'Cultural deficit' is widening
By Zhao Huanxin (China Daily)
Updated: 2006-09-15 08:16

From foreign movies and TV programmes to books and concerts, China is ringing up a huge cultural deficit, a senior official said yesterday.

The unfavourable balance of trade in the cultural sector will remain acute for a long time to come, Minister of Culture Sun Jiazheng told China Daily on the sidelines of a press conference addressed by two other top officials.

Sun did not assign a monetary value for the deficit but the nation imported nearly seven times more movies than it produced last year. Similarly, it is estimated that the number of books imported was 10 times more than exports.

"It is rather difficult to reverse the trend for the time being, since we have adopted an opening-up policy, and foreign cultural products will continue to flow to China," the minister said.

The movie industry is one of the areas where the effects are most telling.

"We imported 1,970 movies in 2005, a year when China produced 260," Zhao Shi, vice-minister of the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television, told the press conference hosted by the State Council Information Office.

"We are embracing the world whole-heartedly; we welcome overseas movies to China."

The imports included Hollywood blockbusters and other movies bought by Chinese cinemas, television stations and cultural institutions, according to Zhao.

Despite a recently-imposed ban on foreign cartoons being shown on prime-time TV which Zhao said was in response to demands by Chinese parents the country has not restricted their influx.

"As you can all see, a huge number of imported cartoons are being shown on the cartoon channels of a host of stations in China outside prime time," she said.

In the publication sector, foreign books are knocking local works off the bestseller lists, Liu Binjie, deputy chief of the General Administration of Press and Publication, said at the same press conference.

The government has ratified the operation of 38 overseas-invested publication distribution enterprises, with 14 of them entitled to wholesale distribution rights.

It has also approved at least 2,000 overseas-funded printing firms, some of which are large-scale, Liu said, adding that the country has given the green light to Sino-foreign collaboration for 51 newspapers and periodicals.

During the 11th Five-Year Plan period (2006-10), the country will open up the sector even more, Liu said.