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Cultural parks no substitute for talent

By Zhu Jin | China Daily | Updated: 2013-03-15 07:18

The government wants the cultural industry to be a pillar of economic growth, making promotion of the industry and improvement of cultural services a necessary task. However, none of this can be achieved by simply building more cultural industrial parks.

More than 1,300 such parks are already registered with the Ministry of Culture and more are being built. Chen Shaofeng, vice-dean of the Institute of Cultural Industries at Peking University, says there might be more than 10,000 cultural parks under a variety of names but "only 5 percent of them fulfill their actual purpose".

The boom in construction of cultural industrial parks began in 2010, when the industry was officially listed as a pillar of the national economy. The total value-added output of the cultural industry then was more than 1.1 trillion yuan ($172.95 billion), or about 2.78 percent of the country's GDP. A pillar industry, however, should account for about 5 percent of the national GDP.

Some local governments consider infrastructure construction to be the most direct way of boosting the cultural industry's development, because they believe large-scale industrial bases can make this "implicit" industry "explicit". They don't seem to realize that the key requirements for a successful cultural industry are original content and talent.

Some real estate developers have latched on to the craze to build cultural industrial parks as a means to enjoy preferential policies and get more land for development. As a result, such parks have come up in places where nothing can be gained from them. And though they might seem like "win-win" results for local governments and developers, such parks are a waste of precious resources and bad both for the cultural industry and the economy. Shanghai, for example, has 113 registered parks but their total value-added output accounts for less than 10 percent of the value-added output of the city's cultural industry.

The experience of developed countries shows that the engine driving the cultural industry is not infrastructure development but creative talent. Without talent and creative companies, most of China's cultural industrial parks are just cold real estate without any soul. China should learn from the experiences of countries with strong cultural industries, and local governments should attract and promote more talent before building industrial parks.

In the United Kingdom, where the concept of the "creative industry" was first defined in 1998, creative power and intellectual property are the most significant elements of the cultural industry. Although the government plays an important role in its development, its focus is on building the industry's creative potential.

For instance, the UK government has established many non-profit professional organizations to offer finance and advice to creative enterprises. These organizations also impart training to people to identify and develop talent. The government also provides the basic industry support, from regional development strategies to policies to boost exports of cultural products, thereby resolving many practical issues that have arisen in the development of the industry.

The United States administration seeks to create a good environment for its cultural industry. For example, it promotes financial investment to support the industry and trains professionals to manage it. More than 30 universities in the US offer such courses.

All these make it imperative for the Chinese government to change its role and focus on the cultivation of talent. Local governments, on their part, should provide a platform to attract resources, such as specialized private funds, for the cultural industry.

Furthermore, the central government should establish a comprehensive system to protect intellectual property rights and promote awareness among Chinese people about copyrights, trademarks and patents, which are key to the cultural industry's successful development.

Only when creative talent and creative companies work together, preferably at the same location, should the authorities consider building a cultural industrial park.

The author is a reporter with China Daily.


(China Daily 03/15/2013 page10)

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