China's Creative and Cultural Industries

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The importance of the creative economy is reflected in the mushrooming of creative hubs and clusters in the China. In most cases, these areas are conversions of run-down and vacant factories that used to house manufacturing industries that either died off or have been relocated to another district or city. The majority of these conversions are initiated by local governments, implemented either wholly by them or in some form of public-private partnership. Many city authorities in China have formulated economic investment policies based on creativity and creative enterprise as a strategy for economic growth and competitive advantage. The aforementioned ORDOS100-project is an example of this.

For many architects and designers the notion of “Chinese” culture is a key concern: how to define it, how to promote it, how to implement and develop it? Where the focus used to be on tradition, nowadays it is shifting towards contemporary culture (dance, art...). The creative industries are used to support this ambition.

In China, the “cultural creative industries” have started booming over the last five years. As evidenced by trade figures, China became the leading player in the world market for creative goods: in 2005, with an impressive market share of 19 per cent of total world exports of creative goods. This reflects the impact of a clear determination of the Government to fully explore the potential of the creative industries as a development strategy, as emphasized in the 11th Five-Year Plan (2006-2010). Overall the 11th Fiver-Year Plan targets the creation of a “harmonious socialist society” while China’s leaders are promoting via the slogan “common prosperity” the idea that more people and more regions should share the fruits of economic development.

In 2005, the State Council (China) released its ‘11th Five-year Plan’ and put the creative industries on the formal agenda. A couple of months later, in his address to the 17th National Congress, President Hu Jintao stressed developing the cultural industries as a means to enhance culture as part of the soft power of China. These – sometimes referred to as ‘cultural’, at other times as ‘creative’ – programs fill both a void in the existing programs of Chinese cities and attract further real-estate investment like shopping malls, retail and mixed-use developments, targeted a growing market of Chinese consumers.