.e., advanced democracies). In the rest of the world, the power and money is in the hands of people who aren't particularly concerned with China's big coming out party.

China ought to take a page from Nicolae Ceaușescu, Romania's totalitarian dictator. The Soviets had taught him well, and he turned on the Soviet Union (at least publicly) and managed to be the only communist dictator to secure Most Favored Nation trade privileges from the US. He knew that identifying a common enemy was key to obtaining favors from the West (at least till he went too far and squandered it all in the late '80s), and that allowed him to do some pretty terrible things. Essentially, Ceaușescu courted the West by railing against the Soviets, all in order to cover up behavior that was for more anti-liberal than anything in the USSR after Stalin.

Putin used the same model, and anti-terrorism was what he used to get Bush to look into his eyes and "get a sense of his soul" – and it was a good sense. Meanwhile, it's likely that Russia fabricated a lot of the attacks that were supposedly perpetrated by "Chechen terrorists." The apartment bombings that were the direct cause of the Second Chechen war were most likely black flag operations by the KGB FSB. Moscow theater crisis, too.

Of course, dictatorships have no monopoly on disingenuous PR. America has clearly provoked, if not intentionally, a lot of Islamic terrorism against itself, all in the name of rooting it out. Thankfully for Americans, it doesn't do nearly as well with PR than the dictatorships.

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