Essay

China’s Soft Power Divergence

Why Beijing’s global propaganda drive is strugglingMartin Gelin

Standing in New York’s Times Square in June, I gazed up at the iconic neon-lit skyscrapers and counted four gigantic advertisements for Chinese companies and media firms. At one prime spot, an electronic billboard glowed with the name of China’s state news agency, Xinhua. According to recent estimates by Quartz, advertising on these billboards costs at least $2.5 million a month, so it is likely that the Chinese government is paying around $30 million annually just to have the Xinhua logo shining brightly over the people of Manhattan, 365 days a year.

It is unclear exactly what the Chinese government hopes to achieve with this splurge. But one thing is for sure: Times Square billboards are just a tiny fraction of the full efforts of Beijing’s spending on global promotional efforts.