"Modern" or "western" public relations practice has only been used in China since 1981 according to most texts on the subject. In the late 1970ís China experienced political and economic changes that "paved the way for this western concept and profession 2. The concept of public relations in China after business ventures in a region north of Hong Kong revealed its value to companies. The western approach to public relations soon spread rapidly to other regions and is now growing faster than ever in the universities and public relations societies in China 1.
China historically held its own philosophy regarding public relations that dates back 2000 years. This philosophy is known as the "harmony" concept. "The establishment and maintenance of a harmonious relationship between the ruler and the subject on whom his success or failure depended." 2 Confucianism is the guiding regulatory philosophy in China, and it emphasizes respect for social order-"which requires all people to follow accepted rituals in relating to others and reduces conflicts created by the social estate system." As a Westerner it is sometimes difficult to understand how harmony is reached between ruler and subject in what we know about Chinaís leaders in relation to its citizens. While harmony between ruler and subject is still valued in China under the communist government, some wonder at what price this harmony is achieved and what a harmonious relationship to the government really means for the Chinese citizens.
The teaching of public relations started out informally in China during the 1980ís. The public relations practitioners in China at that time were mostly westerners who had been educated outside of China. "These people informally tutored their Chinese colleagues. A typical training session usually lasted about 40 days and offered instruction on subjects such as public relations principles, public relations practice, publicity writing, advertising, and interpersonal communication." 2 Some of the problems in teaching arose from cultural and social difference among those involved. Informal type sessions still exist for those wanting a crash-course in public relations, but the university systems in China have expanded to include much curriculum on the subject as well as 4-year and graduate degrees in public relations.
Critics of the Chinese governments public relations practices regarding its citizenry say there is a lack of 2-way symmetrical communication, one of the most valued concepts in western public relations.
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2. Ni Chen, "Public Relations Education in the People's Republic of China." Journalism Educator, Spring 1994, p. 14-22.
3. David Coffey, "Coverage of China's Three Gorges Dam in the Globe and Mail and New York Times. Master's Thesis, University of Florida.
4. Jim Malusa, "Valley of the Dammed." The Discovery Channel, (premiered) January 10, 1997
5. "Great Wall Across the Yangtze" PBS brodcast televsion http://www.pbs.org/greatwall
6. "Three Gorges Dam Project" http://www.chinaonline.com/refer/ministry_profiles/threegorgesdam.html
1. Photo of a Public Relations Text book by Clarke L. Caywood. Photo courtesy of Amazon.com
2. A graphic of the harmonious Yin and Yang from Microsoft Clipart
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