China, at Party Congress, Lauds Its Cultural Advances

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BEIJING -- China's government extolled the fruits of 10 years of reform in its cultural sector on Sunday, saying it had privatized thousands of publishing companies, newspapers and cultural groups while promoting industries that can spread China's influence abroad -- all firmly under party control.

Speaking to reporters during the Communist Party's 18th Congress, several leading cultural regulators praised the achievements of the party leader, Hu Jintao, over the last decade. Mr. Hu is scheduled to step down later this week and turn over power to his designated successor, Xi Jinping.

Last week, Mr. Hu declared at the opening of the Congress that "culture is the lifeblood of a nation" and that "the strength and international competitiveness of Chinese culture are an important indicator of China's power and prosperity and the renewal of the Chinese nation."

The participants in the news conference, one of a series over the last few days intended to highlight Mr. Hu's accomplishments, said that China had made great strides toward achieving its cultural goals.

The officials made their case with a blizzard of statistics: China produced 558 feature films in 2011 compared with 140 in 2003; it now has 9,200 movie screens versus 1,953 in 2003; it has listed 43 cultural sites with the United Nations, the third-highest number in the world; it has set up 600,000 rural reading rooms and offers a free movie each month in villages; and it has 2,115 museums that do not charge for admission. Last year, it published 370,000 books, which officials said was more than any other country in the world. China Central Television has 249 million viewers in 171 countries. And the government has spent $30.4 million over the last decade to support 55 minority ethnic groups in China.

Another theme was privatization. More than 2,000 cultural troupes have been privatized, although the government continues to sponsor worthy productions from a public fund that now has a treasury of $1.2 billion.

None of this means that the government has relaxed control, officials said.

"Guidance is the soul" of these moves, said Tian Jin, party secretary of the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television. "We always insist on political responsibility, social responsibility and cultural responsibility."

Mr. Tian said some industries were facing challenges. For filmmakers, an agreement this year with the United States allows more American companies to distribute more movies and reap a greater share of the box office in China. He said that from January to October, box-office revenues amounted to $2.1 billion. Chinese films, however, lost their dominance in their home market, accounting for 41.4 percent of this gross.

But Mr. Tian refused to blame the influx of foreign films, saying Chinese films needed to improve.

"The immediate reason is the strong attack by the imported movies," he said. "But the basic reason is that our competitiveness needs to increase."

Mr. Tian also said that foreign films were not banned from Chinese theaters during national holidays, when the theaters are often crowded: a claim often made by importers. He said that foreign distributors "voluntarily" decided not to show their products during this time "out of consideration" for local sensibilities.

Chinese films, Mr. Tian said, have done less well abroad. In 2011, 55 Chinese films were distributed in 22 countries, grossing about $318 million.

Mr. Tian pledged to do better by carrying out "the 18th Party Congress spirit."

world

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.


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