Pop quiz: when does an eight-month-old story generate a huge amount of interest? When it’s got political overtones, of course. And what better way to milk the last dregs of bailout resentment than by telling a story that seems too bizarre to be true: Cadillac is a “proud” chief sponsor of a Chinese Communist Party-produced film entitled “The Birth of a Party” (or “The Great Achievement of Founding the Party” depending on the quality of your translator). The story started last September, at ChinaAutoWeb.com, and was recently revivified by the Washington Times, Commentary Magazine, and Big Hollywood. Our main interest in the story has to do with its lessons about the rise of China, that country’s tortured relationship with luxury goods, its foreign (from the American perspective) political economy and Cadillac’s continued need for better momentum in China… but clearly others are more interested in it for different reasons.
The political point seems to be that government money is being funneled to the Chinese Communist Party via General Motors, an accusation that, though shocking, doesn’t hold up well to scrutiny. After all, nearly anyone doing business of any kind in China ultimately supports the political and economic structure created by the Chinese Communist Party, legitimizing it and lining its pockets. And surely nobody is suggesting GM abandon China altogether, thus eliminating its greatest opportunity for growth. Meanwhile, as the Freep helpfully points out, Caddy needs all the help it can get in China: without a single vehicle in the luxury car top-ten, Cadillac needs to be aggressive in marketing to China. Still, from a PR perspective, Cadillac clearly has a line to walk here… perhaps it should look for less visible (and risible) ways of building up guanxi (connections) with the powers that be in the world’s largest market for cars.