Culture sector to act as new growth engine

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 23 July, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 23 July, 2009, 12:00am

The central government has published a long-awaited blueprint for the mainland's culture industry as authorities seek new growth engines to help the country weather the economic downturn.

The culture industry development plan was given the seal of approval at an executive meeting of the State Council yesterday, signifying an important role in expanding domestic demand - particularly household consumption - and spurring economic restructuring.

Zhang Xiaoming, deputy director of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences' Culture Research Centre, said the country's manufacturers must work with the culture industry - also known as creative industry - to develop their own brands.

'Otherwise they will only provide outsourcing services for overseas brands and make a bit of money through manufacturing,' said Professor Zhang, who was chief editor of the 2009 Blue Book on the Culture Industry, an influential report published by a government think tank.

The professor said the TV and film industries were better positioned in terms of commercial success than other sectors and authorities were placing importance on the development of the cartoon industry as a new growth area.

He said the push for the development of the culture industry would also help boost the country's so-called soft power - the influence of mainland products and services and the country's market share in the global cultural industry.

A joint report tabled by five United Nations agencies, the Creative Economy Report 2008, put China as the world's top trader in culture products and services, with a global market share of 19 per cent.

But Professor Zhang said the report only recognised the country as a major manufacturer of culture products and services, and the grave deficit in copyright trade meant it was far from being a creator of culture products.

The culture industry development plan has targeted eight areas where it can boost the vigour and creativity of the industry.

On top of this, it stresses government reform and structural adjustment to boost competitiveness.

The plan dovetailed with recommendations in the 2009 Blue Book, which called for deregulation of the industry to respond to the advent of new technologies.

Professor Zhang said there had been a general consensus in the past 30 years on the direction of the socialist market economy, which made large-scale unrest unlikely.

And a majority of the culture products and services were commodities, which no longer carried strong ideological symbolism or required constant supervision, he noted.

Digital technologies and the new role of the individual at the centre of information gathering and distribution have made much of the oversight regime redundant.

'We should reassess the ideological oversight of the planned-economy era and unlock the shackles that have been restraining people's creative spirits, through deepening reform,' he said.