China Cheap to China Chic: The Global Rise of China’s Creative Industries

Philip Dodd is chairman of Made in China, an agency which develops cultural, educational and commercial projects between the UK and China.

MUMBAI, March 12, 2009 – There are three main factors in the rise of the creative industries in China: the transition from ‘Made in China’, which represented cheap imitations, to ‘Created in China’, where China owned the intellectual property of its products; the importance of Chinese art in developing China’s creative economies; and China’s use of its soft power to navigate the world, says Philip Dodd, chairman of Made in China, an agency which develops cultural, educational and commercial projects between the UK and China.

At a lecture hosted by the Asia Society India Centre, National Gallery of Modern Art, and the Mohile Parikh Center for the Visual Arts, Dodd said that one of the most important developments in China in the last 30 years was the emergence of a private life, as evidenced by the rise of 798, a cultural hub of art galleries and restaurants that had formerly been earmarked for demolition.

During the recent Beijing Olympics, 798 was the largest tourist destination in China. It has become an important part of the image of the new China and its independent cultural life, Dodd said. Other cultural centers similar to 798 are also organically developing in China, with the private sector in the forefront of cultural development. This represents the beginnings of civil society in China.

Following Tiananmen, many Chinese artists left China for Paris and New York, but several have since returned and have been crucial in opening up the international angle for connections, and an international market of buyers for Chinese art. Aside from Chinese art, Chinese technology, fashion and merchandise are going global. The strong Chinese values of savings and education have left global brands struggling in China but local brands are thriving. The economic downturn has also affected Chinese brands but China has a large domestic market that it can tap into for at least five years.

The last 20 years have witnessed the world moving into China and the next 20 years will witness China moving into the world. According to Dodd, the challenge will be for China to reconcile tradition and modernity and use their culture and traditions to export China to the world rather than be at the receiving end of it like the country was with popular Hollywood movies such as Kung Fu Panda.

Reported by Angeline Thangaperakasam, Asia Society India Centre

Audio Excerpt: Philip Dodd on how Chinese artists helped modernize China and helped develop its global presence. (2 min., 30 sec.)