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China’s Strategy on Its Cultural Industry

“Establishing a Socialist Culture with Chinese Characteristics” is a new subject in the Hu-Wen era (the period of President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao’s governance). Foreign countries believe that the “cultural industries” promoted by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) are also part of its so-called “soft power.” Below are some excerpts from articles on this subject that were published in the CCP’s media.

Hu Jintao Emphasized Adherence to the Direction of Advanced Culture and Greatly Developing Cultural Undertakings and Cultural Industries [1]

Xinhua, Beijing, August 12: General Secretary of the CCP Hu Jintao led the seventh group study session of the Political Bureau of the CCP Central Committee on August 12. He emphasized that vigorously developing the socialist culture and the socialist spiritual civilization are the inevitable requirements for implementing the important thoughts of the “Three Represents,” the inevitable request for fully building a Xiaokang (moderately prosperous) society, and the inevitable request for the coordinated development of society, of the economy, and of the all-around development of human beings. We must, from the height of developing an all-around Xiaokang society and enabling the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation, deeply understand the strategic meaning of strengthening cultural development, and conscientiously advancing the development of socialist culture, while advancing the development of Socialist Material Civilization and Political Civilization.

[Hu Jintao] pointed out that entering the new era of the new century, facing the enormous tasks of revolution, development, and maintaining stability, and facing the interactive exchanges with different thoughts and cultures worldwide, we must do a better job in uniting the forces and minds of the people of all races in the nation, and having all people united and striving for the grand goal of fully building a Xiaokang (moderate prosperity) society. It is inevitable that we vigorously strengthen the development of socialist culture with Chinese characteristics, and continuously provide the powerful ideological guaranty, spiritual motivation, and intelligent support for revolution, opening up, and modernized development.

Hu Jintao emphasized that to construct the socialist culture with Chinese characteristics, we must firmly control the direction of advanced culture. Most fundamentally, we should stick to the guiding role of Marxism-Leninism, Mao Zedong Thought and Deng Xiaoping Theory in the field of ideology, and make the important thought of the “Three Represents" the commanding principle in socialist cultural undertakings. Developing cultural undertakings and cultural industries is an important component of developing socialist culture. When developing any cultural undertaking or cultural industry, we should stick to the correct orientation, put the social benefit as the top priority, unite the social benefits and economic benefits, promote science and truth, spread advanced culture, develop a good spirit, promote a healthy social atmosphere, and advocate the scientific spirit. We should stick to the emancipation of thought, the practical and realistic approaches, keep up with the times, follow the requirements of developing cultural undertakings and cultural industries according to the new era of the characteristics and rule of the development of socialist culture, continuously push forward the culture system and mechanism innovation, support and protect cultural welfare undertakings, and improve cultural industries’ overall strength and compatibility.
Hu Jintao pointed out that in today’s world, the material foundation, social environment, and spreading conditions that the development of culture relies on have gone through deep changes. We should research deeply the new situations and new issues that our country’s cultural development is going to face in the new progression and be better at developing the socialist culture with Chinese characteristics in an increasingly open environment. We need to carry on the spirit of keeping up with the times, stick to the principles of making the past serve the present, weed through the old to bring forth the new, carry on Chinese culture’s good tradition greatly, promote the grand Chinese spirit greatly, and use the splendid Chinese culture as a spiritual force to encourage all races in China to advance further. At the same time, we must stick to our nation’s condition, persist in focusing on ourselves, and making things useful for ourselves, picking and choosing dialectically, choosing the good to follow, and actively absorbing the beneficial results of the development of foreign cultures to better improve our nations’ cultural development and prosperity. Any beneficial experience that can help strengthen the development of our nation’s socialist culture, any cultural achievement that can help enhance our people’s spiritual level, and any management system that can help develop our nation’s socialist cultural undertakings and cultural industries should be actively studied and learned from. We should always upload the flag of socialist culture, never copy other country’s cultural concepts, never simply mimic other country’s development model, and resolutely prevent the erosion of the cadres and people’s minds by decadent or corrupt cultural thoughts to ensure our nation’s cultural safety and social stability.

Hu Jintao called on the party organizations at all levels to strengthen and improve their leadership over cultural undertakings, to fully promote all cultural workers’ activity and creativity, to support and encourage them to connect with the millions of people’s great practice of all-around development of Xiaokang (moderate prosperity) society, to create more up-to-date cultural achievements with Chinese characteristics, Chinese style, and the impressive Chinese manner that meet the people’s requirements, to better serve the people, serve socialism, and serve the overall work of the Party and the nation.”

People’s Forum, People’s Daily Online, May 9, 2008, The Past and Current Situation of The Development of Cultural Industries in The New Era [2]

The three stages in the development of cultural industries in the new era

Cultural industries mainly grew and developed after the new era started. Looking back at the great historic process of the 30 years of reforming and opening-up in our country, we can see that cultural industries in our country during the new era generally experienced three stages of development.

The first stage, 1978-1988. The cultural market appeared and was gradually recognized; cultural industries were established and developed slowly under hard conditions.

The second stage, 1989-1998. When it was still very difficult for business, cultural industries surfaced and gained recognition in society. Overall, regarding the relationship between culture and the economy, it is “the culture establishing the stage and economics and trade performing.” Culture was subordinate to economic development.

The third stage, 1999-2007, cultural industries had significant developments.

In 2000, the central government used the concept “cultural industry” in official documents for the first time in Suggestions of the CCCPC on Formulating the Tenth Five-Year Plan for Economic and Social Development, which was passed in the 15th session of the Fifth Plenary Session. The document raised demands for perfecting the policies for cultural industries, strengthening the establishment and management of the cultural market, and promoting the development of cultural industries. It marks our country’s recognition of cultural industries and their status, and has important meanings.

In 2001, developing cultural industries was listed in the National “Tenth Five-Year” Program; since then, cultural industries have become an important part of the strategy of our country’s economic and social development.

In 2002, the Party’s 16th National Congress report discussed cultural establishments in a special chapter, pointing out that the country should actively develop cultural undertakings and industries, perfect cultural policies, and support the development of cultural industries.

In 2004, the 16th session of the Fourth Plenary Session passed The Decision of the CCCPC about Intensifying the Development of the Party’s Ruling Ability, which pointed out the demands of the era for establishing Chinese culture and developing cultural industries.

The Party’s Suggestions on Formulating the Eleventh Five-Year Plan for Economic and Social Development, the 16th session of the Fifth Plenary Session in 2005, and the outline of the National “Eleventh Five-Year” Program development plan that was passed in 2006 all have contents about developing cultural industries. In 2007, the Party’s 17th National Congress report also mentioned fully developing cultural industries many times so that they can contribute to pushing the Socialist culture to develop and prosper greatly.”

China News Service, April 24, 2009, The Ministry of Culture and the Bank of China Signed a Strategic Agreement on Supporting the Development of Cultural Industries [3]

China News Service, April 24 (Journalist: Ying Ni): The agreement signing ceremony between the Ministry of Culture and the Bank of China and between the Bank of China and China Arts and Entertainment Group was held on the 24th at the Bank of China’s head office. This is a new attempt at cooperation between China’s financial and culture industries.

The Minister of Culture, Cai Wu, pointed out that the Agreement of Strategic Cooperation in Supporting the Development of Cultural Industries, signed by the Ministry of Culture and the Bank of China, is an important measure that makes full use of the counter-cyclical characteristics of the development of cultural industries under the background of the continued spread of the international financial crisis and the significant deceleration of the world’s economic growth. It is based on the reality of the development of our country’s culture industries, resolves the bottleneck of the financing of cultural industries and cultural projects with the investment advantages from financial institutions, and focuses on creating and nurturing a group of strong cultural industries and cultural projects that are relatively competitive and influential. It is an important initiative that implements the State Council’s response to the international financial crisis by guaranteeing economic growth, expanding domestic demand, adjusting the structure, improving people’s livelihoods and arranging work, as well as a practical action that the Ministry of Cultural takes to comprehensively implement the scientific concept of development, transform the functions of the government, and enhance the service function.

The Ministry of Culture and the Bank of China will follow the principles of “long-term cooperation, mutual support, and seeking common development” and establish a comprehensive and long-term relationship of strategic cooperation. The Ministry of Culture will employ the government’s role in administering cultural affairs, strengthen the management and guidance of our country’s important culture enterprises and culture programs, and actively recommend to the Bank of China the cultural enterprises and programs that need support by arranging the organization’s applications and expert reviews.

In addition, in order to implement the specific measures for supporting the development of the cultural industries, the Bank of China and China Arts and Entertainment Group also signed an Agreement of Strategic Cooperation. The signing of this agreement marked the beginning of large state-owned financial institutions helping large domestic cultural enterprises and main cultural programs. The establishment of the strategic cooperation would provide strong financial support for China’s foreign cultural corporation’s independence and innovation, help them raise their core competitiveness, and accelerate the pace of development. Regarding the improvement of the state of foreign cultural industries throughout China, continuously expanding the share of Chinese cultural products and services in the international market, upgrading the country’s cultural soft power, and strengthening the international influence of Chinese culture will make a positive contribution.

Xinhua, June 7, 2009, Cultural Industries repeat the “Counter-Cyclical” History during the Financial Crisis [4]

Culture Minister Cai Wu especially emphasized that this Agreement of Strategic Cooperation in Supporting the Development of Cultural Industries was signed with the background of the on-going spread of the international financial crisis and the obvious deceleration in the growth of the world economy.

Cai Wu stated that the purpose of the two sides’ establishment of a comprehensive, long-term strategic partnership this time is to, while making full use of the “counter-cyclical” development characteristics of culture industries, resolve their financial bottleneck, and foster a group of culture enterprises and cultural programs that are strongly capable, competitive, and influential.

The phenomenon of Korea supporting its cultural industries in adversity during the Asian financial crisis, and operating cultural industries “counter-cyclically” since 10 years ago may be “replicated” in China.
Operating “counter-cyclically” was also a focus of experts and scholars’ discussions in the Fifth Cultural Development Strategy Forum, one of the main forums in the International Cultural Industries Fair hosted in Shenzhen last month.

A well-known Chinese researcher pointed out during the forum that cultural industries are highly technical, cause little pollution, and consume little energy. Therefore, they are suitable for the need of restructuring and changing the development style of national industries, boosting domestic demand in a series of initiatives, and continually releasing people’s consumption capacity.

As for the concept of ‘counter-cycle,’ the explanation by Tsinghua University professor Xiong Chengyu is relatively representative: when the economy enters a new downward cycle, cultural development and economic development are not completely consistent. They are often not synchronized in time, and are sometimes even opposite.

“The more difficulties economic development meets, the more the people need culture to boost the spirit and soothe the soul; the less the people consume material goods, the more likely popular cultural products or services are to become a new consumption hotspot,” said Wang Xiang, a Beijing entrepreneur who just opened a small private theater.

The implementation of “counter-cyclical” cultural operations is not from the speculation of Beijing’s senior culture department officials or academic circles. They are excited and confident about cultural industries’ outstanding performance during the financial crisis.

“Apart from the overseas performances of the ballet Kung Fu Shaolin being popular, the acrobatic show China Wind has performed in nearly 70 major cities in the U.S. and in Canada for over three months since mid-January,” said Zhang Yu, General Manager of China Arts and Entertainment Group.

The U.S.’s biggest artist management agency, Columbia Artists Management, values China Wind a lot, and pre-signed a commercial performance contract for the project’s next round of North America markets.

When Zhang Yu went to European countries like the UK with the business sector at the beginning of this year, he said confidently that his company had signed dozens of overseas performance contracts, and many had begun implementing the contracts. Zhang Yu is even more pleased by the fact that the Bank of China has also signed an Agreement of Strategic Cooperation with them.

China Heaven Creation, which specializes in the production of large-scale performance projects in Beijing, has also approached Las Vegas in the U.S. to discuss matters about performances. China Haven Creation’s deputy general manager Zhang Donghui, among others, has gone to the US four times to investigate, and plans to go to the U.S. to purchase or buy shares of theatres.

Zhang Donghui believes that under the financial crisis, he could pay the same price as before for better services in foreign markets.

[1] Xinhua, August 13, 2003
[2] People’s Daily Online, May 9, 2008
[3] China News Service, April 24, 2009
[4] Xinhua, June 7, 2009