Cultural Revolution

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As everybody knows, statistics are a beautiful tool to make your point. The picture you see here is an analysis we made between cities in central and western China, and world cities, on the topic of cinemas. We compared 10 world cities (New York, London, Tokyo, Paris Sydney and so forth) with 10 ‘Go West’ cities, on several topics. One of our findings: Chinese cities fall behind their international peers when it comes to the level of cultural life.

And we’re not the only ones drawing this conclusion. Top leaders is Beijing came to the same conclusion when they proposed to make culture a new economic pillar for the next Five Year Plan (2011 – 2015). From the SCMP.

A pillar industry is loosely defined as one that contributes five per cent or more of the mainland’s annual gross domestic product, a share which is predicted to be worth at least 2 trillion yuan (HK$2.37 trillion) in 2015. The government plans to invest 171 billion yuan this year in the culture, sports and media sectors, according to the Ministry of Finance.

It is all part of a paradigm shift that seems to take place from a focus only on GDP to a more sustainable and diversified development of China. It is exactly the remark we made last month in our interview in the Global Times.

But culture is also supposed to suit another goal: international politics…

Professor Fan Zhou, dean of Communication University of China’s Institute of Cultural Industry agreed, saying people’s views of the world around them mainly derived from the messages conveyed through media such as radio, television and the movies.

“A distinctive culture would help disseminate a positive global image for China,” he said. “Our cultural prominence has become a key and important indicator in terms of regional competitive power as we have increasingly opened up to the outside world.”

There  are also critics, however. They see the big government spending on culture and media as a potential waste.

[..] according to Zhu Dake, a renowned cultural scholar and critic, “there’s a false idea that high investment results in a powerful industry.”

In Zhu’s opinion, the focus shouldn’t only focus only large scale enterprises, but should encourage small businesses – the same remark we heard in Chengdu when we did our research on cultural life.

Critics say intellectual protection is much more important than heavily government spending. And there’s more. Because some critics also mention the fact that with a limited freedom of expression is not very beneficial to the development of cultural life:

“Without freedom of expression and thought, there can be no original creations,” he said. “It’s unrealistic to achieve huge economic progress without forming a basic cultural system that is meant to protect creative rights for individuals.”

Time to start working on the SAZ – the Special Artistic and Academic Zone!

…to be continued…

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