Culture in the spotlight

Updated: 2011-10-21 11:34

By Wu Yixue (China Daily)

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Attention of top leadership on cultural development points to further reform and a more open and diversified market.

China's cultural development is likely to enjoy a golden time in the years ahead, as culture was elevated to an unprecedented height at the Sixth Plenary Session of the 17th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC), which concluded in Beijing on Tuesday.

At the meeting, a guideline was approved to deepen the reform of China's cultural system and promote the development of its socialist culture. It is the first time in the past 15 years that the Party has focused on cultural issues at its plenary session, and highlights the great importance that has been attached to boosting the country's cultural development.

At a time when the world is undergoing profound changes and China's own economic structural adjustments are at a critical juncture, the adoption of such a guideline is of great historical significance. Deepening the reform of the country's cultural system and promoting its cultural development are crucial to China's aspiration to build a well-off society and realize the long-cherished rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.

It has become a common consensus in China that the nation's socialist modernization drive cannot be completed without the development of its culture.

The global economic slowdown and China's own slightly slowed economic pace, which declined to 9.1 percent year-on-year in the third quarter, partly as the result of its ongoing economic restructuring, offer a rare opportunity for China to explore new sources of economic growth, especially in the cultural sector, which has a huge potential for growth.

Boosting the country's cultural development was described at the just-concluded top-level CPC session as a move aimed at constructing the country's core socialist value system and strengthening its soft power. This demonstrates that the central authorities have fully realized culture's status as a major source of national cohesion and a key means of raising its comprehensive national strength.

With an open and tolerant ideological atmosphere since reform and opening-up, China's cultural industries have also experienced a boom and displayed a strong vitality, especially in recent years. Statistics show that the total box office of movies screened in the Chinese mainland reached 10 billion yuan ($1.53 billion) in 2010, a 10-fold increase on 2002; and the country's press and publication industry realized a total output value of 1 trillion yuan in 2010, triple the amount of 2002.

However, these achievements have not changed the fact that China is still far from being a cultural power and the country is facing an uphill task to protect its "cultural security" and enhance its soft power and the international influence of its culture. Despite its status as the world's largest producer of TV series, China still imports 15 for every one it exports. For many young Chinese people, foreign TV programs, such as South Korean dramas, are more popular than homemade ones.

For decades, the Chinese government has been stressing the need to advance the simultaneous progress of the country's material and spiritual civilizations, but it is an undeniable fact that the country has poured overwhelming energy into the development of national material wealth in an effort to change its long-standing material poverty and backwardness. Such a policy preference has directly resulted in the uneven development of China's economic and cultural status on the world stage.

The high importance attached by the top Chinese authorities to cultural development is a welcome boost for the country's cultural industry.

However, different from developing the economy, which has been largely bolstered by government-led investment in China, what culture industries currently face is a more open and diversified market at home and abroad. The government-dominated economic development model will not necessarily prove viable in the cultural field.

To promote socialist cultural development with Chinese characteristics, the country should give non-governmental capital a bigger role in the cultural market, especially in competitive sectors such as the movie market. The introduction of non-government players will increase the vitality and creativity of the domestic cultural sector and promote its diversified development.

The government also needs to offer a more relaxed and tolerant legal environment to promote free and fair competition and strengthen efforts to protect intellectual property rights.