Nation Branding in 2010 Shanghai Expo, Research Paper Example

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Research Paper

Abstract

The World Expo was founded in 1851 and is now a global event whereby different countries can have a forum to showcase their culture and innovation.  In 2010 Shanghai in China hosted the event to over 192 countries and 50 international organizations. The event attracted in excess of 73 million visitors.  China used this opportunity to brand china and showcase its progress and technological innovation to the world.  Despite a poor global leadership image in the area of human rights differences to democratic leadership qualities in the West, the event provided the opportunity to showcase China in a different light and perspective to the media.  This paper examines the experience of nation branding and how this was successfully deployed in the World Expo in Shanghai 2010.

Introduction

Background to Nation Branding in 2010 Shanghai Expo

The Chinese Government wished to dispel the stereotyped image of China and the colonial image of Shanghai.  The World Expo in 2010 provided an opportunity for China and the City of Shanghai to be centre stage in showcasing the culture, progressive technology and new image they wanted the world to see for a modern China in the 21st Century.  This would be an exercise in orchestrated communications and control of the media at the World Exposition.  The concept of portraying a countries image is at the heart of international affairs and helps to define the power and stature of a modern nation.  China would demonstrate this through 8 pavilions in the Exposition. (Sun, S. 2012).

Expo is not considered to be a media event, although it attracts massive media coverage. It is meant to be a personal experience that enables you to understand the country, its culture, technology and business.  In this sense it is a national marketing opportunity. There are differences between product and nation branding but these can equally be adapted for country-image communication purposes.  The national pavilions are distinctive strategies for exhibiting the concept of a national image and collective identity of a country.

Research objectives of the paper demonstrate how China took full advantage of this situation in order to promote an image of China’s leadership, policies and technical advancement to a world audience. It illustrated the rise of power in China and its place in a modern globalized technological society.

China is keen to be seen as the dominant power in Asia and its move towards modernity is expressed through its willingness to trade with the outside world.  The leadership wants to be viewed beyond the old Stalinist communist image to that of a modern progressive society with a leadership that promotes technological advancement and higher standards of living for its people. Shanghai being a showcase of a modern Chinese City.

The 2010 Shanghai Expo

Country image – China and Shanghai

In recent years the world image of China has improved as popularity of the USA has dwindled, particularly in the Islamic world.  Nevertheless, the rapid rise in Chinese economic power and increased militarization has started to question China’s intention on the world stage.  This has particularly alarmed Europe who sees the potential of China replacing the USA as the main global power of the future.  What is interesting is that most of the Asian countries see the rise of China as an economic power in a favourable light. They see this as a catalyst for improved trade in Asia. One of the most negative views of China is that of the Japanese; however this could be envy based upon losing their own position in economic superiority in Asia.  (Kohut, A. 2012).

China itself does not see itself as an expansionist or aggressive nation.  The main emphasis is based upon self-determination of economic growth and prosperity within China.  The expanding military force is more geared towards protection of its Assets in the Asia Pacific region and to protects its shipping lanes from pirates and would be agressors interfering with Chinese trade.  China is acutely aware of the western view on its human rights and communist leadership but points to the rapid progress made in the last two decades.  Change to interface with global demands takes time and China is driving a huge engine in terms of population, demand and growth in its economy.

The Expo provides an important forum and showcase in order to demonstrate how China will interact with the world as a global superpower.  It realises that how this is perceived by other nations will determine its own rate of acceleration and progress. Shanghai also showcases the accomplishmenmts of a modern ity in China and as such reflects the might and rise of technological prowess of other major Cities throughout China.

Expo branding practices

The concept of branding refers to the process that defines the delivery and maintenance of a product, goods or services.  It encompasses three main sets of activities i.e. (i) Brand Management (ii) Brand Engagement and (iii) Brand definition.  As such the pavilions in the Shanghai expo were all constructed with specific messages to convey.  Shanghai was showcased by a brand slogan “Better City, Better Life” (Sun, S. 2012).  In particular the pavillions showcased Chinese technological advances by exhibit displays that appealed to the senses, This included lighting, sound, videos and movies, live performances and human interaction with the visitors.  This was extremely compelling in terms of winning the hearts and minds of those visitors attending the Chinese pavilions.

The 8 chinese pavilions were each selected based upon a theme that demonstrated consideration of such items as:

  • The geographic coverage within China;
  • The role it played in the global relations of China and international relations;
  • The importance of relationships with China.

The Chinese pavilions had devoted a lot of effort to be seen as more sophisticated and lavish than the other international pavilions.

China’s leadership policies and world image

China is keen to demonstrate that it is developing a new leadership team that is distinctively different from the old regimes.  They are keen to promote technological advancement in China and conform too many of the world agenda’s on clean energy and climate change.  It is keen to be seen as a world leader in renewable energy supply and the need to be supported by the international community.  Equally, the world needs to recognize the tremendous undertaking that the Chinese leadership is embarked upon and that these changes will take many decades for policies to bear fruits.  (Schwartz, L. 2012).

China wanted to address the media crisis that portrayed the country as difficult to do business with, particularly the Multi National Companies (MNC’s).  The media had given China a lot of bad press about restrictions and complications arising to the level of beurocracy in China.  China was keen to dismiss this image by saying most of the problems could be avoided by proper business planning and conducting due diligence by building a knowledge base for developing and doing business in China.  It was not difficult if you were adequately prepared and had accomplished your homework.  Help does exist for international businesses but they need to research the type of help available and the business issues that need to be addressed. (MSL China, 2012).

The Western media had also portrayed China as a place of discrimination and poor human rights record that was sponsored by a dictatorial style communist leadership.  China wanted to show that whilst it acknowledged problems, nevertheless tremendous reforms were in progress and these were spearhedaded by a modern reformist leadership that was transforming China into a global technologically advanced world economy.  The world Expo provided the opportunity to demonstrate and showcase these reformation projects.

China and Klann crisis leadership model

A crisis is difficult to define as an individual concept.  In the context of China a leadership crisis considers the transition from the philosophy of  one old regime to that of the ideas and philosophies of a new regime.  How will such a leadership transition be managed in terms with coping with both uncertainty and chaos.  According to Klann (2003) he stated that these types of crisis may present themselves within leadership teams at any time.  The concept of globalization is equally likely to impact the leadership teams of Multi National Corporations (MNC’s).  Klann further stated:-  “ Leadership is the formal or informal power and the ability to influence, persuade, motivate, inspire and use power judiciously to affect others in a positive way” (Alfeo, C. 2011).

The best approach to Crisis Management is one of proactive planning, as opposed to reactive planning or dealing with the crisis once it has impacted.  Proactive planning means closely examining the business that you are in and defining potential areas of vulnerability.  A good example of having a leadership crisis thrust upon you is that of 9/11 and the Mayor of New York Rudy Giuliani.  “Everyone recognized that Mayor Giuliani was leading a crisis situation, but fewer realized that he approached the situation as a change management challenge” (Schuler, A.J. 2012). He helped to rally the City and a stunned nation and turned the crisis into one of a temporary trauma and repositioned the people of New York towards a brighter future for tomorrow.  A negative leadership crisis might be that of Enron where Directors are placed in a position of trust by their shareholders and either fail to perform or conduct criminal acts of misconduct.

Leadership crisis may also be broken into one of two types of crisis i.e. sudden crisis or that of a smoldering crisis.

Sudden Crisis:  this is where an event unfolds without any advance warning.  These are often called “bombshells” and are often beyond the organizations immediate control.  In most circumstances leaders get blamed for these types of crisis situations.

Smoldering Crisis: these are where minor issues, often due to management negligence, manifest themselves later as crisis situations. Sometimes referred to as “smoking gun situations”. Leaders get blamed for these situations and there is often considerable fallout over the organization.

The Chinese export model has shown amazing growth during a time of global financial crisis. Despite this the leadership recognize the limitations imposed upon China and they disagree on the timing and the nature of the transition that is to take place in China.  This has promoted considerable disagreements and factions within the party leadership. China is seen as being in an important and strategic growth phase but with an unstable labour market that remains a concern and potential for social instability.

The Power of the 8 National Pavilions

The power of the 8 national pavilions created the ability to showcase the whole of China’s accomplishments split up between the different demographic regions.  In this sense it displayed a holistic picture of national accomplishment and pride.  It conveyed the message that China had come of age and joined the main western powers in terms of technological achievement.  Equally it showed the scientific progress of the Chinese as a race and not that of the feudal peasant image which the western media liked to portray.

Brand Image

Defining nation brands

The nation branding is based on the demonstration of the country image and how the country wishes other international communities to perceive it.  In this regard China had a clear strategy in so far as Expo 2010 was concerned.  As such the pavilions were not really constructed for a commercial image but more for winning the ‘hearts and minds’ of a sceptical foreign public. For a long period China has been perceived as a secretive closed nation to the outside world.  This has changed and China wanted to demonstrate the new ‘openness’ and willingness to engage foreign business in world trade. (Sun, S. 2012)

In addition, China wanted to be perceived as a dominant player in the new BRICS economy of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.  Equally to demonstrate its strength and power to local rivals like that of South Korea, Taiwan and Japan.  Some described this as China’s charm offensive to the outside world. The expo itself consisted of three main parts, namely: exhibitions, events and forums.  In the sense of nation branding the Chinese had the following strategy for Expo:

  • Illustrate the shifting landscape of international relations and showing China in the mainstream as the most dominant power in Asia;
  • To demonstrate equality against other world powers like Europe, USA and Russia.
  • To build upon the strength of the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the national brand image created there. Expo would prove to be a clear endorsement of China as a world power and help to legitimize the authority of the Chinese leadership within the international community.
  • More than 70 million Chinese went through the expo stands and this would help in solidifying national pride and acknowledge the important contribution of the Chinese leadership.
  • To change a negative country image to that of a positive one by showing technological advancement, cultural advancement and military strength.

Communication nation brands – communication goals

Within the concept of communicating nation brands the pavilions demonstrated the four main sensory objectives:-

  • Visual Senses – Showing the audience a visual display covering the different pavilions such that they will have a comprehensive visual understanding of the relationship with China and the international community. This showcases the technological accomplishments of China relative to international trade and partnerships;
  • Affective Senses – The stimulation of feeling and affection for China. This aimed at the Chinese people in terms of national identity, pride and affection for the leadership;
  • Intellectual Senses – To get the international audience thinking about China and doing comparative analysis with the other countries, after visiting their pavilions. This hammers home the recognition of the emergence of China as a major world power;
  • Behavioural senses – the concept of validation and understanding the benefits portrayed by China. In this case the positive images that the Chinese leadership put forward to the world mainly by visual media.

Comparative Analysis – The Korean Pavilion

The South Korean Pavilion had three nation branding communication goals:

  • Communication goal  Reinforce the friendly image of South Korea
  • Theme Korea has friendly modern cities, is colourful and exciting with happy friendly people
  • Communication Features
  • Multimedia presentations, live action films and animations
  • Live stage performances showcasing Korean artists
  • Music and culture exhibits
  • Technology exhibits
  • Large graphic 3-D screens
  • Chinese speaking korean guides

A tricky venue for the South Koreans given the hostile relations with North Korea and the friendly relationship North Korea has with China.  Nevertheless, the South Korean Government used this opportinity to showcase South Korea to the Chinese and the world.  They had the following nation branding goals and communications:-

  • They are a friendly and non aggressive society;
  • They are progressive, modern and have a high technology industry base together with manufacturing and shipping;
  • Korea is an open society open to world-wide trade opportinities
  • It has a strategic ally in the USA and as such an Asian Pacific Gateway to N. America

Conclusions

The World Expo in Shanghai in 2010 was seen as a resounding success for both China and Shanghai.  It attracted in excess of 70 million chinese visitors and provided a sense of national pride in the technological achievements and progress of China.  It is unclear as to how much credit the Chinese leadership obtained but all of the messages were positive statements that seemed to be well received by all.  (Ponder, G. 2010).

References

Alfeo, C. a. (2011). Crisis Leadership: How to cope with uncertainty and chaos. Linnaeus University.

Kohut, A. (2012, 6 15). How the World Sees China. Retrieved from Pew Research: http://pewresearch.org/pubs/656/how-the-world-sees-china

MSL China. (2012, 6 15). MSL China. Retrieved from MSL China: http://www.eastweimsl.com/About.aspx?id=4&type=2

Ponder, G. (2010). Shanghai Expo 2010. New York: Expo.Sure Publishing.

Schuler, A. (2012, 2 14). Change Management lessons of Rudy Giuliani. Retrieved from Leadership: http://www.schulersolutions.com/change_leadership_lessons_of_r.html

Schwartz, L. (2012, 6 15). China Policy: A Defining Decade for the Would-Be Leader. Retrieved from Renewable Energy: http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/rea/news/article/2010/03/china-policy

Sun, J. W. (2012). Experiencing Nation Brands: A comparative analysis of eight national pavillions at Expo Shanghai 2010. Los Angeles CA: Figueroa Press.

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