China will spend billions of yuan to collect modern art and build libraries, state media reported. According to Shanghai's Wen Hui Po, the spending spree will include a five-year 250-million-yuan (HK$236 million) programme to buy paintings deemed to be classics of the 20th century. 'This fund is meant to protect and promote distinguished Chinese arts and culture, enrich the state's art collections, and encourage artists, art collectors and others to donate their art collections to the state,' Xinhua reported. The fund has been jointly approved by the Ministry of Culture and Ministry of Finance. Xinhua said China lagged in collecting contemporary art partly because museums lacked special funds for such purposes. The fact that many contemporary arts pieces had been bought by foreign collectors has also accentuated the problem. 'As China's economy continues to grow, and [our] overall national strength improves . . . the public demand for fine art also rises,' Xinhua said. According to Wen Hui Po, the fund will focus on four areas. Priority will be given to works of art deemed to be classics. Second, more money will be spent on indigenous art forms which face extinction. Third, China's 'revolutionary' arts will receive special attention, and fourth, the state will collect works of art which have received awards in national competitions and exhibitions. Vice-minister of culture Zhou Heping told Xinhua the state would also spend billions of yuan in the next few years on libraries. This would include 1.23 billion yuan on a computerisation programme for the National Library, and annual funding of a 100-million-yuan programme for four years for the State Development and Reform Commission to build libraries and cultural halls in counties. The annual maintenance budget for libraries and cultural halls would be tripled from 11 million yuan to 30 million yuan.