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Culture chiefs seek profit in art
By Qin Chuan (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-08-18 00:37

Culture and related industries are being earmarked as potential money-spinners for the nation's economic growth.

At a forum on the industry as a whole in Shuozhou, North China's Shanxi Province, official in the Ministry of Culture Ainiwaer Abuduxukuer said China has huge potential because of its history and abundance of cultural heritage.

China includes entertainment, media, communications and IT content services in its "culture industry" along with the more traditional arts of painting and theatre.

The forum set out examples of ``cultural units,'' such as museums and libraries, which could be run as individual businesses.

The changes are in their first stages and at the moment profit from it accounts for a small proportion of the country's GDP, Ainiwaer said.

Zhang Xiaoming works with the research centre on culture under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. He and his colleagues have just compiled a report about supply and demand in the industry, and have identified a gap between the two.

Zhang said the basic obstacle impeding the development of China's culture industry is an antiquated management system.

Although China has been adopting a market economy for more than two decades, the sector is still part of the planned economy, he said.

In the past few years, China has set up so-called "units for cause," which are neither government bodies nor enterprises, owned and managed by the government, and engaged in social services such as education, health and culture.

Such units take up a large quantity of resources but are not well managed. They are also a burden on public finances.

Reforming units like this has been started, but the culture sector lags behind, Zhang said.

The government should change its role, he said.

"Most of the cultural units -- like museums, libraries -- should be opened up to the market. The government only needs to make relevant policies for the industry," Zhang said.

Ainiwaer said innovation and the use of new techniques were important for the development of China's culture industry.

"We must know how to update what we have got -- folk stories, for example -- with advanced techniques so that everybody likes the products," he said.

China started reforming its culture sector last year, but the forum agreed a full revamp would take a number of years.

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