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Why do lobbyists have so much power? What do they do exactly?

Updated on September 3, 2008

What is a lobbyist?

The term " lobbyists" is uniquely American. It was adopted in America in 19th century when individuals stayed in the lobby of the legislature and asked elected officials to come over and talk to them. So there was the term " lobbyists" , because they stay in the lobby. Those people seek to influence elected officials, legislators in America for 200 years. The profession does not exist anywhere in the world. The closest thing that comes to lobbyists is in the Parliament in London. There are people in the Parliament specializing in talking to members of Parliament.

Sometimes in America we call the lobbyist public affairs, government relations or other names. This term is much broader and not so infamous to some people. Public relations deal with the media, advertising, radio and television, magazines, newspapers, press releases, press conferences and relations with journalists. Public relations does not have to be just in the Congress of America. They can also be for product promotion, or for economic benefit of a corporation, or for selling a new product. So public relations stand a very broad category.

Most famous lobbist in the Warring State Period

Lobbist Su Qin
Lobbist Su Qin
Lobbist Zhang Yi with a Duke
Lobbist Zhang Yi with a Duke

Lobbist in Chinese history may help understanding the power of lobbist

The School of Uniting and Breaking-up

Lobbyist may be regarded as a unique profession in modern society, but if we dig deep enough in history, the way that history repeating itself will surprise you.

More than 2500 years ago in the Warring State Period in China, there was a School of Uniting and Breaking-up (He zong & Lian heng)? The literal translation of He zong & Lian heng is uniting horizontally and uniting vertically. Ancient Chinese people regarded North and South as vertical whereas East and West as horizontal. The strategy of uniting and breaking up was a foreign relations strategy developed by Su Qin and Zhang Yi during the Warring States period. Su Qin and Zhang Yi were the representative figures of this strategy who maybe regarded as lobbyists in modern term.

Su Qin initially went to the State of Qin to lobby the Duke of Qin. His advice was not accepted. Upon returning home, he studied very hard for several years. Legends has it that Whenever he was sleepy, he used an awl to sting his legs to keep himself awake. The legend of "awl stinging legs" came from Su Qin. After several years of hard work, he further studied the situation in China. A new strategy emerged in his mind. He was confident that he could successfully lobby Dukes in China. His strategy was uniting (He zong). He lobbied six states, Yan, Zhao, Han, Wei, Qi, and Chu, to form an alliance to resist Qin. He became the chief of the alliance. This strategy held Qin soldiers inside of the alliance's boundary for 15 years.

When Zhang Yi and Su Qin were young, they were classmates under the same teacher, Guiguzi (literally means ghost valley scholar). Once Su Qin died in the State of Qi, Zhang Yi started lobbying for the strategy of "breaking up." He lobbied the six states to abandon the alliance, but become dependent on the State of Qin. This "breaking up" strategy gave people some time to take a break from the civil war.

The School of Uniting and Breaking Up is equivalent to today's foreign relations strategy. All the Dukes of the Warring State are influenced by the lobbyists in making foreign policies. Some dukes paid for more than two hundred of lobbyists and send them out to other states whenever they needed.

Lobbyists paid by Taiwan or Mainland China

If you talk with Chinese people, they may tell you that they are peace loving both in history and by tradition, but a few American Congressmen fabricated the so-called China Threat. They can not understand how could American get their views through to the American public?

Actually, American Congressmen are influenced in several ways which include influences by lawyers, lobbyists and public relations officials who seek to have them take their positions opposed to the People's Republic of China or vise versa. In the case of Taiwan Strait Crisis, those lobbyists either aided by Taiwan or by mainland China are the main influences.

Taiwan island is known for its "intricate network of supporters that has made Taiwan one of the most effective lobbies in Washington." Taipei government has long term co-operation with Taiwanese-American organizations, particularly the Formosan Association for Public Affairs which "has lobbied hard in the U.S. Congress." Since President Clinton's June 1998 visit to China, Taiwan has made considerable gain at securing additional congressional support.

Mainland China, however, has beefed up its lobbying efforts in the US. Moreover, Beijing has always enjoyed the invaluable support of some former high-ranking US officials, including former Secretaries of State, Henry Kissinger, Alexander Haig and Lawrence Eagelburger, acting as Beijing's unofficial lobbyists.

Ironically, China has done much on its own to contribute to the deterioration of its relations with the US and thus unwittingly aided Taiwan. China's continuing violation of human rights, including the arrest and trial of leaders of China Democratic Party, banning of the apolitical, spiritual Falungong movement, trade disputes with the US, and so on. So lobbyist's influences are not always positive, It is said that one country seek to hire many many lobbyists. The lobbyists they hired became a media issue and also the fact that they hired lobbyists became an issue with the Congress. The Congress became very very upset.


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    • shareitt profile image


      8 years ago

      So based on your facts that a lobbist is used especially during war time, our world, as such is in a constant state of "war"...should we ever not need lobbyist? thanks for your great hub :)

    • glassvisage profile image


      10 years ago from Northern California

      I like how you tied it into Chinese history! Thanks!

    • livelonger profile image

      Jason Menayan 

      10 years ago from San Francisco

      Interesting historical perspective - thanks!


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