Minister of Culture: Deepen cultural structural reform (again)

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This article by Minister of Culture Cai Wu was published in Seeking Truth on 16 January. In this article, Cai Wu rehashes a number of standard measures for cultural structural reform that have been touted for years, with varying degrees of success. In general, they can be reduced to one central observation: that cultural structural reform is greatly concerned with the forms and trappings of a successful cultural industry, and not with the essence: the creation of cultural goods and services that actually meet with market success. In this article, as in many policy documents in the past, much attention is given to the creation of particular financial products, trading platforms, cultural infrastructure, administrative streamlining and the training of specialist personnel. It does not mention, however, the stifling creative environment in which Chinese artists, writers and filmmakers live. Also, this article returns to the theme of national cultural soft power, by which the cultural administration hopes to enhance China’s image abroad. It suffices here to say that, however many efforts are made to foster China’s “discourse power”, the national image will continue to suffer from matters ranging from the recent Xu Zhiyong case to pollution and its stance in the East and South China Seas. The important bit in the article, as always, are the first few paragraphs, which frame the proposed measures in terms of the political line set at the recent 3rd Plenum and the follow-up meetings. In other words, it is the political signalling (biaotai ) that counts here, not the substance.

 Sound the Trumpet for Deepening Cultural Structural Reform

Cai Wu

The 3rd Plenum of the 18th Party Congress sounded a new trumpet for the comprehensive deepening of our country’s reform. On 30 December 2013, the CCP Politburo conducted the 12nd collective study session on researching the raising of national cultural soft power. General Secretary Xi Jinping stressed when he chaired the study session that we must build a strong Socialist culture country, and strive to raise national cultural soft power. At present, cultural structural reform has entered a period for storming ahead and a zone of deep water, it faces many profound contradictions and problems that restrain the scientific development of culture, which require that we analyse and explain them with even greater courage and even higher wisdom, and adopt strong and powerful measures to resolve them.

Continue to liberate thoughts, firmly establish new cultural development concepts under the guidance of the scientific development view. Liberating thoughts is the prime mover for liberating and developing social productive forces, and liberating and strengthening social vitality. The problems that cultural development faces include problems in the external environment, and systemic and mechanistic problems in cultural construction itself, there are old abuses that accumulated over many years, and there are new problems and new challenges brought by changes in the domestic and international environment. For example, the exchange, mingling and clashing of all sorts of ideology and culture are growing ever more frequent, the independence, selectivity, variability and differentiation of people’s ideological activities are incessantly strengthening, which has brought challenges to guiding social thinking trends and safeguarding national cultural security; the acceleration of the process of urbanization has brought new demands for resource allocation in public cultural services, improvement of facilities, personnel allocation and an increase in the quality of public cultural services, it has also brought new tasks for the protection and inheritance of traditional culture based on the agricultural civilization; high and new technology, represented by the Internet and information technology, has advanced by leaps and bounds, which brought new opportunities for upgrading traditional cultural business models and the development of new cultural business models, and put forward news demands to occupy the online cultural battlefield and raise cultural dissemination levels; how to implement the magnificent objectives of raising State governance capacity put forward at the 3rd Plenum of the 18th Party Congress in the cultural sphere; how to strengthen guidance over artistic creation, how to learn from and use foreign beneficial experiences, how to strengthen the integration of public cultural resources and promote the scientization of resource allocation; how to dissolve contradictions between the protection of cultural heritage and exploitation or use; how to build modern cultural market systems and stimulate the rational flow of cultural products and factors; how to make Chinese culture even more inspiring influential, etc. These all require that we must firmly establish new cultural development concepts that conform to the demands of the scientific development view, and persist in the cultural development path of Socialism with Chinese characteristics from beginning to end. Closely grasp the progressive orientation of advanced Socialist culture, persist in the guiding position of Marxism in the ideological area throughout, make building the Socialist core value system into a primary task, guarantee that regardless of what is reformed or how it is reformed, the orientation cannot be reformed and battlefields cannot be lost. Persist in the work orientation of putting people central throughout, give rein to the creative spirit of the people, promote that the creative vitality of the entire society competes, burst forth and fully gushes out.

Strengthen a sense of the overall picture, compose and plan cultural reform and development from the height of strategy. Cultural structural reform is an important component part of the comprehensive deepening of reform, and must progress in step with reform in the economy, politics and all other areas. At present, a number of local Party Committee and government leaders are mistaken in their understanding of the function and value of culture, they overlook, despise or are biased towards culture, they see cultural construction as a soft task, believe that it is all-right to grasp it or not to grasp it, say that it is important but do not treat it as important in their actions, and their sense of responsibility and urgency in accelerating cultural development is not strong. This has greatly constrained the development of cultural work. Because of this, all levels’ Party Committees and governments must put cultural construction in a more prominent position, and stimulate the coordination of cultural construction with economic and social development. Our country’s cultural reform and development process lags behind the speed of economic and social development, it is not suited to economic and social development levels, we must put in even more human power, material power and financial power, and strive to realize the comprehensive pushing forward and synchronized development of cultural construction, economic construction, political construction, social construction and ecological civilization construction, and thereby raise development quality, consolidate development results, and strengthen the aftereffects of development. At the same time, cultural construction must also start from the basic national conditions of the primary stage of Socialism, and start from the reality of economic and social development, formulate scientific plans, rationally arrange inputs, vigorously and reliably implement cultural construction programmes, strengthen the systemic nature and coordinated nature of cultural development and reform and development in other areas. We must comprehensively plan that forces in all areas promote cultural construction. Establish and complete work systems and work patterns with uniform leadership by Party Committees, in which propaganda, ideology and culture departments bear them ain responsibility, all Party and government departments grasp matter and manage affairs together, and all areas of society jointly participate.

Improve macro-level management, incessantly complete and perfect cultural management systems and mechanisms. Following our the deepening of our country’s economic structural reform and the profound change of social structures, there are problems such as the fact that old cultural management systems are no longer suited, the transformation of government functioning has not reached objectives, cultural enterprise and undertaking work units’ endogenous impetus and development vitality are insufficient, etc., which constrained the liberation of cultural productive forces. Because of this, we must correctly deal with the relationship between government and market, and government and society, incessantly complete and perfect cultural management systems with Party Committee leadership, government management, sectoral self-discipline, social supervision and enterprise and undertaking work units doing business according to the law, and cultural product production and business mechanisms that are rich in vitality. Further transform the function of administrative culture departments. According to the demand of building a rule of law government, a service-type government and an innovative government, transform the function of administrative departments into policy adjustment, market supervision, social management and public service, avoid the occurrence of neglect of duties, excess of duties, mistakes in duties and other situations. Further streamline administration and decentralize powers, move the reform of administrative examination and approval forward, grasp matters that should be managed tightly and manage them well, and firmly hand matters that should not be managed over to enterprises and society, pay more attention to supervision and control during and after events. Move the construction of a cultural legal system forward, accelerate cultural legislation, and raise the ability for and level of administration according to the law. Complete State-owned cultural asset management systems, implement the integration of managing people, managing affairs, managing assets and managing the orientation. Perfect comprehensive cultural market law enforcement and management systems, raise the efficiency of comprehensive cultural market law enforcement. Strengthen planning, organization and policy research for cultural development, ensure that plans and policies that are rolled out, are more scientific and rational. Innovate mechanisms and service methods, establish and perfect comprehensive coordination mechanisms for the construction of public cultural service systems, avoid resource fragmentation and waste, adopt the establishment of funds, government tendering, specifically oriented subsidies and other such methods for important public cultural products , major public cultural programmes and public interest-type cultural activities. Foster qualified cultural market subjects. Deepen the reform of State-owned commercial cultural work units into enterprises, promote that transformed cultural enterprises accelerate the transformation of their corporate structure and shareholding structure, establish modern enterprise systems perfect legal person governance structures, strengthen market competition capacity. Encourage focus cultural enterprises to implement cross-regional, cross-sectoral and cross-ownership systems mergers and reorganizations with capital as the link. Lower cultural industry access thresholds, move the pluralization of investment subjects forward. Support the development of all forms and kinds of cultural micro-enterprises, encourage non-publicly owned cultural enterprises to vigorously provide diversified cultural products and services. Develop new cultural business models, stimulate the transformation and upgrading of cultural industries. With supply , circulation and sales as the basis, establish multi-level cultural product and factor markets, encourage the integration of financial capital, social capital and cultural resources. Accelerate the construction of policy platforms for the cultural industries, eliminate policy barriers, regional differences and differences across ownership systems, and create a fair and free market environment. Strengthen the development vitality of cultural undertaking work units. Clarify the functions of different cultural undertaking work units, give prominence to their public interest nature, and strengthen their service role. Promote the enterprise-type management of cultural work units that have maintained their undertaking nature, perfect human resource management, income allocation, artistic production management and other such mechanisms. Promote the organization of boards of directors for public libraries, museums, cultural centres, etc., perfect long-term guarantee mechanisms for free-of-charge opening, raise the ability for and level of serving the masses. Encourage the development of culture-type social organizations. Complete sector standards, perfect sector management, vigorously foster culture-type sector associations, societies, funds and other such non-governmental organizations, give full rein to their role in coordination, supervision, service and rights defence. Perfect cultural management, evaluation and appraisal, technology trade, import consulting and other such cultural intermediary service organs, ensure that intermediary organs and sector organizations become bridges and nodes linking government with the cultural market.

Strengthen cultural input, provide powerful guarantees for the flourishing development of culture. At present, financial input in cultural construction by all levels’ governments remains relatively little in quantity and quite low in proportion, it is not suited to the masses’ expectations and the demands of economic and social development, and it is urgently necessary to expand support strength, give prominent support to focus points and optimize support methods. Strengthen budget input into culture by financial administration at all levels. Our country’s cultural undertaking expenses have fluctuated between 0,3 and 0,4 per cent of total national financial expenses for many years, because of this, we must further expand input, raise the proportion of cultural expenditure in financial expenditure, and strive to achieve that the growth rate of all levels’ governmental public finance input into cultural construction is higher than the growth rate of regular financial income. Strengthen public cultural infrastructure construction. Because of the low starting point in the past, and much underinvestment, our country’s public cultural facilities are gravely insufficient in quantity. We must incessantly perfect public cultural service facility networks, and strive to promote the construction of major national cultural facilities, district and city-level cultural facilities and village-level cultural facilities. Persist in moving the centre of gravity down, direct more resources towards old, minority, border and poor regions and the integration of town and country, promote the rational allocation of public cultural resources, move the standardization and equalization of basic public cultural services forward. Expand support for corresponding platforms and concrete programmes. Strengthen the development and operation of cultural industry development service platforms, cultural market supervision and management platforms, foreign cultural trade service platforms, international cultural product trade platforms and other such special platforms, increase support amounts of special finds for cultural projects benefiting the people, the free-of-chare opening of public cultural facilities, creation support for stage art, cultural industry development, cultural heritage and intangible cultural heritage protection and other areas. Vigorously explore scientific and rational financial support methods. Establish and complete finance outcome evaluation mechanisms, raise the use efficiency of financial capital. Promote the establishment of basic public cultural finance guarantee mechanisms, appropriately reduce the proportion of financial supplementary capital for grass roots and deprived regions, raise the capacity and efficiency of grass roots governmental integrated public finance resources. Pay attention to giving rein to the leverage function of financial capital in prying loose social capital, adopt programme subsidies, directed financial assistance, lending discounts, service contracting and many other methods to guide social forces to vigorously participate in cultural construction.

Broaden cultural opening up, further raise the levels of foreign-related cultural exchange and cultural trade. Expanding opening-up to the outside world in the cultural area is a necessary choice for stimulating the flourishing and development of culture and increasing national cultural soft power. We must incessantly strengthen a sense of openness in cultural development, comprehensively deal with both domestic and international pictures, use both domestic and international markets and resources, handle the relationship between “bringing in” and “marching out” well, and enhance cultural openness levels. Strive to expand foreign cultural exchange. With a global view and a broad mind, persist in letting the foreign serve China, tolerance and open-mindedness, learn from all beneficial experiences that may benefit strengthening our country’s Socialist cultural construction and positive results that enrich our the cultural lives of the people of our country. According to the thinking of “comprehensive government planning, social participation, joint action between officials and the people, and market operation”, integrate government exchange with people-to-people exchange, integrate bilateral exchange with multilateral exchange, integrate the mustering of domestic forces with drawing support from foreign forces, expand in breadth, increase in depth, meticulously plan cultural activities, shape string joint forces for and comprehensive effects of foreign cultural exchange. Strengthen dialogue in the ideological area, build exchange mechanisms in the humanities, and encourage social organizations and Chinese-financed organs to run exchange programmes in the humanities. Focus on the coordination and cooperation of domestic and foreign propaganda, comprehensively plan domestic and international public opinion guidance, strengthen international communication capacity and discourse system construction, and enhance the understanding of and identification by international society, safeguard security in the ideological area. Vigorously develop foreign cultural trade. Vigorously import excellent foreign talents, advanced technology and management experience, attract foreign capital to enter into cultural industry areas where permitted by laws and regulations, promote Sino-foreign cooperation in the cultural industries, encourage foreign-invested enterprises to carry out cultural science and technology research and development in China. Research and formulate policies to encourage the export of core cultural products and services, foster foreign-oriented backbone cultural enterprises, and establish foreign-oriented cultural industry concentration areas. Strive to forge cultural trade platforms that have international influence, promote cultural products’ “marching out” with enterprises as subjects, with marketized operations as main methods, strive to raise the share of our country’s cultural products on the international market, progressively change the situation of the cultural trade deficit.

Strengthen team construction, forge a line of cultural talent teams on a large scale. At present, the construction of our country’s talent teams in the cultural area does not match the demands of cultural developments, fostering, encouragement and guarantee mechanisms for all kinds of cultural specialist talents are also not perfect. This has become a bottleneck constraining the scientific development of culture. Because of this, we must forcefully implement a strategy of talent letting culture prosper, and closely grasp the leadership power, management power, discourse power and initiative power in cultural reform and development. Implement talent support programmes in national art bases, focus on implementing cultural celebrity projects, cultural cadre capacity construction training plans, cultural creative and entrepreneurial fostering plans, foreign-oriented cultural talent fostering plans, and high-level cultural industry commercial management talent fostering plans, train high-level commanding personalities and high-quality cultural talent teams. Resolve rural cultural station personnel allocation, launch special work for the “three regions” talent support plan for cultural workers, expand education and training strength for grass roots cultural teams, implement all kinds of guarantee measures. Forcefully develop artistic and professional education, and social education, accelerate the reform of talent fostering systems and mechanisms and the innovation of policy. Complete talent use mechanisms, promote the establishment of high-level literature and art talent introduction, fostering and support programmes, explore the “operation” of talents through marketized and socialized means. We must give high regard to the role of intellectual elites in cultural construction, explore channels to establish good communication relationships inside and outside of the system, and between cultural personalities at all levels, to muster their vigour, initiative and creativity to the largest possible extent, and train a batch of cultural workers with firm politics, who are of one heart and mind with the Party, who persist in serving Socialism, and serving the people.

(The author is the Party Secretary and Minister of the Ministry of Culture)

蔡 武


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