China stamps its image on Times Square

interns Contributor
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BEIJING—When many Americans think of China, they think of a rising rival accused of manipulating its currency and siphoning U.S. jobs. China’s government wants them to think of sports stars, Internet entrepreneurs, and astronauts.

As President Hu Jintao begins his visit to the U.S. this week, China is blitzing America with a flashy television ad that mixes images of ordinary Chinese citizens with celebrities like NBA star Yao Ming, Web tycoon Jack Ma, and a quartet of fashion models. The minute-long video is scheduled to run on CNN and to be shown 300 times a day—once every four minutes during peak periods—on the giant display in New York’s Times Square from now until Feb. 14.

The ad is part of China’s broader push in recent years to use its culture and people to ease international fears about its rise. That use of “soft power”—as scholars describe it, in contrast to the hard power afforded by economic, geopolitical and military clout—will also be highlighted during Mr. Hu’s trip by his visit to a Chinese government-sponsored language-learning center at a Chicago high school—part of a vast global network of so-called Confucius Institutes designed to spread the use of Mandarin.

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