China govt creates iPad app for 'better image'

Designed to improve international image, country's official app for Apple's slate device includes content such as press conference proceedings, whitepapers and national publicity films.

The Chinese government has released its first official iPad app, which includes video clips of press conferences and digital copies of whitepapers on national issues, in a bid to promote and soften its public image, according to local news reports.

The free app is available on both the App Store and its Chinese counterpart, Xinhua news agency reported Monday.

Called "China SCIO", the app provides information from the State Council Information Office (SCIO)--the press arm of the government--to deliver the "latest Chinese government political opinion from the state council while introducing Chinese development and policy to correspondents at home and abroad", according to its description on iTunes.

Besides videos, photos and transcripts of SCIO's press conferences and government-issued white papers in both English and Chinese languages, users can also watch two national publicity films that have English voiceovers, according to Xinhua.

In another report by People's Daily Online, an SCIO official said the app is meant "to increase the coverage and influence of the SCIO's press conferences and whitepapers, and to introduce China to the world in a better way" as well as enhance the country's international image. The app content will be constantly updated, the report stated.

China has from time to time clamped down on Web use, including blocking access to sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Last year, a senior European diplomat labeled China's Great Firewall a trade barrier.

The iPad app is not the first initiative by the government to soften its image. According to a People's Daily report in January this year, state officials and police use local microblogging sites to change its "stern" image, tapping the platform to issue crime alerts, hear public complaints and even deal with emergencies.

Since its launch on Apr. 11, the China SCIO has been among the top 15 popular free news app on the Chinese App Store, with more than 30 users awarding top rating for the app, Xinhua said.

The Wall Street Journal, however, noted on Wednesday that reviews of the app on the Chinese App Store were "mixed". Those in the main App Store were mostly "negative", it said, citing one user who commented: "How could a thing full of lies be put on the shelf?"

The world's most populous nation is increasingly pulling its weight in the global IT market. It overtook the United States in supercomputer ranking last November, and according to the World Economic Forum's latest Global Information Technology Report, leapfrogged 23 positions since 2006 to No. 36 in 2010 on the Network Readiness Index.


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