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New Rules to Safeguard Cultural Security

China will not permit any more overseas satellite television channels to land on its mainland and will not allow foreign investment in the country's news media, according to new government regulations.

China promulgated earlier this month three regulations on the import of cultural products, the use of foreign capital in the cultural sector, and foreign and non-public investment in cultural undertakings. Analysts say these regulations aim to put Sino-foreign cultural exchanges in order and safeguard cultural security.

"It is an active response to the new situation after China joined the World Trade Organization," said Wang Zhimin, a professor at Beijing Film Academy.

Statistics show China has had a huge deficit in its trade in cultural products, in sharp contrast with the surplus in the trade of other commodities. The proportion between the imports and exports of copyright trade in China is 10.3 to 1. For instance, China has imported several thousand American movies, but exported only a limited number of Chinese movies to the US market.

Every country has its own cultural tradition and values. The large-margin adverse balance of culture trade will not only influence the country's economic benefits, but also exert great impact upon the security of its culture, said Wang, adding that China's culture industry is still young, so it is necessary for the government to guide and protect it by promulgating policies.

According to the regulations, China encourages nongovernmental investors to invest in fields of art performance, and movie and TV making, and participate in the reform of state-own cultural institutions by turning them into joint-stock companies.

China will open its cultural market to foreign investment persistently and stipulate some restrictions to control the scale, the regulations said.

"These documents reiterate the current policies and add some necessary improvements. They will improve management and ensure an orderly cultural market," a senior official with China's cultural administrative department said under condition of anonymity.

"China has fulfilled its promise after joining WTO. The new regulations are also consistent with the WTO principles and will help foreign investors know definitely what they can do and what they cannot," he said.

China promised to open up its cultural market moderately when it entered the WTO in 2001, and issued a series of governmental documents to accelerate the inflow of foreign capital. But some departments and localities did beyond the permission by allowing foreign capital into some non-open fields such as making news and other programs.

"It has gravely hurt the nation's interest," the official said, adding that the newly-issued regulations aim to prevent the irregularities of some localities and departments.

In fact, countries do not share an identical view on whether certain WTO principles should apply to the trade in cultural goods and service, and quite a few countries set limits on the opening of cultural markets. The European Union, France and Canada have issued many policies and regulations to protect their cultures.

"The regulations are consistent with international norms and will help make China's cultural industry's development and cultural exchanges with the international community healthier and more orderly," said Luo Han, general manager of the Beijing Great China International Entertainment Corporation.

(Xinhua News Agency August 11, 2005)

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