By: Eryn Bateson
In many ways, China has one of the fastest growing markets in the world. With a large consumer population, and thriving economy, it was only a matter of time before China was in need of public relations professionals. China learned about public relations from western society and adapted it to suit their culture. The Public Relations profession in China has only just emerged in the last twenty years; however, it is growing quickly, and it now appears that there are many things that the rest of the world could learn from China.
What I find interesting, is how quickly public relations practices in China have evolved. The public relations industry in China has maintained an annual growth rate of more than 30 percent over the past two years, according to The People’s Republic of China. In the past twenty years, China not only adopted the profession, but they have also adapted it to suit their unique culture. It is easy to make the mistake of viewing China as a single market, when in reality the country has 31 provinces and autonomous regions, each with its own economic characteristics, development levels, and culture. Therefore, the focus and approach of public relations activities need to be adapted to suit local interests.
There are many challenges for public relations in China, which serve to teach the rest of the world about ethical practices within this profession. In China, the government and media interact with public relations differently than they would in the west. For example, the government in China has many restrictions on the media. It passes what can and can not be shown to the general public. The internet also has many restrictions as to what can be viewed or shown to the general public. This causes some unique challenges when trying to communicate. It is also surprising that public relations professionals commonly give gifts to clients and media contacts. They also pay a “transportation fee” to reporters for coming to cover their story. The question is: “Is this an unethical practice?” Many countries would say this practice is unethical. However, China would view this as a common form of etiquette. The practice is still under debate in China and in many other countries as well.
Aside from the challenges, some of the public relations practices in China exceed the western standards. One man, who arrived for a conference on business, was greeted at the airport by public relations consultants with a great deal of fanfare. There were banners and a welcoming party; not to mention the huge dinner that was arranged for him, complete with dancers and contortionists.
In many respects, there is a lot that the western world could learn from China about its public relations practices. It would not only be beneficial for China to have western supporters, but I am sure that there is a lot that western Public Relations professionals could learn from China as well. For more information please take a look at these websites: