China's publishing industry, now 'not old wine in new bottle'

16:12, February 24, 2011      

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With a growing attention focused on China's economic growth, more and more people overseas are eager to know "China's story" or development miracle. As a result, the import-export ratio of China's book copyrights shot up to 3.31:1 in 2009 from 7.2:1 in 2005. So, China has already become a great publication nation with an enormous reputation.

China's "voice" in global news media publications will have to be significantly enhanced. As we have seldom set forth most preeminent problems facing human civilization and issues of rising global concern, which will be the world's central themes. To improve this kind of situation, there will be the need for innovation. I personally deem that the innovation insufficiency is a primary cause for the weak or fragile global influence of the Chinese culture.

If with a lack of modernity and innovation, no good news, good books and good artistic works representing the contemporary era will be brought forth. Since you cannot tell "your story" well or bring forth good things or superb visions yourself, you would have to only introduce large quantities of books from overseas and, hence, you can hardly expect to acquire the right to "sufficiently" or adequately voice your opinions the world arena.

Any innovation endeavor comprises an innovation in both content and regulatory mechanism and technology, etc. And what is of most vital importance is to transform our cultural development model and take up a new road of cultural development. In the previous planned economy era, the new media publishing units had to rely solely on the government departments for existence, devoid of a sort of intrinsic vigor or stamina from within and the competitive system did not comply with the demand of the market economy. All other departments of trade and industry have been operating in line with the rules or regulations of the market economy, whereas China's cultural trade actually drifts outside the national economy without having undergone any drastic changes.

Moreover, the masses of people are now accepting information and reading or absorbing knowledge and technical-how in more widespread forms. The readership-oriented responsibilities and personified development call for Chinese publishing institutions to provide cultural products for people from various social strata with varied educational backgrounds and in different occupations with different literacy apprehension standards.

More important, the global publication market is an increasing open and competitive one that takes transnational publication firms at the core, and China's publishing setup however cannot be adapted to the challenges of global cultural competitions and so the country's cultural production force is impossible to achieve its real emancipation, and the concerted creative energy of the Chinese people therefore cannot be released.

Consequently, it is imperative to revamp China's cultural mechanism, and to establish a new kind of model mechanism to participate in global cultural competitions. A key step leading news media publishing units to the market is definitely to convert the managerial news publication units from the type of institution to independent media enterprises or companies. This is the only way to be taken to enter the cultural cooperation on a global scale. This time, China has to change not only just the "herb soup" in traditional Chinese medicine but the "decoction of ingredients" and to break "drug jar" or albarello altogether.

Immense changes have been wrought to China's publication industry thanks to the reform in the sector over the past five years, in which more than 4 million employees have done away with their ensured job security or the "iron rice bowls" as people in China commonly referred to it. In the period of the 11th Five-Year Plan period (2006-2010), the total number of book varieties published in China had come to a total of about 1.358 million. In other words, China had a per-capital average of 26 new books in this five-year period. Such a high productivity could be utterly unattainable without the related reform.

At present, the reform with China's cultural system must be carried out in a thorough-going way and advanced irreversibly and steadfastly toward the direction of marketability as the industry turns out products and, only in strict conformity with the market rule, can it produces a lot of such good "book products".

After all, "it is easy said than done", and how to discuss or confer on holding "the frontline position" without having accessed to the market. There would definitely be no sustainable development if people violate its rules and regulations and overemphasize particularities to the denial of overall regularities.

By People's Daily Online and its author is Liu Binjie, the Director of the General Administration of Press and Publication and the National Copyright Administration.


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