Boost cultural industries

Updated: 2011-10-19 07:55

(China Daily)

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A BROADER VIEW OF CULTURAL AFFAIRS HAS been highlighted by the nation's leadership after the economy has topped its agenda for more than three decades.

The Sixth Plenary Session of the 17th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, which concluded on Tuesday, came up with a new blueprint for the reform of the nation's cultural institutions and outlined a guideline to improve the nation's culture.

Culture is now treated as an economic sector subject to regulation through State policies and promotion through State entrepreneurship. The value added from the cultural sector reached 1,100 billion yuan ($173 billion) by the end of 2010, with an annual increase of 23.3 percent, which is faster than the growth rate of the country's GDP, and the government is approaching culture as a development resource.

In 2001 "cultural industries" were officially recognized among those economic sectors, in which State capital would be withdrawn and replaced by private investment.

At a Party conference in 2002, a distinction was made between public cultural institutions, in which the State was to maintain dominance, and commercial cultural enterprises, from which the State would gradually withdraw. The government has since stopped supporting 584 State-owned cultural institutions.

But as with many other aspects of China's reforms, the State finds itself trying to balance its preference for control of public goods with the benefits of market incentives to spur regional economic growth.

While the government budget for culture has increased over the past five years, private funds have also been permitted to enter cultural affairs and, according to the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television, 90 percent of the TV dramas China produces every year are made with private funds.

Local governments are increasingly interested in promoting local culture for development. They are hoping to rely on a growing commercial sector to develop these resources. This entrepreneurial approach to development can be characterized in terms of a public-private partnership in the development of cultural resources.

So cultural development has become a buzzword for local economic policy. The cultural industries have come to be regarded by local governments as a powerful resource for a host of objectives, from poverty alleviation to industrialization, from revenue generation to attracting external investment.

But while China is the world's largest TV drama and comics producer and the third biggest film producer making more than 500 movies in 2010 - these numbers don't necessarily mean power.

Creativity and strength in the country's art and culture are not powerful enough to compete with that of Western goods such as American blockbusters. So boosting indigenous creativity will also boost the country's cultural strength.

(China Daily 10/19/2011 page8)