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Shanghai, one of China’s main economic centers, has already successfully established a number of creative districts. Following the establishment of 36 creative industry areas last year, the Shanghai Creative Industry Centre held a ceremony on May 20 to mark the founding of a new cluster of such sites. The whole number of creative industry bases in the city now stands at approximately 50.


Although the expression “creative industry” was imported to China not long ago, it was accepted and deployed immediately around the country. And the infant industry is growing up rapidly and along with it a new economic era.  


Since the beginning of the year major cities like Beijing, Nanjing, Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Qingdao, Hangzhou, Xi’an and Chengdu have all been involved in setting up their own creative industry zones and have an eye to making such enterprises the new engine for economic development.


In February, construction work on a creative industry zone called “Window of the World” got underway in Nanjing, capital city of east China’s Jiangsu Province. The zone, expected to be operational in September, will be the city’s first creative industrial base. The municipal government plans to set up a further 10 such areas over the next three to five years.


In Shandong Province, “Creation 100”, the province’s first creative industrial zone which will feature advertising, design, film and television businesses, is now under construction in Qingdao, a major city of Shandong.


In Beijing, in addition to the “Beijing Creative Center” in Dongcheng District, construction of five new such districts is underway, said an official from the Beijing Municipal Development and Reform Commission. They’re located at Shijingshan Digital Amusement Base, Zhongguancun Pioneering Base, the National New Media Base, Deshengyuan Creative Base of Industrial Design and Dashanzi Arts Center.


“In the development wave of creative industries, government is the most important driving force,” said Dr Wang Qin from the Industrial Economy Institute of Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.  “The strategy of building an innovative country proposed by the central government provides a good climate for creative business.”


The strategy has been warmly welcomed by local governments. Many of them including Beijing, Shanghai and Nanjing have written “developing creative industries” into their municipal 11th five-year plans (2006-2010). Beijing has listed the “cultural creative industry” as one of the cornerstone industries and aims to make the city the country’s “capital of creative industry”. And Shanghai wishes to become an “international creative industrial center” alongside the likes of London, New York and Tokyo.


“The current global economy has entered a deeper revolutionary phase of a knowledge-based economy,” said Dr Wang. “In fact developing creative industries is the inevitable option to help accelerate China’s economic transformation,” he added.


Creativity can emerge in all economic activities. Creative business has two key components -- creation and knowledge. Such businesses cover design, animation, architecture, the arts, advertising, film and television production, media, software and computer services.


International experience shows that developing creative enterprises can be a successful step for optimizing the national product mix and enhancing international competitiveness. According to experts, Britain was the world’s first country to boost the creative industry’s development with government support. Since 1998 the UK creative industry has cultivated 120,000 enterprises and many of them completed the tricky transformation from manufacturing to creativity. In fact the output value of creative industries has surpassed the contribution made by manufacturers to GDP.


“The creative industry is emerging in China against the background of global consumption and serves to meet people’s needs in cultural, arts, intellectual and amusement products,” said Prof. Jin Yuanpu from the Renmin University of China.


It appears that investment-driven economic success is no longer an absolute requirement with China attaching significant importance to boosting economic development through expanding the power of the purchaser. At the same time China is changing from a supply-oriented to a demand led economy.


Prof. Jin said that developing creative industries could exploit new markets and identify new consumers.


Experts have suggested that as China is new to the creative scene, the basic foundations must be established quickly to allow the industry to grow.


“Government should act as an engine in developing the industry,” said Dr. Wang Qin. He added that government’s role should be working out strategies and plans for creative industries, setting policy orientation, providing space for development and reasons for more investment. 


(China.org.cn by Zhang Tingting, May 28, 2006)

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