Wandering China

An East/West pulse of China's fourth rise from down under.

Bill for China Ads in U.S. Election: $54.3 Million [Wall Street Journal]

Is is there room for concern behind the fact?

More than $50m were spent on the us-and-them construction of China’s national image by political parties during the US leadership transition. $54.3m is on an average, just slightly less than what a Hollywood flick might cost in 2005.

Political communication through the traditional media models continue to be interesting to observe. What was once internal top-down propaganda continues to be top-down, though this time it also takes on a role of globalised public diplomacy through the medium of advertising.

The place that saw the most China ads? Cleveland, Ohio, where TV watchers were deluged with 4,722 China trade ads, which cost the campaigns $4.6 million.

– – –

Bill for China Ads in U.S. Election: $54.3 Million
Chinal Real-Time Report
Source – Wall Street Journal, published November 14, 2012

An Obama-campaign advertisement that said Mitt Romney has never stood up to China. Source – WSJ Online, 2012

China was at the center of the U.S. presidential debates and other contentious election fights. Now we know that the campaigns put their money where their mouths were.

According to Kantar Media’s Campaign Media Analysis Group, the two presidential campaigns spent a combined $45.7 million on television advertising that discussed China and trade. Additionally, candidates in four Senate elections tracked by the group – Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Indiana — spent another $8.6 million in China trade spots.

“In previous elections, China has sometimes been used in a national security context,” wrote Elizabeth Wilner, an analyst at CMAG, a political ad tracking firm in Washington D.C. “In 2012, it was used in an economic one.” The CMAG report didn’t analyze the content of all the ads, though the ones it did mention were negative.

The CMAG analysis was done for the Alliance for American Manufacturing, a collaboration of the United Steelworkers and steel makers, which has long taken a tough stance on China trade – and has regularly been disappointed post-election that U.S. policy towards China remains one of compromise, not confrontation.

According to CMAG, the spending on China ads was small compared to ads focusing on jobs, which accounted for $588.5 million in presidential television advertising. But still, the cash devoted to China advertising was hardly chump change.

In the past, complaints about China have come mainly from Democrats. In the 2008 campaign, for instance, then-candidate Barack Obama favored designating China as a currency manipulator – and then didn’t – while his Republican opponent, John McCain took a free-trade line.

This time, it was Republican Mitt Romney who pledged to name China a currency manipulator and Mr. Obama, the Democrat, was on the defensive. Translated into TV ad buys, Mr. Romney outspent Mr. Obama 3 to 1 on China ads ($33.8 million vs $11.9 million), accusing the president “of not being tough enough on China trade and currency,” said Ms. Wilner. The president’s campaign responded with an ad accusing the Republican nominee of sending jobs to China via his old job at Bain Capital.

In the four Senate races tracked, Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio spent $3.7 million on China ads, while his opponent, state Treasurer Josh Mandel, didn’t run such ads, according to CMAG. In Pennsylvania, the Republican candidate Tom Smith, a former coal-mining magnate, outspent Democratic Sen. Bob Casey by a 2-to-1 margin ($1.4 million vs. $700,000) on China ads. In Wisconsin, it was the reverse. Democratic Rep. Tammy Baldwin outspent Republican former Gov. Tommy Thompson by 5-to-1 ($1.6 million vs. $300,000) on China ads. And in Indiana, Democratic Rep. Joe Donnelly spent $1 million on China ads, while his opponent, Tea Party favorite Richard Mourdock didn’t run China trade ads, according to CMAG.

“China has become a pivotal issue,” said the manufacturing alliance’s executive director, Scott Paul, in a press statement.

But it’s far from clear that China has becoming a winning issue. In the presidential race, Mr. Obama won despite being outspent on China ads. In the four Senate races, the candidates who spent the most money on China ads won three races (Ohio, Indiana Wisconsin) and lost one (Pennsylvania).

The place that saw the most China ads? Cleveland, Ohio, where TV watchers were deluged with 4,722 China trade ads, which cost the campaigns $4.6 million.

– Bob Davis


Filed under: Beijing Consensus, Charm Offensive, Chinese Model, Communications, Culture, Domestic Growth, Economics, Finance, Government & Policy, Influence, International Relations, Media, Nationalism, Peaceful Development, Politics, Public Diplomacy, Strategy, The Chinese Identity, The construction of Chinese and Non-Chinese identities, U.S., , , , , , , , , , ,

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