Roundup: Commercialization to Make Culture Prosperous in New Century

Analysts believe that the commercialization of China's cultural sector will help carry forward the country's 5,000-year-old cultural heritage, achievements and civilization in the new century.

According to the analysts, cultural commercialization has become one of the latest development trends in China's cultural circles.

Jin Yiwei, vice director of the cultural products bureau under the Ministry of Culture, said that the phrase of "cultural commercialization" was first defined in the 10th Five-Year (2001-2005) Plan for National Economic and Social Development, which was approved last month at the 5th Plenary Session of the 15th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China.

The explicit definition of "cultural commercialization" has put the development of cultural production and its integration with information industry to an important position in the country's economic and social development.

"Cultural Commercialization" does not mean that all of the country's cultural fields will be commercialized, but will focus on the culture-related products for the domestic and overseas consumption market, the official explained.

The business operation and commercial activities on cultural products must strictly abide by relevant laws and regulations, he said.

At the same time, the immaterial cultural research, education and moral tradition is also listed as the country's major development projects in the new century.

Zhang Jiangang, a leading researcher from the philosophy research institute under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said that for thousands of years culture had been branded as a kind of tool for education dyed with strong ideological concept to the neglect of its economic attributes.

The commercialization of cultural sector is a newly developed sector in the 20th century with the focus on commercialization of cultural and art products, including reproduction, displaying and selling, the expert said. And this has made the sector in China, which was nominally not aiming at profits, face a new challenge.

As a matter of fact, the development of commercialized culture has long become a common acknowledgment in developed countries, said Ye Lang, a professor at Beijing University.

In Britain, the speed of cultural commercialization development is twice that of its national economic growth rate.

In the United States, cultural commercialization is one of the pillar economic sectors following probably only the astronautical and aviation industries. The country's mass movies, television programs and audio-video products occupy some 40 percent of the world's market.

Ye, also the director of the cultural commercialization research institute of Beijing University, added that it is just the process of the cultural commercialization that has made it possible for herculean cultural products of developed countries to be dumped into developing countries, exerting unpredictable negative impact on the economic pattens and social value of the latter.

Lin Jianfa, executive chief editor of the Journal Literature Comments, said that the appeal for cultural commercialization has become increasingly strong along with the establishment of a socialist market economy since China introduced the policies of opening up and reform in the late 1970s.

"At a time when China's entry to the World Trade Organization (WTO) is approaching, it's all the more a must for the country to effect culture as a commercial sector." Lin said, adding that people would have more time and spend more on entertainment in the new century, thus greatly accelerating the consumption of cultural products. Now that the Chinese people have around one-third of the whole year as holidays, which naturally leaves a great room and a huge space for developing the cultural industry.

Chen Sihe, a famous essayist from Fudan University in Shanghai, said what is more pressing is that cultural products from overseas, those from developed countries in particular, would pour into the Chinese market no matter how the Chinese cultural sector performs it.

"Chinese cultural departments should make greater efforts to make full use of our rich cultural resources and promote commercialization of cultural products to meet the requirements of competitive international market and resist those that are unsuitable to Chinese conditions," he said.

The State Development Planning Commission and the Ministry of Culture are joining efforts to work out a long-term development program to that effect.

Meanwhile, a dozen of major Chinese cities, including Beijing, Shanghai, Shenyang and Chongqing, have enacted a series of regulations coupled with launching related projects to promote cultural commercialization.

The Chinese press have also echoed quickly to the changes through improving their art quality and moral standards to attract more readers. Within the cultural circle, an initial mechanism to commercialize the market has also been introduced such as hosting art festivals, cultural exchange activities as well as film and music festivals.

Statistics by the Ministry of Culture show that by the end of 1999, a total of 270,000 culture-related business organizations had been set up, covering four major cultural markets: recreational business, audio-video production, stage performances, and art work trade.

Over 1.12 million people are involved in these setups, troupes, agencies or companies, which reported an annual income of 22.6 billion yuan (about US$2.73 billion).

To strengthen administration and supervision of the cultural market, the country has promulgated more than 100 laws and regulations governing copyright, publication, business performances, audio-video products, recreational centers and film production.

The consumption of cultural products last year totaled 80 billion yuan and in 5 year, China's huge potential cultural market will register an annual turnover of 600 billion yuan, official sources predicted.

People's Daily Online ---