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Beijing’s Culture Industry’s Renaissance Strategy

On July 22, 2009, Beijing released a document on the “Culture Industry’s Renaissance Strategy.” The following is a summary of what some of China’s official media have been saying on this topic.

On May 14, 2008, published an article, “Review of the Development of the Cultural Industry in the New Era and Its Current Status,” written by Cheng Huizhe, a researcher at the Center for the Strategic Study of Cultural Development, under the Chinese Academy of Art. The author wrote, “The [Chinese] cultural industry has experienced three stages of development. The first stage was from 1978 to1988, when the culture market emerged, and was gradually recognized. The culture industry sprouted amid difficulties and progressed slowly. The second stage was from 1989 to 1998, when the culture industry received social approval while painstakingly making progress. The culture industry served a supporting role to economic development. ‘Culture work sets the stage; economic development is the star.’ From 1999 to 2007 was the third stage, when the culture industry made significant progress.” “During the third 10 years, the concept of the culture industry penetrated into people’s feelings. The culture business’s functionalities and economic attributes became widely recognized. No longer a stair or stage for economic development, culture has become the star of economic development. ‘Culture sets the stage, culture is the star.’ The culture economy and the culture industry itself are the purpose.” [1]

The article said, “In 2000, the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party‘s (CCCCP’s) Proposal of Formulating the Tenth Five-Year Plan for National Economic and Social Development passed in the Fifth Plenary Session of the 15th party Congress,  For the first time, the Central government’s official document formally adopted the concept of ‘cultural industry.’ The proposal required improving the cultural industry’s policies, strengthening the development and management of the culture market, promoting the expansion of the culture industry, and outlining the responsibilities and requirements for the culture industry’s development. It is of great significance in setting a landmark for China’s recognition of the culture industry.’ In 2001, the culture industry was included in the country’s Tenth Five-Year Plan. The culture industry has since become a significant part of China’s economic and social development strategy.

In 2002, the report of the party’s 16th Congress gave a whole chapter to the culture industry, calling for actively developing the culture industry, improving policy, and supporting its development. In 2004, the CCCCP’s Decision on Strengthening the Party’s Governance passed in the Fourth Plenary Session of the 16th party Congress. It put forth the requirements for the development of China’s culture industry in the new age. The development of the culture industry was also included in the party’s proposal for the Eleventh Five-Year Plan at the Fifth Plenary Session of the 16th party Congress in 2005, and the Outline of the Eleventh Five-Year Development Plan passed in 2006. In 2007, the report of the 17th party Congress again reiterated the need to vigorously advance the culture industry in order for it to make a significant contribution to the prosperity of the culture of Socialism. [1]

On the same day, another article published on Xinhua stated, “Traditional Chinese culture is the treasure house for developing the modern culture industry. The most pressing matter of the moment for implementing the decisions of the party’s 17th Congress and accelerating the development of the culture industry is, without doubt, to seize the opportunity and turn the advantages of our culture resources into advantages of the culture industry, to strive to create an attractive ‘China Dream.’” [2]

In April 10, 2008, Outlook Weekly magazine published an article, “Coping With the Tendency of ‘Soft Containment.’” It said, “In recent years, some Western mainstream media produced a large number of biased reports on Chinese products and its food safety issues, triggered by the ‘lead toys’ incident in the United States, and the ‘poisonous dumplings incident in Japan. In addition, Western media played up issues such as ‘Chinese spies,’ ‘China energy plundering,’ the Darfur issue, and the Beijing Olympic Games. China’s national image has been distorted.” “The massive reports of some Western media and social organizations that distorted China’s image have provided ample space for the ‘soft containment’ of China.” “It is obvious that the Western media are continuously manipulating public opinion to constrain China’s international environment for development.” “[Chinese] authorities are greatly concerned about such ‘soft containment.’ People in charge have pointed out that the purpose of ‘soft containment’ is to ‘damage your image, undermine your external environment, and slow down your development.’ They called for being vigilant and smashing the ‘soft containment’ of China.” [3]

The article also states, “As the Western media has an extensive communication network, and a wealth of information resources, it has enormous influence in setting the agenda. According to statistics, over 90% of the world’s information is disseminated from the U.S.-led Western countries; more than 70% is disseminated by multi-national media giants in those countries. Most developing countries can only serve as information transit points, relaying information from the Western Countries. It is true even in the Internet era. China’s national image has thus been distorted. According to the academic research, for longer than the past 10 years, Western, and especially the U.S. media’s main tone on China has not fundamentally changed.” “According to academic analysis, some features of the ‘soft containment’  include: putting pressure on the ideologies during so-called dialogue or communication, with the recognition of China’s rise and its role in international affairs; exerting influence on the world’s governments’ policies and forcing China to make concessions using pressure on ideological, economic, and social issues. The pressure on ideologies relies particularly on the media and public opinion.” [3]

The Outlook Weekly article quoted a number of views from Chinese officials and scholars:

The Vice Dean of the School of Journalism and Communication at Peking University, Professor Cheng Manli, said, “Many Western media have always understood and judged the world according to their inherent values and interests, based upon which they set the ‘agenda’ for reporting, while the general audience can hardly perceive the selection process. Most people interpret the outside world by following the agenda and information chosen by the mainstream media.” “By setting the agenda, the Western media determine which events are important, which are less important, and which are not important. A virtual environment is thus built. Although this environment is not real, it, however, does have a great impact on people’s minds, behavior, and decision-making.” “For the world to learn objectively and accurately about China, (China) must break through the agenda set by the Western media and give China a voice on a broader platform.” “Firstly, China needs to seize the initiative in the international media, guide public opinion, and turn around from the current position of being passively judged by others. To achieve this, we must have the support of national power and we must have the sense of proactively communicating our agenda.” “Secondly, we must rely on our own international media to reverse what Western media report. Under the current circumstances, China should adapt to the outside world on linguistic symbols and means of expression, and thereby have Western media relay China’s message.” “Thirdly, we ought to focus on issues and hot topics of the international community, participate in the world’s discussions, and eventually dominate the reports.” “Meanwhile, in order to reap the gradually accumulated effects, we need to systematically clean up and refine China’s image.” Cheng Manli finally pointed out, “Lastly, overseas Chinese are an important audience. Their recognition and identification with China’s national image will help increase the effectiveness of disseminating information in the international arena.” [3]

The director of the Journalism Institute of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Yi Yungong, said, “The Western media claim they pursue objective reporting, but when faced with the same facts, their reporting, including their angle of observation, tailoring of the facts, and editing of the details, are permeated with their values and bias.” [3]

Professor Yu Guoming at the School of Journalism and Communication of the Renmin University of China said, “From the perspective of news research, the Western media’s distorted coverage can be approximately divided into two categories: one category is due to ignorance, confusion, or lack of understanding; the other is deliberately distorting the facts. When it is to intentionally distort the facts, there must be some political purpose or even more, a profound national interest behind it.” [3]

Mr. Zhao Qizheng who once served as the director of the State Council Information Office said, “In the United States, only a few of the elite can influence U.S. policy: Members of Congress, the President, the chief editors of major newspapers, and top university professors. These people have an impact on U.S. policies, while other people don’t. In other words, the social elite in Western societies establish the public opinion agenda to control the international political and the economic agenda. Some scholars have even developed a term, ‘momentum making’ to describe the process: often times the so-called ‘social problems’ do not always have an objective and real existence, but are known to the public through the media’s selection, sorting, and dissemination. For the media who are ‘creating the momentum,’ it’s not important whether an issue is real or not. What is important is how to impose a particular social significance on it, introduce it to the public, draw wide attention and discussion to it, and arrive at a society-wide ‘consensus building’ through a ‘commonly defined process.’” [3]

Professor Jin Chanrong, Vice Dean of the School of International Relations at the Renmin University of China, said, “The reason Western countries can arbitrarily apply a double standard to China is that China’s soft power is still weak. He pointed out that soft power includes factors such as core values, the influence of social culture, the influence of commercial culture, and the effectiveness of domestic and foreign policies. In recent years, China’s soft power has been enhanced: the government has increased the support for our own culture products, and culture exports have increased. Since 2004, borrowing experience from language promotion agencies from the U.K., France, Germany, and Spain, China has been supporting the establishment of Confucius Institutes. But overall, compared to Western countries, China’s soft power is much weaker, the gap remains wide, and ‘China’s voice’ is not loud enough”. [3]

Mr. Cai Wu, the Minister of Culture and former director of the State Council Information Office, publicly stated, “At present, the proportion of positive, objective, and accurate foreign news reports on China is still relatively small.” “If we can take advantage of the modern digital technology, our current means of communication, and citizen diplomacy, we can break through the hegemony of dominance in public opinion.” [3]

On December 8, 2008, Outlook Weekly magazine published an article entitled, “The Expansion of Soft Power with Chinese Characteristics.” Dong Manyuan, author and researcher at the China Institute of International Studies, said, “30 years of reform and opening up has substantially upgraded China’s hard power. Its ever climbing soft power has a different nature from the Western definition. … China’s system, path, and development model reveal persistent vitality.” “The Chinese Communist Party has a strong and mature capacity for governance and popular public support. It is almost impossible for foreign forces to change China’s system; it’s almost futile for major powers to curb China’s development.” [4]

On May 25, 2009, Study Times published an article titled, “The Strategic Choice of China’s Cultural Modernization.” The article said, “The strategic choice of Chinese cultural modernization is to follow the basic principles of cultural modernization, to learn from the historic experiences of the world’s cultural modernization, and to be in line with China’s specific conditions and international environment. From the angle of science and modernization, we have focused on studying Chinese cultural modernization strategy’s quantitative targets, basic path, and implementation measures. We have also drawn a road map which is a strategic plan to achieve the strategic objectives and a systematic integration of the target, the path, and the means.” This strategic objective can be approached from three aspects: “(1) the implementation of the ‘National Culture Agenda’ so as to improve the quality of cultural life; (2) the implementation of ‘the Strategy of Revitalizing Chinese Culture’ to enhance our cultural competitiveness; (3) the implementation of the project, the ‘Quality Works of Chinese Civilization’ (a collection of high quality productions) to enhance cultural influence.” At the end of the article, it concluded that “the modernization of Chinese culture is a complicated systematic project, which cannot be achieved overnight. From a scientific and modern perspective, the cultural modernization road map can be a strategic choice. The 21st century is the century of the revitalization of Chinese culture and will be a century of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.” [5]

On June 9, 2009, Xinhua reported that Li Changchun, a member of Standing Committee of the Politburo, addressed the promotion of socialist cultural development during his trip to Zhejiang Province. Li said, “While leading the people in periods of revolution, social development, and reform and opening up, the party has left landmarks and spiritual wealth, which are valuable resources for patriotic education. Taking the opportunity to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the new China, (we need) to carry out massive patriotic education campaigns, guide the cadres and the massive public in the deep understanding of history that it was the Chinese people who chose Marxism, the Chinese Communist Party, socialism, and the reform and opening up, and who further strengthen the faith and confidence in walking on the socialist path with Chinese characteristics and achieving the great renaissance of the nation under the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party.” [6]

On July 20, 2009, Study Times also quoted Ye Xianwen, then Chief of the State Administration of Religious Affairs and special commentator for People’s Daily, from his conversation with the ethnic musician Xuan Ke in the dialogue, “Restoring Chinese Culture and Going Beyond.” Ye said, “Now, with the socioeconomic development, the Chinese nation is showing a momentum of rising and renaissance. However, in order to achieve the great rejuvenation of the nation, although it is very important to sustain a continual and rapid economic growth, we cannot neglect culture as the base and internal appeal. For a nation to stand high among the nations in the world and win respect, it needs to be not only ‘rich and powerful,’ but ‘culturally charming.’” He added, “Although the history of modern Western countries is not long, they have experienced the Renaissance, which provides a solid foundation for culture. If the Renaissance freed ‘human beings’ from the shackles of God, and later humans were deified, degenerated, and mankind fell downwards against its own nature, and even became a ‘virus,’ the [present] era calls for a new Renaissance. Mankind must return from an overly inflated self to ‘harmonious human beings,’ and must build a new ‘harmonious world,’ in which mankind harmonizes with nature, with society, and with mankind itself. Amid the development of a harmonious society, Chinese culture may need go through the culture restoration process of ‘basic cultivation in poetry, manners, and music,’ [8] and ‘music, and the harmony of heaven and earth.’ [9] The great renaissance of Chinese culture will be accompanied by a process from the “social values crushed” to a new stage of “social values revitalized.”… The renaissance of Chinese culture, such a complicated and heavy topic, can be brought out beginning from talking about the revitalization of social values, and then carried forward.” “Achieving the creation of the great history of the Chinese nation’s rejuvenation is bound to produce a magnificent epic. … China’s The Yellow River Cantata, and Long March Songs [10] are all ‘immortal works’ that are amazing and educational.” “We’re a large country, if everyone comes out to address this issue, even ‘Falun Gong’ will talk about it. That is not permitted. We encourage everyone to speak out, listen to good suggestions, and collect ideas. We should let the good voices spread all over the world, but for bad voices, we should block or guide them.” [7]

[1] Xinhua, May 14, 2008
[2] Xinhua, May 14, 2008
[3] Xinhua, April 10, 2008
[4] Xinhua, December 8, 2008
[5] Study Times, May 25, 2009
[6] Xinhua, June 9, 2009
[7]Study Times, July 20, 2009
[8] The Analects of Confucius
[9] The Book of Music, a classic Chinese literature during Warring States Period, (BC 453 – BC 221)
[10] Titles of the songs that the Chinese government promotes.