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China needs to promote its culture abroad

Source: China Daily  By: Lin Jing  Updated: 2011-09-14
Over the past eight months, there has been a flurry of live performances by Western musicians in China with several more anticipated in the next four months.

To better understand the sudden bloom in the live performance market and how Western performers are changing the market dynamics of the live performance industry, China Daily reporter spoke to Xiang Yong, deputy dean of the School of Arts at Peking University about the industry.

Q: How will international performances influence the domestic market?

A: We have seen an eruption of foreign performances this year. But the international performances are not playing a major role in the market and will in no way pose a threat to local shows.

According to available data, total ticket sales for the performance industry in China was 10.8 billion yuan (1.19 billion euros) in 2010.

Big concerts accounted for 1.32 billion yuan, or 12 percent of the total.

The biggest part of the sales, 45 percent, still comes from other categories such as opera, drama and cross-talk shows; while tourism performances accounted for 11 percent.

Q: Why are Western performances so popular in China?

A: Western culture has been gaining ground in China over the last 30 years. The Chinese people now have a better understanding of the United States than the Americans know about China.

The popularity of Western culture provides a solid and loyal consumer base.

In international trade, there is a term called "cultural discount", which means when introducing a new culture into another country, the acceptance of the foreign culture will be reduced or twisted to some degree because of the differences in language, tradition and customs.

At present, Chinese culture exported to the West is recognized by Chinese born overseas or people from embassies and other organizations with a Chinese background. Seldom would it be popular among native Westerners.

On the contrary, culture from the West, ranging from classic musicals, pop concerts or modern dances, all find acceptance among Chinese people.

Besides, Western culture comprises content with more universal values, like love and friendship, which are easily accepted by global audiences.

China is more likely to present some traditional elements and values to the world, which are often considered mysterious.

Q: Are there any problems in the performance industry?

A: China has good directors but still lacks producers, who are in charge of the whole process from financing to production and marketing.

Another problem is the shortage of young talent. But I think this a very healthy and promising industry.

As long as the market is lucrative enough, more young people would flow into this industry, and the government should play a leading role in it, with preferential policies such as tax exemption for promoters.

Q: How does China promote its own culture to the world?

A: China needs to find the position of its culture in the world first. But it cannot be accomplished within one or two generations.

People in the United Kingdom buy Toyota cars and Acer laptops and the origins of the bands are not a big issue for them. People need these products because these goods are part of their lifestyle.

In the past, the upper class in Britain would drink afternoon tea, because they liked the exotic oriental culture. As a result, they imported chinaware and tea from China.

What China needs to do now is to make Chinese culture part of their lifestyle.

We should think about which part of Chinese culture or performances are attractive to Westerners. And by promoting this lifestyle, we can export our culture and products with Chinese features to the world.

This is a more specific strategy of cultural globalization.

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