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China rides wave of cultural trade

By Zhong Nan Source: China Daily Updated: 2022-09-08


[Shi Yu/China Daily]

Digital technologies put country's exports of creative products, services in the fast lane

China's latest push to bolster its creative and cultural trade internationally is expected to cultivate fresh competitive advantages for its exporters, create more jobs and elevate the level of digital technologies in the fast-growing sector, according to government officials and business executives.

They spoke after the Ministry of Commerce and 26 government branches, including the National Development and Reform Commission and the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, issued a guideline in mid-July to promote the high-quality growth of the nation's foreign cultural trade amid the boom in service and the digital economy.

With China taking more measures to deepen reform and opening-up in the cultural field, the policy document said it aims to expand the country's imports of high-quality cultural products and services, and encourage the export of its own high-level radio, film and television programs as well as cultural creative and design services.

The document details specific measures in areas from stimulating the vitality of market entities to fortifying the internationalized development of digital cultural platforms, said Wang Dongtang, director-general of the department of trade in services and commercial services at the Ministry of Commerce.

The government's plan of introducing a nationwide negative list for cross-border trade in services, exploring ways to relax restrictive measures in the cultural field in an orderly manner and expansion of imports of high-quality cultural products and services have highlighted the country's willingness to ensure high-level market competition, he said.

In addition to taking full advantage of its comprehensive bonded zone policies, China will encourage businesses to provide services such as translation, dubbing, editing and post-production for film and television, animations and games produced overseas, according to the policy document.

The country will also support the growth of operations such as storage, display and transactions of cultural relics and artworks, with the evaluation of cultural relics areas under special customs oversight.

The guideline will combine with the effective implementation of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership agreement, consolidate the advantages of traditional markets such as Japan, the Republic of Korea and Southeast Asia, and actively expand China's market presence in economies involved in the Belt and Road Initiative, said Zhang Wei, chief expert of the Beijing-based China Association of Trade in Services.

China's exports of cultural products have been among the world's highest for several years, and a number of internationally influential cultural companies, brands and products have been formed and produced, he added.

More evidence of the growing vibrancy of foreign cultural trade can be found in an office building in the West Coast New Area in Qingdao, Shandong province. There, a group of Chinese and Romanians from the translation center of MCC Beris Engineering and Research Corp, a subsidiary of State-owned China Metallurgical Group Corp, create the Romanian version of a popular Chinese TV series.

Their creation will be broadcast on a channel owned by TVR, the eastern European country's public television service, in the fourth quarter this year.

"We also provide Chinese films, TV series and variety shows in more than a dozen languages, including English, Vietnamese, Indonesian and Malay, to TV stations and new media platforms in more than 195 countries and regions," said Zhao Zhonghui, director of the translation center in Qingdao.

With China emerging as a driver of the global trading system, the market for language services has grown rapidly. MCC Beris has witnessed significant growth in exports by Chinese content production firms and TV programs in different languages, as well as in translation projects for professional content over the past several years, she said.

China's foreign cultural trade saw a robust growth of 38.7 percent year-on-year to hit $200 billion in 2021, the Ministry of Commerce said.

In terms of cultural products, the country's import and export volume jumped 43.4 percent on a yearly basis to $155.8 billion last year, while the figure for cultural services rose by 24.3 percent year-on-year to $44.22 billion.

Online games and e-sports products have become a forerunner for the global expansion of China's cultural products in recent years.

"The actual sales of China's independently developed games in overseas markets reached $8.99 billion, an increase of 6.16 percent year-on-year in the first half of this year," the Beijing-based China Audio-Video and Digital Publishing Association said.

"Chinese cultural products have global competitiveness in digital cultural fields such as online games, with the mobile animation standards and digital art display leading the industry standard," said Li Jiashan, executive vice-dean of the China Institute for Service Trade at the Beijing International Studies University.

Apart from the rollout of supportive measures and guidance, including support for developing new business forms like digital art, cloud exhibitions and immersive experiences, the government and investors have deployed more resources in forging competitive advantages for exports in fields such as online literature, digital publishing, online broadcasting and e-sports, she said.

China unveiled its cultural development plan for the 14th Five-Year Plan period (2021-25) in mid-August to promote its culture and build itself into a country with a strong foundation in this regard.

The nation aims to have a more prosperous cultural industry, and a further increase in the appeal of Chinese culture and further improvement in its cultural system, according to the goals and tasks set out in the plan.

The plan, jointly released by the General Office of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and the State Council, China's Cabinet, was drawn up in accordance with the country's Outline of the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25) for National Economic and Social Development and the Long-Range Objectives Through the Year 2035.