Thursday, December 1, 2011

Competing Ads, Washington Style

DC, as I've noted numerous times in the past, is a rather idiosyncratic little town.

That particular truth was reinforced to me this last week in a couple of advertising circulars that came inserted into our Washington Post.

Yeah, we got the half-ton of Getmas sale catalogs, reminding us to be about our Sweet Lord Mammon's bidness.   Most of the ads are in flagrant competition with one another.   Best Buy or H.H. Gregg? Giant or Safeway?   Each trumpets its superiority over the other.

But y'all get those no matter where you are.  In Dee See, we do things differently.

What was different this week was a great big ol' advertising section...formatted like a newspaper...from the China Daily, the official English language mouthpiece of the Politburo Standing Committee of the Communist Party of China.   It trumpeted, in language produced by Chinese Communist writers and then massaged out of Chinglish by well paid expatriate editorial staff, the vital importance of China to the business community.

Without China, the global economy would suffer!  China, the key to recovery and prosperity!

There's a reason for this appearing.   In the midst of our being distracted by all manner of silly things in this silly political season, America is semi-quietly pre-positioning itself in the Pacific Theatre.  We're putting bases in Australia, for the first time ever.  We're making overtures to Burma, whose military dictatorship is suddenly compliant.  Why?  Because as China grows in strength and flexes its muscles, its neighbors are getting skittish.  Suddenly, being allied with the predominant military power in the world seems, well, prudent.

And so we get a "look how nice and important and business-friendly we are" insert from the world's dominant Communist nation.  Right there in the Washington Post, where lawmakers and lobbyists can read it.

The next day, the insert was from the competition.

It was an equally glossy, equally pretending-to-be-news advertising insert.  This one was produced, apparently, by a coalition of military-industrial corporations.   It pitched the necessity of maintaining naval power at current levels, and of simultaneously investing in new drone technology for seaborne operations.  We can't cut our force-projection capacity in these uncertain times!  There were big patriotic shots of F-18 Hornets flying in tight formation over aircraft carriers, advertising the wares of Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Boeing, and several major naval shipyards.

The threat?  The reason for maintaining dominance?  To insure that we remain ahead of a resurgent China.

I'm going to guess that if you're not a DC Denizen, you didn't get these competing ads.

Mine is an odd little town.