We've Got Hollywood Covered

Might China Buy the Hollywood Sign Next?

Like the former Soviet Union, China thinks that it can fool the Western world with glass skyscrapers, space flights and now, glowing Times Square signs — is L.A. next?


Remember that old classic movie "The Manchurian Candidate," about brainwashing and mind control? Well, propaganda comes in all sizes, and China has just bought a piece of Times Square.

Next, might they want to tear down the iconic Hollywood sign iand put up their own hillside banner? It could happen.

As you know from media reports by now, Sinhua, the state-controlled propaganda agency of the Chinese Communist Party, has leased a long-term advertising logo space in Manhattan’s iconic Times Square, renting a huge LED sign called a “spectacular” in U.S. advertising parlance.

But Sinhua is not a brand. It is the mark of branded disinformation and propaganda, and Americans of all political stripes need to know that.

Like the former Soviet Union, China thinks that it can fool the Western world with glass skyscrapers, space flights and now, glowing Times Square signs. Do they have their eyes on Hollywood next? Beware.

I feel that West knows better — or does it?— and that Americans know that Sinhua is merely flexing its public-relations muscles as it tries to pull the wool over gullible eyes in America and Europe.

Sinhua is a news agency? Let’s be honest: It’s the propaganda arm of a one-party state in an undemocratic land ruled by fear, which uses trumped-up jail terms to keep dissidents in line. Sinhua is akin to the old Soviet propaganda machines of yesteryear. Remember TASS?

It’s one thing for Times Square to open its advertising space to private brands from across the globe, and surely Chinese brands like Haier and Levono are welcome to showcase their logos there. But a so-called “news agency” that prints blatant falsehoods and untruths about events inside China and in the West, and has the gall to call its workers “journalists”?

Whoever let Sinhua into Times Square ought to have his head examined. (Sorry about that, David.)

A New York real-estate firm which owns properties that include some on Times Square seems to think there’s nothing wrong with pocketing the hefty monthly rental fees from Sinhua. After all, America wants to be pals with Beijing, which holds much of our debt, and what better way to show it than to let the say ''ni hao''  (hello) in Times Square.

Why China’s soft public-relations push in Times Square? Well, for one thing, Sinhua has introduced a CNN-like 24-hour English-language broadcast service — China Network Corporation (CNC World), which seeks to reach millions of gullible viewers around the world — with state-sanctioned propaganda of the most nefarious and sophisticated kind.

Sinhua is also flexing its propaganda tentacles with an English-language wire service, hoping to compete with such veteran news agencies as the Associated Press and Reuters.

Does anybody not remember that official disseminator of government news releases in the former Soviet Union? Sinhua is just TASS in sheep’s clothing.

Wake up, America!

Behind the Times Square sign is China’s desire to counter what it insists is “widespread bias against China” in the Western media, from CNN to The New York Times.

But as the Times itself said recently about the new sign, Sinhua has some work to do. “Reports by Sinhua on topics like Taiwan and Tibet, which are of considerable political concern to its government bosses, are not necessarily known for being objective.”

Welcome to Times Square, Sinhua wolves in sheep’s clothing. Maybe you’ll learn something about freedom and democracy while you’re there. But please leave the Hollywood sign alone. For now, at least.


Dan Bloom is a freelance writer based in Asia since 1991. During a five-year stint in Tokyo, he covered the triumphs (and occasional failures) of Hollywood movies in Japan and interviewed American actors passing through Tokyo on film promotion tours, including Billy Crystal, Robin Williams and Kevin Costner.