Playing High-Stakes Media Games in China

As the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing approach, "the Chinese government knows cameras and notebooks are just as likely to record angry farmers protesting, practitioners of the banned Falun Gong discipline clashing with police, or Hollywood stars campaigning for Tibet's independence -- if reporters have the access." While China has 31 journalists in jail -- more than any other country -- the government has "pledged to temporarily relax limits on foreign journalists" reporting on the Olympics. (China has declined to extend the new freedoms to domestic journalists.) For a gentler approach to media control, the Beijing Olympics Organizing Committee has put the PR firm Hill & Knowlton on retainer, while "Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide has been conducting training sessions for local governments." "I think it is a part of the process of reform for them," said the president of Ogilvy's China office. Sun Weide, the Beijing Olympics Committee's "message man" who "works extensively with Hill & Knowlton," stressed, "The Olympic charter says very clearly that the Games are about sports, not politics."