Tom Doctoroff
Tom Doctoroff

Many might look at Xi Jinping´s American visit as an opportunity on an international level, but China´s leader is even more closely watching his domestic audience, so we might see few surprises, says China veteran Tom Doctoroff in the Los Angeles Times.

The Los Angeles Times:

“For Xi, in terms of protocol, this trip is more targeted toward the domestic audience, and so I expect protocol to be very rigorously traditional,” said Tom Doctoroff, author of “What Chinese Want” and Asia chief executive of the J. Walter Thompson advertising agency.

“I do think Xi has inner cool, and if he were able to go a little off-script, there’s an opportunity to bond with the American people. … But I think he’s going to miss the opportunity. He’s so concerned with power projection back home that he’s going to miss the chance to relax and meet the American people.”…

Westerners and Chinese also often have a disconnect when it comes to ceremonial style. To a Western eye, Chinese-style signing ceremonies and other events seem “extremely formalized, very soulless, very scripted,” Doctoroff said.

“There is not a naturalness, a spontaneity that we [Westerners] naturally associate with self-possessed and evolved individuals,” he said. “Instead, they are seen as fake. And they are, if you take a look from the angle of originality or creativity.”

Westerners who eye-roll at such formalities or regard them as wastes of time do so at their own peril, Doctoroff said. For the Chinese, he explained, the rituals are rooted in Confucian traditions that encourage people to project their status — within a framework that is ritualized and not individualistic.

“Moments that enable you to conform to the received wisdom of protocol, but also leverage that convention to project your own status, are treasured” in China, he said. These high-protocol moments, he added, provide “a fundamental ritual of mutual ‘face’ exchange.”

More in the Los Angeles Times.

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