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Muscatine, Iowa, is to play host to a special guest on Wednesday, when China’s Vice President Xi Jinping, the nation’s presumed next leader, returns to the small town he first visited as part of a sister-state program more than two decades ago. Mr. Xi’s journey to America’s heartland underscores the importance of the public dimension of U.S-China diplomacy.
Brand USA, a non-profit, public-private partnership, is to launch a global advertising campaign next month, as part of the country’s concerted effort in marketing tourism to the world. As its core mission, the organization, created in 2010, is to “encourage and inspire travelers to explore America’s boundless possibilities.”
China’s quest for “soft power” in recent years is a direct consequence of its dramatic economic transformation over the last several decades. It is now an all-too-familiar story of how China is vigorously pursuing image-building efforts, from the global expansion of its media properties to the rapid growth of the Confucius Institutes. This has become particularly poignant at a time when, in stark contrast, the U.S. public diplomacy enterprise is facing shrinking budgets.
Last week, China unveiled an ad campaign on the jumbotron screens in New York City’s Times Square to promote its national image. The two 30-second spots, titled “Experience China,” feature the country’s celebrities and luminaries from different walks of life. So, like many other countries, China is now taking a page out of the Madison-Avenue playbook to try to get its message out.
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