Harmonious Society and Creative Society

By Shaun Chang

Having achieved spectacular economic growth in the last decade based on a
manufacturing-driven economy, the Chinese Party of Communist is slowly
shifting its focus from economic growth to issues of social injustice
brought about by economic reforms. Former CPC leader Deng Xiaoping said
that the reforms can allow some people to become rich first. The government
is now facing growing anxiety from those who were left behind. Therefore,
the CPC has initiated a nationwide campaign to ‘Construct a Socialistic
Harmonious Society,’ hoping to cope with the growing gap between the rich
and poor. The internet has turned into a platform where social inequity can
be revealed by internet users through chat rooms or blogs, which can then
be picked up by traditional media.

Since the economic reforms and opening-up policies of 1978, China has
witnessed dramatic changes in many areas. But the development of cultural
industry has been slow and under the strict control of the Communist Party
of China (CPC). Since October 2000, the system reforms of cultural industry
have gradually allowed some cultural public service institutions to
function in the market economy and facilitated the development of a
cultural economy. While encouraging private capital to enter the exterior
sectors of cultural industry such as the manufacturing of audio-visual
products, CPC refuses to give up its tight grip on the core cultural
industry sectors, namely the content sector.

Under the reforms, state-run institutions are being weaned from full
government funding and are left to sink or swim on their own in the
fiercely competitive market. But at the same time, in the name of public
interest, the government continues to monopolize the right to determine the
content the audience is allowed to access. Therefore, the government’s
policies are often in direct contradiction with the commercial interests of
state-run institutions, content providers and audience.

The government’s monopoly over content is confronted by growing
dissatisfaction from content providers and their audience in recent years.
Rather than passively being fed content generated by state-run
institutions, the audience is gaining its own control through grass-roots
media such as blogging and podcasting. Audience often gathers in online
chat rooms to express their views of television programs or pop stars.
Their collective power with the aid of the internet has changed the power
structure between audience, content and the government.

The Chinese government has realized that there are limits to being the ‘
factory of the world’. It is aiming to upgrade its industries to include
higher value-added services and knowledge-based business activities. The
Chinese government therefore has proposed to develop a cultural industry
in order to make its economy more creative and innovation-driven, allowing
more room for a diversified mediascape.