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Seizing the Strategic Opportunity for a Better Tomorrow — Keynote Speech at the Asian Round Table of Culture Ministers

chinadaily 2013-10-30

(Erdos, China, 18 August 2009)

Cai Wu

Minister of Culture, the People’s Republic of China

Asia is our common homeland. We share the invaluable fortune——the profound and splendid Asian cultures. In the development of human history, the close communications have gradually deepened the comprehension and enhanced mutual emotions across the continent. What’s more, Asia’s unique cultural identity and common cultural ideas have also been clarified in this process. Against the background of globalization, we, as Ministers of Culture, jointly take the vital responsibility of maintaining the diversity of Asian cultures and have the historical mission of inheriting and promoting them. Over the past few years, various countries in Asia have solidly promoted regional cultural exchanges and cooperations and established the East Asia culture conference mechanism with the “10+1” model as the foundation and “10+3” model as the main channel. We will further discuss cultural collaboration system within the framework of “10+6” model and SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation), hoping to extend exchanges and collaborations within more fields. Therefore, China’s Ministry of Culture suggests convening this Asian Round Table of Ministers of Culture. The theme of this conference is “Challenges, Opportunities and Responses to Culture Development in the World Economic Crisis”. As we all know, the global economy has been struck severely by the world-sweeping financial crisis, whose influence has gone beyond the economic field and penetrated into other social communities. While Asian cultural development is under arduous challenges, all Ministers of Culture from Asian countries are jointly faced with the urgent subject: how to cope with these challenges. Now I will demonstrate China’s views respectively from challenges, opportunities and responses, meanwhile looking forward to your excellent presentations. I. New challenges of cultural development Nowadays, the global financial crisis is impacting extensively on other areas in society, including culture. According to the overall analyses, cultural development is faced with the following challenges.

First, financing motivation is underpowered. Under the circumstance of crisis, the economy has more adverse pressure and the total amount of funding decreases. In order to cope with the crisis and avoid deepener depression, policy makers from various governments all focus on the economy, which makes the allocation of social capital tend to save the market so as to control the rapid decline of economic growth rates. So the government and social funds become cautious about investments in different areas, including the cultural area. Except for government funds, major resources, such as venture capital, public sponsorship, begin to shrink. The cultural industry funding chain obviously tightens. For the public cultural institutions, the difficulties for raising nongovernmental capital further increases. Unfortunately, since the financial crisis began, we have witnessed many outstanding cultural projects canceled or suspended due to funds shortage in many Asian countries including China.

Second, the consumption power and demands are affected. Under the crisis circumstance, the economic downturn and social distrust have decreased citizens’ consumption power so that the demand for cultural products has witnessed structural shifts. Those families severely influenced by the crisis have adjusted their expenditure proportion and been more cautious about non-rigid demand like culture or tourism, which contributes to the relative changes in the whole culture consumption structure. The cultural industry, targeting high-income people as main consumers in prosperous economies, starts to have weak sales. For example, some of the contemporary art auctions begin to lose their appreciation where unemployed bankers no longer linger and people concerned about the future are unwilling to pay high prices for an elegant opera performance. Third, the economic foundation is blasted and cultural development is restricted. A healthy economy and constantly improved living standards are the economic foundation of cultural prosperity, which is indeed severely impacted by the financial crisis. At present, governments focus on economic problems while neglecting cultural development. Therefore, the policy-making environment and the status among national development strategies of the cultural development are challenged by the brand-new adjustments in the crisis that constrict the overall cultural blossom. If the economic resurgence were not promoted together with the culture, society would confront new imbalances in development, eventually only to pay a high price for it. Dear colleagues, the predominant task for Asian countries’ cultural sectors now is, as Ministers of Culture, whether we can promote and support the government to recognize our cultural characteristics and advantages as well as seize the opportunities with strategic views in the present financial crisis so as to vigorously boost national cultural construction and continuously promote the prosperity of Asian cultures. II. Cultural characteristics and advantages are further highlighted.

Though cultural development is faced with many challenges in the crisis, we can still see cultural characteristics and advantages are further highlighted, leaving unique and positive effects on handling the crisis and recovering the economy.

First, as source of confidence, culture has a “counter-cyclical regulatory” character. Besides relieving emotional pressure, comforting minds and fitting psychological and aesthetic needs, culture can also unite people and rejuvenate social confidence. For the individuals in crisis, it’s more necessary for them to relieve stress and seek comfort through public culture. To shake off the shadow of economic downturn, more people prefer to bring children to circuses or theme parks. For the whole society, the most important matter is to have confidence. Culture is no other than the source of confidence with nurturing, cultivating and encouraging effects.

Second, as the foundation of rejuvenation, the cultural industry can enjoy uptrend against difficulties. Resources and funds are both limited but originality is infinite, which is just the basic core of the cultural industry. Different from other industries, the cultural industry has fewer bubbles and is less dependent on materials or capital. It doesn’t have such large pressure as other fields have in the trend of the financial crisis. Though the structure of social cultural demand has changed, the total volume of cultural demand is on the rise, leading to contrarian development of the cultural industry and becoming the economic growth point and breakthrough of economic rejuvenation. Since this crisis, the general manufacturing export trade has suffered a big impact, but at the same time, Chinese cultural industries have achieved satisfactory increases. In the first quarter of 2009, the average growth rate of cultural industries reached 17 percent, of which growth in public consumption like films, books and theaters amounted above 20 percent.

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