'Cultural Deficit' Cause for Concern

A member of the country's top advisory body yesterday called for fellow members to pay attention to what he called China's "deficit" in international cultural exchanges, saying the country should come up with ideas and measures in the face of cultural competition from the rest of the world.

Zhao Qizheng, a member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), and also the former minister of the State Information Office, said China is now in a disadvantageous position in global cultural exchanges, despite its glorious cultural tradition.

"We should fully understand the significance of culture as a foundation and pillar for a nation's fate. Rejuvenation of a nation should start from a renaissance of its culture," he told a plenary meeting at the CPPCC's annual session.

"Culture is also an important part of a country's overall strength."

Zhao, who is now dean of the Renmin University of China's journalism school, cited a series of figures relating to China's cultural exchanges with foreign countries, which all pointed to a Chinese deficit.

The ratio of book imports verses exports in China in recent years is 10 to 1. While trade in movies and commercial performances are in a similar situation.

China's rising economic power has fuelled foreigners' enthusiasm towards the Chinese language. Still, in the United States, only 24,000 students are studying Chinese at high schools, compared to the 1 million that study French.

This situation should not just be attributed to problems in certain departments, he said. "The country's weakness in culture should be blamed," he said.

To balance the "cultural deficit," Zhao said, the country should first develop its culture and build a vibrant cultural sector.

In addition, efforts should be made to effectively introduce its culture to the world.

The country's 11th Five-Year Guidelines (2006-10) states that the country should "actively explore international cultural markets and promote the Chinese culture to the world."

(China Daily March 10, 2006)

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