Gulou – The Heart of Beijing

In January this year, around the time of the Chinese new year, Chinese government created a so called “National image video” to be played on six huge screens in Time Square. In one sentence, this 60-second video was literately just the smiling faces of 50 Chinese celebrities, one second at a time. It was played 15 times per hour, 20 hours per day from Jan 17 to Feb 14. According to the official, this was part of a “public diplomacy campaign” to showcase our accomplishments and spirit.

But seriously, can putting a slide show like this between Coca-Cola and Remy Martin ads tell the world anything at all?

Most of the Chinese people I know, including myself, couldn’t even figure out what exactly that video was trying to convey, except that we have a bunch of famous people, which is barely new to anyone. However, it was somehow the classic Chinese way of expressing- to present the story with such caution and ambiguity then expect people to just get the idea themselves. But the world we live in now doesn’t work this way. No one would care to guess. PR is all about making the message clear.

Easier said than done, but can we ever extract the cultural essence of a nation or a civilization and convey it without losing its true meaning in translation? How do we find the right angle to portray a nation? How to promote a nation’s spirit or ideology in a non-threatening but effective way?

The fact that our world is becoming a global village had made it even harder for non-western countries to keep their own voice, let along to make them heard by others.

As for China, our long hug with western culture has started since the economic reform in 1979. The open up indeed greatly improved our life and directly resulted in the rise of our economy, but it also inevitably diluted our culture. It is almost heartbreaking to see traditions accumulated over five thousand years can be so fragile and so easily lost over the course of these decades. Many kids now, thanks to TV and the Internet, know more about western culture than our own. It’s common for children to chose pizza as their birthday treat. People celebrate Christmas and other western holidays with great enthusiasm but consider some of our own traditional holidays troublesome.

How can we promote our culture if many of our own people have already started to forget?

From ancient Taoism founded by Laozi to more current Zen Buddhism, the focus of eastern philosophy has always been the pursuit of inner peace and harmony with the universe…until we abandoned the search of ourselves for a search of gold.

Now it has came to many Chinese’s attention that it’s time to pause and look back at the things we dropped on the way.  The image of a nation can never be amiable, no matter how much money we throw into an AD campaign, if we cannot find the way back to our own culture.

This is why I chose to be in this field: to understand others as well as ourselves, and find a way to connect.

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