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Posts Tagged ‘soft power’

Is China shooting a cultural missile at Taiwanese art? Taipei Times examines

Posted by artradar on April 2, 2010


CHINA TAIWAN CULTURE CROSS-STRAIT RELATIONS

More on China’s use of cultural power to influence social change

In January this year Art Radar Asia published a summary of an article printed in Canada’s Toronto Star regarding the Chinese government’s use of the “soft power” of the arts for international influence, specifically their growing recognition that media and culture can be a powerful tool to spread political, social and economic ideologies beyond its borders.”

Drunken Beauty, the star attraction in a recent popular Taiwanese exhibition of works by Chinese artist Liu Linghua. source

In a recent editorial in the Taipei Times, J. Michael Cole develops this notion further, discussing the possibility that Beijing is beginning to proactively and openly push Chinese culture into Taiwan, hoping to increase acceptance of its “one China” policy.

Under President Ma Ying-jeou, there has been a strong push by both China and Taiwan to better develop cross-strait relations and this has meant that the creative industries of both countries have been “cross-pollinating”. Coles warns that this could lead to “an assault on the Taiwanese consciousness through cultural means. By dint of repetition and subtle changes here and there (on television, in schoolbooks and academic forums), the Chinese plan could succeed in eroding Taiwanese cultural identity – at least to a certain extent.”

But just how much influence can this cultural “soft power” have on a nation with such a strong cultural identity. As Cole counteracts, “The willingness of Taiwanese to engage in more discussions with Chinese, to watch Chinese movies, attend Chinese art expositions (or gaze at pandas) is simply natural curiosity. By no means does this signify, however, that by doing so Taiwanese accept the so called Chinese nation…”

Rare artworks from China’s Palace Museum went on display in Taiwan’s National Palace Museum during a three month exhibition in late 2009. source

So, while the Chinese government has made it clear that their “cultural influence is no mere collateral – it is, in fact, the tip of a missile aimed straight at the heart,” Cole writes that “if Beijing subscribes to the belief that interest in seeing things Chinese means acceptance of its dominion over Taiwan, it is in for a very unpleasant surprise.” It does seem, however, that “for Beijing, nothing is sacred, or off limits, in its pursuit of unification.”

You can read the full editorial on the Taipei Times website: Beijing sees culture as a weapon J. Michael Cole, 5 March, 2010.

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Posted in Chinese, Nationalism, Overviews, Political, Taiwanese | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

China to use “soft power” of arts for international influence

Posted by artradar on January 5, 2010


CHINESE ART AND POLITICS

China wants its own version of  Hollywood. An intriguing article in the Toronto Star examines China’s growing recognition that media and culture can be a powerful tool to spread political, social and economic ideologies beyond its borders much in the manner of the USA’s film industry.

The economic revolution in China began thirty years ago. Back then, there was nowhere to create or exhibit art works and the Chinese government hardly had time to think about art and international cultural standing. China was opened up to Western investment and the country has since surged toward becoming the world’s second largest economy. Now, China has begun to realise the power that can be gained by having a successful cultural industry.

“…a carefully calibrated gambit is playing out that links cultural production with economic development and the ruling party’s deep desire to shift from a service-first manufacturing centre to a serious, full-fledged player on the international stage.”

China is seeking the benefits of what it calls developing its “soft power”. The country has spent many years creating a booming primary and secondary industry and as a result has spent little time focussing on becoming a cultural world entity.

“…in modern China, soft power translates to a full-scale public relations campaign designed to bolster its image – and influence – by selling an in-tune, culturally savvy version of itself to the world.”

Considering China’s significant history in contributing to world culture in centuries past it is now seeing the value in developing its cultural identity again. China is opening itself up to the international art circuit and some of its artists are gaining widespread popularity and success.

The government is trying to use the arts to disseminate its political views to the world. China’s political administration increasingly views cultural production as a valuable tool for building a strong nation and is rapidly pouring millions of dollars of government money into this sector as well as opening it up for private investment.

1500 new museums to be built by 2015

“China plans to spend untold billions to build 1,500 new museums nationwide, most of them with budgets in excess of $100 million, by 2015. Meanwhile, the state-run media and entertainment bureaus announced this fall that they would spend billions themselves to help build gargantuan media and entertainment juggernauts to rival such American monoliths as Time Warner and News Corp., with the stated intent of producing content in multiple languages for export. It also said that increased private ownership, still under state scrutiny, would also be allowed.”

Many developments have been occurring over the years where old factories and former industrial areas are being rejuvenated by the government as new “art villages”, such as Beijing’s 798 Art District. These places consist of clusters of artist studios and galleries where art can be produced, viewed and sold.

798 art district third most popular tourist draw in China

“The 798 Art District has been a remarkably successful model. In its short life, it has become the third most popular tourist draw in the country, after the Great Wall and the Forbidden City. Dozens of such districts dot Beijing’s urban landscape. In Shanghai, an unofficial number has such areas at close to 300.”

Beijing's 798 Art District

While there may be a move by the government to celebrate local cultural achievements on a world scale, they still want to have control over the ideologies being expressed. However, more widespread access to and use of the Internet and digital cameras has allowed distribution of Chinese art works that critique party ideals.

“…a new kind of expression that has sprouted amid the state-mandated cultural flowering. It’s a thriving underground scene that, through the portability of technology and government indifference, is slowly beginning to promote an idea alien to Chinese thinking – that individual expression can find a place, and an audience, however small, outside the party machine.”

It seems China’s political powers hold an increasingly modern and accepting view in terms of developing the country’s cultural domain. However, even China’s most celebrated artists are finding that they still must toe the ideological line in order to continue to produce their work. There is a dark side to this cultural push and many artists have found out the hard way what happens to those who challenge the government of China.

This is a summary of How China is using art (and artists) to sell itself to the world (Murray White, Toronto Star).

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Posted in Asia expands, China, Chinese, Globalisation, Museums, Nationalism, Political, Social | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »