www.nettime.org
Nettime mailing list archives

<nettime> Interview_with_Su_Tong: "Created_in_China"
Ned Rossiter on Sat, 20 May 2006 12:25:57 +0200 (CEST)


[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

<nettime> Interview_with_Su_Tong: "Created_in_China"


Interview with Su Tong: "Created in China"

By Ned Rossiter, September 2005

In September 2005 I met with Su Tong, Executive Director of Created in China
Industrial Alliance (CCIA, http://www.ccia.net.cn/), a non- governmental
organization responsible for the cultural development program of the 2008 Beijing
Olympics. CCIA is in no way restricted to implementing policy directives, however.
As an organization relatively autonomous from the Chinese government, CCIA pursues
a range of activies in cultural and media production. Along with conducting its
own research, CCIA also undertakes magazine and book publishing, video production,
exhibitions, and is committed to facilitating cultural production in regional
China. By doing this kind of bridge-building work, CCIA is attempting to
counteract the perception of cultural arrogance attributed to Beijing by those
living in other cities or regions.

The interview began in a style appropriate for someone like myself -- a newcomer
to China, having first visited to the country around 15 years earlier as a student
during a mid-semester break, and then returning in May 2005 to teach a
transitional program at Tsinghua University for an MA in international media
studies I coordinate at Ulster University in Northern Ireland. Following a tour of
CCIA -- a large office in the sea of high-rise buildings that compose Beijing's
city-scape, and with views on to the Olympic games site -- Su Tong started the
interview by asking me to introduce the research projects

I was involved in. This set the tone for a wide-ranging discussion on the creative
industries in China and the role of networks in relation to creativity.

I explained that I was just starting off on a comparative project on international
creative industries, collaborating with researchers in Australia, New Zealand and
the Netherlands, and our interest was in detailing some of the complexities and
variations of creative industries in an international frame. I noted that many
countries and regions such as Netherlands, Austria, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia
and Brazil have their own policies of developing creative industries and that
frequently the government policies are too restrictive and simplistic. I suggested
that by studying the local variations across different countries, our research
hoped to obtain an evaluation of how creative industries are operating globally.
Generally speaking, there is no single creative industry; there are many creative
industries in the world.

I finished my introduction by asking Su Tong if he could tell me a bit about the
current development of creative industries in Beijing, and to describe the role of
CCIA in this development.

Su Tong: Let me start with an introduction of the major projects we are involved
in and our role in developing creative industries in China. In 2004 the Chinese
Pacific Academy and some other organizations initiated a coordinated action in
developing a creative China. We are the core member of this team. Last year, one
of our major jobs was to import and introduce the concept of creative industries
into China. This concept had caught our attention since 2003. We then started to
promote this concept through a series of activities in 2004. Another major job we
have been dedicated to was to combine the development of creative industries and
2008 Beijing Olympics. The Olympics, without a doubt, will bring a lot of
opportunities to creative industries in China.

We have also been working on facilitating the marriage between creative industries
and Chinese traditional industries and traditional culture. We are hoping to make
good use of the new global industrial resources of the creative industries to
advance the development of the local creative industries.

As far as we know, the concept of the creative industries has been very
influential. We are quite surprised by how fast the term has been welcomed by the
public. Last year when we started to promote the concept, it was still a very new
term to the public as well as to the government. But there has been an immense and
very prompt response from all channels over a one-year period. Through this
experience we have realized how vigorous a concept the creative industries is, and
as a result, we are even more determined to conduct further research in the field
of creative industries.

There are three aspects to our role in the development of Chinese Creative
Industries. Firstly, we have defined our research as the study of the changes
brought about by Creative Industries in the transformation of societal structures
as well as in the socio- economic systems. We are hoping to carry out some further
in-depth examinations of how Creative Industries have influenced the society, the
social structure, and the economy in China.

Secondly, we are also interested in philosophical and theoretical studies relevant
to Creative Industries. In both western and eastern cultures there have been very
rich and splendid philosophical legacies. However, we believe that in an age of
Creative Industries, there should be an in-depth interaction and communication at
the philosophical level between the East and West. A new merged, harmonized
philosophy needs to be created for the development of the creativity of human
beings. This will be a historical hand-shaking between the Eastern and Western
philosophies.

Thirdly, we are striving to create a new language for communication in Creative
Industries. As you know, Creative Industries and arts are closely related to the
use of symbols and images. We are hoping this new language based on Creative
Industries will provide a new style, a new channel of communication for people all
over the world in this field. People will obtain more profound understandings of
each other through creative art works and the symbolic system of the new
communicative language.

On the basis of the studies above, we are hoping to be able to provide some
grounds for governmental policy-making regarding Creative Industries. We see a
need, for example, for research on the influence of Creative Industries on society
and the economy, research on intercultural and international communications, and
research on how to achieve extensive global cooperative studies on cultures and
philosophies. These will all provide new points of view for the government in
policy-making on the development of Creative Industries.

Ned Rossiter: It's really impressive and to me at least, unusual, to hear how an
organization can assist the government in policy-making.  The concept of Creative
Industries has been understood narrowly as the generation and protection of
intellectual property rights. Your understanding of Creative Industries is
obviously much deeper and certainly more sophisticated than what is usually the
case with many governments.

ST: We are planning to carry out an international cooperative project as the next
step. This is especially important considering the Chinese government, at present,
is making the Eleventh Five-year Plan, and we are making a lot of effort to
incorporate new information about Creative Industries into the Eleventh Five-year
Plan.

NR: I'm interested in hearing about your cooperative relationship with the
government. What's more, I'm also interested in how you consider the relationship
between Creative Industries and real-estate development in a global city like
Beijing. For example, there is a very prosperous real-estate development around
the Dashanzi Art District.[1] Do you think some real-estate developers will be
interested in Creative Industries, or in participating in some development of
Creative Industries? Or have real-estate developers already been undertaking some
activities in the Creative Industries?

ST: This is our point of view of this issue: the last few years Beijing has seen
an unprecedented period of rapid real-estate development. Especially since 2003,
Beijing real-estate development has entered a new era. This is the backdrop of
real-estate development. It was at this point that Creative Industries and real-
estate development met each other.

The field of real-estate is very sensitive to new conceptions, and further more,
due to its industrial characteristics, it's also a part of Creative Industries,
e.g. the fields of architecture, art and design, interior furnishings, etc. As we
observed over the last year, the industry of real-estate has been the quickest in
reacting to the introduction of the Creative Industries in China. They are faster
in accepting and understanding the conception of the Creative Industries and have
taken some actions to implement it.

At the beginning of 2005, Beijing local government publicized the new twenty-year
scheme for city planning of Beijing. This new policy, in a sense, has accelerated
the new emergence of the Creative Industries and urban construction in Beijing.

It is true that some real-estate developers and the government might use the
concept of Creative Industries for propagandizing or advertising purposes. This
phenomenon has been fairly prevalent in Beijing, which indicates that people have
not completely understood the deeper meaning of the Creative Industries.
Objectively speaking, the term of Creative Industries has been used for the
commercial promotion of real-estate business; however, this has in effect
propagated the concept of Creative Industries.

NR: I am wondering about the sustainability of the Creative Industries in this
context. If the real-estate industry comes to a halt one day, a crash, how would
the Creative Industries continue to develop? This is what we have seen in many
other cities who have been host to global sporting events such as the Olympics --
first the boom period, and then a period of readjustment and hopefully not
bankruptcy following the event.

ST: It is true that the real-estate development will reach a certain climax in
2008 when Olympics games are held in Beijing. However, what will follow
immediately is the demand for in-depth development.  Creative Industries will not
be impeded by the current scale of real- estate development. On the contrary, it
will benefit from it immensely, because the large-scale development of real-estate
at present will leave sufficient space for the Creative Industries.  These houses
need to be furbished, which involves a great deal of participation and
contribution by art design professionals. The development of Creative Industries
in Beijing has phenomenal staying power.

Beijing is regarded as the cultural centre of China. We believe Beijing can be
regarded as a valuable research subject for the global creative industry studies.
It is a city of more than 2000 year-old history with abundant sediments of Chinese
culture. Beijing has also put itself in an appropriate place in the global
economic system as a modern international metropolis. All of these factors
determine that Beijing will provide sufficient space for research in Creative
Industries due to its representativeness and prototypicalness.

NR: It seems that this type of special relationship between Creative Industries
and real-estate development only exists in big cities.  Does this mean that the
concept of Creative Industries can only be applied to the development of big
cities? Or is it considered as a nationwide concept, including the countryside and
the smaller towns?

ST: One of the major tasks in developing the Creative Industries in the Chinese
context is to upgrade the traditional industries nationwide. The development of
Creative Industries will help to enhance or create the new image and the new
status of our traditional local products in the world. This the most practical and
foundational task of the Creative Industries in China.

NR: There has been a serious problem in the development of the Creative Industries
in many countries: there have appeared two classes of people, those who own
intellectual property rights such as publishers, film companies, etc. -- what
Australian media and cultural theorist McKenzie Wark calls the "vectoral class";
and another class -- the "hacker class" - that produces these intellectual
property rights and sells or gives them away to those companies. The latter class
often experience a lot of financial uncertainty and are to some extent controlled
by the people who own the intellectual property.  Take art designers or workers in
the film industries as an example: they often have to wonder whether there will be
any job available later on. Do you think this problem of intellectual property
right also exists in China, especially in the development of the information
economy? If it exists, do you think this will lead to problems of social
inequality?

Su: This problem has been identified for a long time in China. There has been a
well-known saying since early on: a composer makes ten Yuan from writing a song, a
pop star makes hundreds of Yuan from singing the song. So we want to use the
development of Creative Industries as an opportunity to design a new, more
plausible operational mechanism for Chinese intellectual property rights
protection, and to make some suggestions for the construction of the general
framework of intellectual property rights protection. The logo of the Chinese
National Bureau of Intellectual Property Rights was designed by us.

In our opinion, it has to be a prolonged process for people to understand, to
accept and to conform to the concept of intellectual property rights protection.
However, the development of Creative Industries may help accelerate this process
by becoming integrated into the international system of intellectual property
rights protection.

NR: In recent years there is also an alternative voice about intellectual property
rights protection in Europe, Australia, Brazil, and the US that considers the
overemphasis of intellectual property right protections as creating a lot of
restrictions in the development of Creative Industries. Many materials and
products cannot be open for productive and creative exploitation in the Creative
Industries. As a result, there is now a anti-IP movement in the world. Is there
any voice or discussion about this in China, especially regarding creative
intellectual property rights?

Su: In yesterday's newspaper there was a report on how the Indian government has
taken some measures to protect their intellectual property right of Yoga, the
quintessence of Indian culture, as some non-Indian companies have applied for the
international registered patent of yoga. There are some similar cases in China as
well. The definition and practice of intellectual property rights protection are
still very ambiguous up to now. There were a lot of discussions lately, but we
have not arrived at any consensus regarding these issues. Recently China has just
publicized a new Property Rights Law, which specified how to define the term of
private property in terms of law. Obviously it is quite particular to the current
conditions of China that even the problem of private property rights protection
has not been fully solved, not to mention the intellectual property rights
protection. We are still at a very complicated stage of development.

NR: I'm now working closely with some partners in many corners of the world to
construct a sort of mobile institution of networks that is realized through the
Internet. We wish to build a common space for the many resources and research
projects found in networks. As I understood during the short tour at the
beginning, your institution is also dealing with a lot of work related to the
Internet and networking. I'm interested in hearing more about what you have done
on this aspect.

ST: We have a scheme about networking, i.e. to establish a conception

called =91enternet'. In Chinese =91enternet' means Tong (able to = transmit
something within a unobstructed network). The core conception of it is to connect
human brains, computers, and the entire brains. The connection between human
brains and computers is also called inter- brains. Human brains are the origin of
creativity; while the computers are the tools for exerting human creativity. Thus
a global connection and unification of human creativity will be actualized through
computer networks, and through a universal communicative symbol system. This
network will be able to transcend all the regional, racial and cultural
boundaries.

As shown by the diagram, the three forms of network, namely, Internet, intranet,
and extranet, are connected and combined into one networking system as the basis
for unobstructed cooperation and communication within the social networks.

In addition, we also want to use the Internet, the international networking
system, to establish a new interactive framework for knowledge flows and
communication. This new networking system is based on the creative practitioners
and is built for sharing knowledge and resources. Imagine if the resources
scattered around the world are all integrated and brought into play for one
research project through the network system! This is probably the dream of many
people in the world.

NR: This is a fascinating model of a networking system! Governments usually cannot
understand models like this. When we communicate with the government, we need
translators; just like when you and I speak, we need a translator. Do you think
your institution is actually playing the role of a "concept translator"?

ST: Your definition of our role is very accurate! In a sense, we have not become
aware of this function of ours so specifically. You have hit the nail on the head!

NR: Well, part of my research involves concept translation as well.  This model is
very interesting. I remember you mentioned that you are interested in developing a
new pragmatic language with arts, symbols, and images, etc. for creative
communications. Now you are introducing another language, i.e. computer
programming language that can be used for sharing resources globally.

As I mentioned, we are organizing a new type of institution through the Internet.
But there is somehow a tension, a problem. The concept of global networking
provides a mechanism for sharing culture and all sorts of resources, but this new
type of institution is lacking in models for business management. The definition
of intellectual property rights has offered us a business model; but it has also
restricted the development of creative industries.

Governments all over the world have to sign up on the IPR agreement and make
policies to protect IPRs in developing creative industries.  However, these
policies have worked against the original purpose of sharing resources for
creative productivity.

It seems very important now for networks in creative industries to develop a new
business model. I'm wondering if that is your goal in playing the important role
of a concept translator? Are you going to propose a new business model in the
future?

ST: I have noticed that Dr. Rossiter has a discerning eye. You can always spot the
things we are doing or planning to do. This is exactly the core of our work.

NR: Well, I've found your institution to be very special. I have not seen any
similar organization in the world that is doing such meaningful and ambitious
things in the field of creative industries.

ST: Let me introduce a set of concepts first: resources, assets, and capital. We
have made another set of terms based on them, namely, shared resources, common
assets, symbiosis-capital. These three fundamental economic concepts constitute
the cornerstones of the new business model. Within such a framework, property
rights will not have to be shifted. Information can thus be shared due to its
intrinsic characteristics.

Let's take a historical story as an example. A historical story from a culture is
a piece of information. This information can be exploited by Americans, Britons,
Chinese people or the French to produce certain forms of arts, films or
literature. This is exactly an example of sharing resources. After the
exploitation of the story, even within the current framework of IPRs, there is
still a lot of space for sharing in terms of transmitting, appreciating and
exchanging of the products. This is a very interesting direction. We can try to
explore more in this direction within the current framework of IPRs. The purpose
of this exploration is to increase the global happiness index. We believe the
space is negotiable within the restrictions of the old IPRs framework.

NR: The global happiness index, this is a very interesting new index. 

Maybe this is the really important index the government should pay more attention
to. This indicates a significant shift. Creative products, either ideas or films,
are immaterialized, and turned into care products.

Our discussion is becoming more and more interesting. Your understanding and
interpretation of some traditional concepts is very special. There is still the
dark side, however, in our social development. There are still people who are
involved in menial service labor, the poorly paid underclass who are cleaning the
streets, or providing massaging services, for the happiness and satisfaction of
the public. This might lead to political problems.  Your organization is playing a
very special and unique role as a concept translator in providing constructive
suggestions for the government, thus preventing political problems. Is that the
case?

ST: We mentioned that we have been really concerned that the different use of
language has led to misunderstandings of some important concepts. The development
of creative industries has brought about a new era of industrial revolutions in
China. We have always wanted to do one thing, i.e. to re-scrutinize the denotation
and connotation of some key terms such as fortune, happiness, creativity, capital,
assets, socialism, and communism, etc. It is the core of our work to redefine
these terms in the new context. Only in this way can we solve the problems of
misunderstandings I mentioned above. Only twenty years ago, the two terms, capital
and assets were still very fearsome terms. However, twenty years later in China,
they have become most lovely words.

NR: I have just been on a ten-day train trip from Moscow to Beijing.  There was an
international conference on the train.[2] The feel was very different in Moscow.
Maybe these much-loved terms in China have not become so popular in Russia. Do you
think the government has realized the complexity of the use of these terms? Or is
what you are doing related to governmental policy-making?

ST: We want to do something practical and concrete based on the new starting point
of Creative Industries. We are planning to construct a dictionary of key terms
with both Chinese and English explanations. [3] We will also explore and explain
the origins and evolutions of these terms in the world and in China, which will
hopefully enhance the government's understanding of these concepts by providing a
historical view of them.

NR: I have another question about the structure of your organization.  Maybe it's
a bit boring, but it'll help me to understand better what you are doing. During
the tour today, I have been shown around a few sections, such as the web design
section, editorial department, magazine, etc. You just mentioned that you are
carrying out some research in philosophies and ideologies relevant to Creative
Industries. Could you tell me how much is the percentage of each of these types of
work?

ST: Each takes up 100%.

NR: I asked this question because I was wondering whether it's similar here to
many other places in the world. You know that in Australia, Europe, and the US
many universities are becoming more and more commercialized, because the
government funding has been reduced. 

The universities want to attract more creative people, but more and more of the
creative people have been professionalized. So sometimes it's very hard to say how
much percentage the research side makes up their work, and it's hard to tell where
it starts and where it ends.

I have asked many questions, and really appreciate your informative responses. I
hope we can work together in the future. Of course, I don't know whether you will
be interested in meeting up again?

ST: Very interested!
[to be continued in May, 2006]

Translated by Du Ping

Acknowledgements

Thanks to Michael Keane for his introduction to Su Tong, to Showmark for
facilitating the meeting and to Du Ping for her excellent translation skills
during the interview and of the text.


Notes

1. See Ned Rossiter, 'Creative Industries in Beijing: Initial Impressions',
Interactivist Info-Exchange, 2005, http://
info.interactivist.net/article.pl?sid=3D05/10/09/139211&mode=3Dnested&tid=3D= 22

2. http://www.ephemeraweb.org/conference/index.htm

3. http://www.ccia.net.cn/cciaanswer.asp





#  distributed via <nettime>: no commercial use without permission
#  <nettime> is a moderated mailing list for net criticism,
#  collaborative text filtering and cultural politics of the nets
#  more info: majordomo {AT} bbs.thing.net and "info nettime-l" in the msg body
#  archive: http://www.nettime.org contact: nettime {AT} bbs.thing.net