China: Molding the face of Chinese manufacturing

What is being called a “Chinese manufacturing image advertisement,” as well as China’s first global ad campaign, aired Nov. 23 on CNN Asia.  The ad seeks to promote the global reputation of products manufactured in China after years of scrutiny regarding safety and quality.

The advertisement, produced by DDB, one of the world’s largest advertising companies with a clientele including McDonald’s and Volkswagen, was funded by the China’s Ministry of Commerce along with 4 subordinate organizations including the China Advertising Association.

In an interview with the CBN on Nov. 30, a Ministry of Commerce official revealed that the ministry was indeed behind the creation of the campaign.

The ad, 30 seconds in length, features western actors and actresses utilizing a variety of products tagged “Made in China” but with the design or technology from various western countries.  A voiceover in American English states at the end of the ad: “When it says made in china, it really means: made in China, made with the world”

The final frames of the advertisement read “made in China” only to replace the ‘in’ with ‘with’, reading “Made with China”.  The original slogan in Chinese—not featured in the ad—was “Made in China, the World’s Cooperation”.

Chinese journalist Song Lei describes the advertisement in an article at


This pictorially exquisite advertisement is brimming with vitality and modernity.  From the ad’s close-up images we see a morning jogger wearing a pair of tennis shoes tagged ‘made in China’ but ‘with American sports technology’.  An inscription on a household refrigerator reads ‘made in China’ but ‘with European style’.  An MP3 player reads ‘made in China’ but ‘with software from Silicon Valley’.  The clothes worn by a model read ‘made in China’ but ‘with French designers’.  The airplane that appears at the end, more than anything, embodies the concept of ‘world cooperation’.

Song goes on to analyze the advertisement:


We see that the information this advertisement is trying to convey is that after 30 years of hard work, Chinese products are currently going hand in hand with the commerce and culture of all countries to improve the global quality of living.  And against the depressing backdrop of the global economy, this advertisement demonstrates even more the confidence our country has in Chinese manufacturing.

The Los Angeles Times’ David Pierson reported that critics of the advertisement said China should focus more on improving the quality of their products:

Some critics say China's ad campaign is misdirected and that the Ministry of Commerce and the trade groups would do better to focus their efforts on improving manufacturing practices in China rather than spending time trying to sway opinion overseas.

In the Chinese blog “Greeness” a blogger states that the ad campaign is an effective way to combat the recent wave of economic protectionism and cultivate China’s newfound soft power:


This is the first time China has propagated the country’s image via advertisement.  Analysts believe while the clouds of the financial crisis have yet to clear, and with economic protectionism rearing its head, making an aggressive attack and demonstrating the country’s image is a good attempt at promoting China’s soft power.

Journalist Shi Jingtao sees the advertisement as a natural progression of China’s soft power.  Shi gives his opinion of the ad campaign in a China Youth Daily article:


For years China has gotten used to rectifying its shortcomings with certain superiorities while playing a low key strategy.  Seldom has China made such a bold attack and aggressively carried out an international image ad of this nature.  The author believes this is neither an accident nor a performance, but an inevitable result under the context of the era.

While opinions of the advertisement vary among Chinese blogs, some blogger are critical of the “extroverted” method of image molding and believe the reputation of Chinese manufacturing can be solved domestically.

Corporate blogger Lou Xiangpeng writes that the most important thing for Chinese manufacturing is the healthy cultivation of Chinese brand products:


China is the world’s migrant worker.  Chinese manufacturing has replaced Chinese brands.  Whether or not the status and image of Chinese manufacturing can be raised fundamentally depends on the status and image of Chinese brands.  Chinese manufacturing must upgrade Chinese brands, or else dressing this migrant worker in a western suit won’t even help its image.

Lou sees China as having little control of export-oriented manufacturing.  He says international corporations contract to the lowest bidder yet place the blame on China when products are defective, thus contributing to China's bad reputation.


Chinese Manufacturing is in essence contract manufacturing…The products are not Chinese; we have no say on the final price.  The main problem with Chinese manufacturing isn’t caused by Chinese manufactures, yet China, who works for a coolie’s wage, takes the groundless blame.  These countries that blame Chinese manufacturing, their corporations scour the globe looking for cheap production sites like China so they can lower their capital and maximize profits.

Chinese blogger Nuoteam writes that image alone will not save the Chinese manufacturing industry.


To give appropriate status to Chinese Manufacturing, image design alone is still only a superficial endeavor…Molding the Chinese image and declaring the charm of Chinese manufacturing abroad is admittedly one way to go.  But in another sense, isn’t being committed to doing well domestically also the molding of our image?

Many articles on this ad campaign report that the Ministry of Commerce has purchased a six week advertisement spot on the CNN Web site, although this has yet to be confirmed.

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