From Metal Rock to Wagner: China's Cultural Industry Drive Diversifies People's Playbill
    2010-12-30 20:44:09     Xinhua      Web Editor: Zhang
 

Vince Jin, a young accountant living in Shanghai, had never dreamed of watching the live performance of his favorite Gothic metal band, Lacrimosa, in China.

"They're not Faye Wong or Michael Jackson..." said Jin, 25, recalling that the news of the German band's Shanghai concert bailed him out of those uneventful days "with wildness and hope."

Jin spent all his internship money on a VIP ticket, which included an autograph poster, a photo shoot opportunity with the German duo, and a front row seat for the live show.

Jin called the live night "one of the most beautiful memories in my life."

It was the night of Oct. 15, 2006, the first year of the 11th Five-Year Program, mapped out by the Chinese government to boost the country's all-around development from 2006 to 2010.

In 2009, Lacrimosa came back to China again, and Jin was able to enjoy his beloved band again.

The 11th Five-Year Program noted in its preface that the supply of cultural products and services did not meet people's increased demand and the five-year period would be a key phase for the development of the country's cultural industry.

"Over the past five years, the most obvious effect of China's efforts to promote cultural industry was that Chinese people had many more choices in the market," Zhang Xiaoming, vice director of the cultural research center under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told Xinhua.

With American pop band Linkin Park, German countertenor Andreas Scholl, British TNT Theater and many more in between, the country's thriving performance market was book-ended by Richard Wagner's epic opera "the Ring of the Nibelung," which was staged by the Cologne Opera for two rounds this September in Shanghai.

The 16-hour opera marathon, with four parts, was put on stage in its entirety at the Shanghai Grand Theater for four consecutive nights each round -- a rare practice in the opera's global performance records.

The number of foreign commercial performances approved by the Chinese government reached 911 in 2010, up 62 percent over 2006, according to the Ministry of Culture.

TWO-WAY STREET

According to the five-year plan, the country aimed to take full advantage of both domestic and overseas cultural resources, and take the initiative in international cooperation and competition.

"In fact, what the government wanted more was to bring the country's culture products overseas. But in order to do that, we also have to open our own market wider to foreign products. The import and export should reach a balance," Zhang said.

The export of China's cultural products increased fast with greater variety, he said.

Zhang noted that the export of China's handicraft products and publication copyrights had been increasing over the past five years, and overseas sales of Chinese films were also better.

Additionally, figures from the ministry showed that the ratio of book imports to exports was 9 to 1 in 2003. That had narrowed to 3.4 to 1 in 2009.

"In the past, our cultural products were sent overseas through governmental channels and chances were that foreigners didn't like them," Zhang said. "Now companies play a much bigger part. They sell cultural products that cater to overseas people's demands and let them make the choice. It's more flexible and rewarding."

Further, in 2009, 426 groups of Chinese artists gave about 16,000 commercial performances abroad.

On Dec. 3, the China-made animated feature film "The Dreams of Jinsha" marked its commercial screening debut in the United States -- the first time a Chinese animated film entered the international mainstream cinema.

The film, with an 80-million-yuan (12 million U.S. dollars) investment, tells the story of a young boy who travels through time to the ancient country of Jinsha and stops a destructive force with love and courage.

The Laemmle Theatres in Los Angeles had arranged five screenings for the film every day during its prime time from 12:30 p.m. to 8:50 p.m.

According to producer Hangzhou C&L Digital Production Co., the film is also the first Chinese animated feature to be selected in the 15-film list eligible for the nomination of the Academy Awards Best Animated Feature Film category.

NEW WAVE

Minister of Culture Cai Wu vowed more efforts would be made to boost the cultural industry and market in the next five years (2011-2015).

This will include building a mature market of cultural products, with companies having sharper core competitiveness, a smooth distribution network, better infrastructure and a more efficient supervision and management system, Cai said earlier this month.

"We will encourage originality of the cultural industry and work to improve the competitiveness of cultural enterprises," he said.

He also suggested building syndicates of cinemas and theaters that cover more cities and larger areas.

"We can also expect to see more active cultural trade across the border. Our cultural market and industry would benefit from this, and people's basic rights to enjoy diversified arts and cultures will also be better protected," Zhang Xiaoming said.

Jin, calling himself a "dilettante," saying he had always been relying on films and music to balance his demanding and tiring work in the accounting firm.

"I remember sitting quietly in the big dark hall and watching 'Jules and Jim' and 'Last Year at Marienbad.' It was definitely better than crouching in front of a small computer screen with a pirated DVD inside," Jin said, referring to a special screening section for the French New Wave at last year's Shanghai International Film Festival.

"Great arts enrich life and give me passion. My desire for them is insatiable," Jin said.

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