A group of Chinese delegates from national and local Ministries of Culture will visit my program -Arts Management at American University(AU) tomorrow. It looks like AU has reached some level of publicity in Chinese governmental community. Good sign~

I did a brief study on China’s cultural policy over the last several day. There are so many exciting things about China’s current cultural development that will surprise any western country’s people! Chinese government has attached significant attention to cultural-related industries development. Every Chinese citizen now knows that arts and humanities are China’s national soft power. This concept was reinforced time after time by the Chinese government. They see culture as important as economy, politics, environment…because culture is actually the facilitator of all aspects of the community.

Recently, China has created a term called “Cultural and Creative Industry (CCI)” which is similar to U.S. creative economy. CCI has become of the pillar industries in major Chinese cities. For example, in Beijing, CCI was contributing 11.4% of the city’s GDP in 2008. And there was a huge booming in building CCI clusters (i.e. 798 Art Zone, which is similar to NYC’s soho) in the suburban area of Beijing. Those  clusters became effective marketing tool in cultural/arts campaign and part of tourism incentive program to attract visitors, reach out new arts lovers, increase the revenues of attractions,  and most importantly drive the community and even the entire city’s business and economic development.


Beijing 798 Art Zone

a piece of artwork in Beijing 798 Art Zone



Cultural industry was a new born term which was officially published in 2000. CCI concept was even newer. Both were part of the China’s cultural policy reform.  During the reform, which is stilling ongoing now, in order to meet needs in these cultural-related industries, Chinese government has taken multiple reforms over the previously government or public owned arts organizations. Basically, the idea was to release those organizations and force them assume their own responsibilities for their own losses and profits. That’s the outcome of China’ economic reform from planned economy toward so called market economy.

It is quite interesting to look at those arts organizations in China. They are somewhat like U.S. non-profit arts orgs. However, they are very different in terms of self-governance, funding sources, and relationship with the government. In China, major arts and cultural organizations (i.e. National Centre for the Performing Arts) are new forms of old government owned and fed agencies. They are now more self regulated, non-profit oriented, partially funded by government (usually less than 20%) but eligible to earn profit in order to develop.


China National Centre for the Performing Arts: exterior look and its opera house

China National Centre for the Performing Arts at night



However, I am still not sure whether these organizations  are viewed as non-profit sector or not. According to the general definition of NPO, which pinpoints that a NPO does not distribute its surplus funds/profit to owners or shareholders but instead uses them to help fulfill the mission and the goal, those major China’s cultural organizations meet this criteria. However, if considering other features of U.S. NPOs, those above mentioned China’s cultural organizations are hard to be defined as pure NPOs. Salamon and Anheier (1992 and 1996) from John Hopkins University (http://www.ccss.jhu.edu/pdfs/CNP_Working_Papers/CNP_WP19_INCPO_1996.pdf) identified five basic features of nonprofit sectors, including organized, private, self-governing, non-profit-distributing, and voluntary. Obviously, many China’s cultural organizations (especially major ones) are still highly governmental and do not meet those five features of NPO. On top of that, admitted that these organizations are designed to run on not-for-profit missions, many China’s cultural organizations are still very proactive on earning profit to grow larger and increase employee benefits.

I need more time to study on this topic. But,  I am sure that China’s cultural organizations have changed from purely government-owned and social service orientated to diverse structures. Some (media, publishing, entertainment) became private-contracted for-profit sectors. Some (major performing arts orgs, museums) turned out to be still governmental, not-for-profit, but holding responsibility for their own profits or losses on top of government funds.


Interesting Logos

October 11, 2010