Journal of Forensic Legal & Investigative Sciences Category: Forensic science Type: Research Article

Chinese Cultural Policy: History, Formation and Characteristics

Hu Huilin1*
1 Department of cultural industry and management, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, China

*Corresponding Author(s):
Hu Huilin
Department Of Cultural Industry And Management, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, China

Received Date: Aug 02, 2019
Accepted Date: Aug 09, 2019
Published Date: Aug 16, 2019


China has a long history of governing the society through cultural policies. Its current cultural policies is formed as the evolution of Chinese culture since modern times, as well as influenced by China’s own political and economic development, and international cultural environment. This work reviews the development of Chinese cultural policies (after 2001 when China’s accession to the WTO) from a historical perspective, as well as systematically outlines formation mechanism, operation structure, main content, value orientation and direction of current cultural policy. We aim to sketch the overall picture of China’s cultural policy, for understanding the development and characteristics of Chinese cultural policies.


cultural policy; China; cultural industry


Culture is the source and basis of the legality of human society. Culture is a normative system that originated in family and private ownership. After the institution of country established, this normative nature evolved into cultural policies. China has a historical tradition to govern people’s cultural life through cultural policies. As one of the important mechanisms of national governance, Chinese cultural policy is a kind of power will, which not only embodies the Chinese government’s intentional direction toward the country, but also reflects China’s current understanding of culture.

The development of Chinese cultural policy is not only influenced by Chinese cultural traditions, but also shaped by China’s political and economic environment and globalization. Over the past 5,000 years, China has formed and molded a unique cultural pattern. In the axial era of human civilization, the intellectual achievements created by “Laozi” and Confucius are still deeply rooted in Chinese values and lifestyles, and have become irresistible factors to the formulation of Chinese cultural policy. Even to some extent, any resistance to this cultural tradition would lead to the failure of cultural policies in history. 

A series of historical events experienced by China have influenced the shape of Chinese culture and the development of cultural policies. When the People’s Republic of China was founded in 1949, China has undergone a fundamental change. The open-door policies that began in 1979 not only made the Chinese economy the second largest in the world, but also prompted a series of changes and innovations in cultural policy. The reflection of China’s open-door policies in the development of cultural policies is actually a localized reflection of globalization.

In modern times, Chinese culture has experienced a strong impact from Western civilization. In 2001, China joined the World Trade Organization. Chinese government began to gradually open up the cultural market and deepen the reform of the cultural system. Under a series of cultural and creative industry promotion and planning policies, the Chinese cultural industry has experienced a rapid development.

Due to the rise of the Chinese economy and the importance that Chinese government views its cultural industry, more and more scholars have begun to pay attention to China’s cultural policies. Existent studies mainly work on the introduction and analysis of certain aspects of Chinese cultural policy. For example, Su (2014) [1] explored the meaning and positioning of culture in Chinese cultural policy. Shan (2014) [2], Su (2015) [3], Keane (2000) [4] provided introduction and interpretation of Chinese cultural policy. Specific policies such as Chinese films (Meyer-Clement, 2015; 2017) [5,6], broadcasting (Keane, 2001) [7], music (Luo, 2016) [8], and cultural heritage (Jing, 2017) [9] were discussed. However, few studies can fully present the historical development and realistic picture of Chinese cultural policy. This article aims to comprehensively review and present the historical development, realistic picture and future trends of Chinese cultural policy, which in turns to help the understanding of Chinese cultural policy and the development of Chinese cultural industry.


China’s contemporary cultural policy experienced dramatic changes since 1978, since when China starts the open-up reform. Based on the role and positioning of cultural policies, we can say that Chinese cultural policy experienced four periods.

1949-1956: from New Democratic to Socialist

From 1949 to 1956, Chinese contemporary cultural policy experienced the first transition, namely from new democratic cultural policy to socialist cultural policy. In 1949, the Ministry of Culture was established. It is the national cultural administration authority. Since then, China began to implement a new democratic cultural policy1, in other words, retaining private cultural enterprises under the leadership of the new regime, gradually realize the transition from new democracy to socialism. In 1956, private cultural enterprises across the country received the socialist transformation, specifically, implemented public-private partnerships and eliminated the private ownership of cultural production. The later policy declared the end of the new democratic cultural policy. The characteristics of China’s cultural policy in this period were the gradual abolition of the cultural system and cultural policy of the Chinese Kuomintang during its administration, and the establishment of a new cultural policy under the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party. In dealing with international cultural affairs, Chinese government at that time has implemented a foreign policy of “one-sided” to the Soviet Union and socialist countries.

1957-1978: subjectivity construction of contemporary cultural policy

After 1957, China began to formulate and implement socialist cultural policies. Until 1978, the class struggle in ideology became the main content of cultural policy during this period. The Cold War placed significant effects in China’s cultural and ideological field. At that time, the “peaceful evolution” policy that the United States applied toward China, and the ideological split between China and the Soviet Union also pushed Chinese government adopt the class struggle in the ideological field as the core in cultural policies. The “Cultural Revolution” that took place during 1966 to 1976 was a typical example of the ideology extremism during this period. In December 1978, the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China held the Third Plenary Session of the Eleventh Central Committee, which shifted the focus of the State from “class struggle” to “economic construction.”

1979-2000: establishment a market economic system

During this period, Chinese cultural policy experienced its second transitional, along with the preparation for establishing a market economic system. In 1979, China began to implement reform and opening up. Afterwards, the popular culture and entertainment consumer market began to appear in major coastal cities in China. Knowledge youth2 returned to the city and raised new issues of large-scale employment demand. Under this new background, the Chinese government began to relax cultural market regulations and gradually open the entertainment market. For instance, individual capital and social capital were allowed to enter newspapers and magazines retail market and set up entertainment venues and bookstores (1980) to solve social employment pressures. At the same time, Chinese government adjusted the movie screening market policy and allows individuals to contract film screenings in rural area (1990). In April 1985, the General Office of the State Council of China forwarded the “Report on the Statistics of the Tertiary Industry by National Bureau of Statistics,” which includes education, culture, and broadcasting in the statistical category of the tertiary industry. This is the first Chinese government policy document that defines the attributes of cultural undertakings and marks the expansion of reform and opening up to the cultural production and service industries. In 1992, the 14th National Congress of the Communist Party of China decided to implement the reform of the socialist market economy system. At the same time, the government introduced the policy of “using culture to establish the stage, and economy to sing opera,” and began to explore how to shift its own role from “building culture,” to “managing culture.”

2001-: cultural policy innovation for establishing market economy system

Since 2001, China has carried out cultural system reform and cultural policy innovation with the purpose to establish a market economy system. China’s accession to the World Trade Organization in 2001 provided new impetus for further adjustments of its cultural policies. Since then, China’s cultural policies have not only to satisfy the need for domestic reform, but also fulfill China’s commitment of opening domestic cultural market to the World Trade Organization. The abolition and revision of the original cultural policy and the re-enactment of a cultural policy system consistent with China’s accession to the principles of the World Trade Organization have become the driving force and form the characteristics of Chinese culture policy at this stage.

In order to solve the problem of structural contradictions and institutional obstacles3 , the Chinese government decided to “strengthen the cultural industry and tourism industry,” and for the first time enacted “develop the cultural industry” as an important cultural policy in the "Government Work Report" (March 2002). To adjust cultural policies on a higher level to guide the innovation of Chinese cultural policy, the 16th CPC National Congress formally proposed “proactive development of cultural undertakings and cultural industries” (October 2002). Since then, China has started to promote cultural industry and incorporating cultural industry to its cultural system. This change thereby opened the era of reform and innovation in China’s cultural policies. Developing cultural industries to some extent indicates that China has evolved from a “single system” (cultural undertakings) to a “dual track system” (cultural undertakings + cultural industries). The Chinese cultural policy after 2002 is basically compatible with this change.

In 2008, the outbreak of the world financial crisis also caused severe crisis and impact on China’s development in all aspects. In response to the huge impact of the world financial crisis on China’s real economy, the Chinese government issued the “Reform Plan for Cultural Industries” (2009). This is the first national-level plan that is especially on cultural industry promulgated by the Chinese government. The development of cultural industries is officially listed as a national strategy. This is a major development of the Chinese culture and creative industries policy since 2002. After 2010, China’s cultural and creative industry policies continue to develop on this basis. From 2012, the reform of the Chinese cultural system deepened into fields such as the legal construction. Based on the resolutions made by the Sixth Plenary Session of the 17th CPC Central Committee, major issues of deepening the reform of the cultural system have passed and carried out.


After China joined the World Trade Organization in 2001, it successively issued a series of plans and policies to promote the rapid development of cultural industries. By the end of 2012, of the 36 cultural industry policy documents promulgated by the central government, development plans, industry promotion, regulation and incentive policies accounted for 26%, 29% and 39%, respectively, while the remaining 6% were statistics and classification related to cultural industries. It can be seen that the major components of China’s cultural industry policy are at this stage planning and promotion ones. These policies are designed to guide the rapid and healthy development of the cultural industries.

Bringing the development of cultural industries into the overall planning of the national economy and social development has become the most important form of China’s cultural policy. The goal of planning policy is to make an overall layout and plan for the development of the cultural industry in the near future, focusing on establishing the direction and goals for the future development of the cultural industry. Its main content includes basic guidelines, development direction, main objectives, major tasks, and measures. The formulation of a “cultural development plan” every five years, which is in line with the national comprehensive plan “National Economic and Social Development Plan,” has become an important mechanism for China’s cultural policies. Formulation of planning policy has become China’s most important cultural industry policy.

Based on the main obstacles and problems that the current industry development faces, the promotion policy is formulating a series of measures and programs to overcome these obstacles and problems. Its main contents include the significance and basic ideas of the policy, the existing problems and development goals of the policy, the main measures and implementation methods. The existing cultural promotion policies cover a wide range of issues, such as holding cultural industry fairs, building cultural product trading platforms, cultivating cultural industry development market systems, cultivating and building cultural and creative demonstration parks, and promoting cross-industrial development.

The statistical classification and the industry management policies are more specific in content. The purpose of the former is to clarify the actual scope of the cultural industry, thus helping the administrative departments of the cultural industry to define its main responsibilities and functions. Classification is also helpful for industrial managers and researchers to understand the relevant statistical information and development of the industry. The latter is mainly strengthening and improving industrial management and promoting the cultural industry through discovering the industry chaos and development problems.


The formulation of contemporary cultural policies is closely linked to China’s political system. Its cultural policy decision-making is under the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party, the National People’s Congress, and the State Council. The central and central ministries and commissions are responsible for the policy management and operation at the local level.

Decision maker

From the point of view of policy-making entities, cultural policies in China can be mainly divided into three levels. First, the strategic deployment to relevant issues in cultural industry development made by the leading organs of the CPC Central Committee; second, macro cultural industry development policies issued by the State Council. The third is the various cultural industry policies promulgated and implemented by the various ministries and commissions under the State Council. From 2001 to 2012, among the total number of China’s state cultural policies, the State Council, the Ministry of Culture, the Party Central Committee, the Ministry of Finance, the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television, and the General Administration of Press and Publication have published 70% of Chinese cultural policies4. These departments are the main policy maker and promulgator of the central cultural policy. 

The Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (referred to as CCCP hereafter) is mainly responsible for the top-level design for China’s entire cultural policy system. It decides institutional policies related to the national cultural development strategy, cultural system reform, national cultural security, and so on. Documents and policies issued by CCCP is the core basis of cultural industry administration. The Central Propaganda Department of the CPC (hereinafter referred to as CPD) is the functional department of CCCP and is responsible for guiding the development of cultural undertakings and cultural industries. The National People’s Congress of the People’s Republic of China (referred to as the NPC) is the highest legislative body in China. The NPC is responsible for formulating and promulgating cultural laws and reviewing relevant international cultural conventions. The State Council is the highest state administrative agency in China. It is responsible for enacting cultural administrative regulations and rules, formulating and implementing cultural policies formulated by CCCP and NPC, promoting Cultural development, and organizing international cultural exchanges and cooperation.

The formulation of the central cultural policy involves various ministries including the Ministry of Culture of the People’s Republic of China (abbreviated as Ministry of Culture). Throughout China’s macro cultural development policies and documents issued from 2001 to 2012, 46% came from the Ministry of Culture, and the rest were issued by other departments either alone or jointly with the Ministry of Culture. The Ministry of Culture is the supreme institution of Chinese cultural administration5 and is responsible for the cultural and artistic undertakings of the State Council. The State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television of the People’s Republic of China (hereinafter referred to as SARFT) is a subsidiary of the State Council and administers news, publishing, broadcasting, film, and television. In the reform of the State Council in 2018, SARFT was no longer retained. Its press, publishing, and film functions were assigned to CPD, and a new National Radio and Television Bureau was formed on the basis of its radio and television management responsibilities. The State Administration of Radio and TV turns to be a subsidiary directly under the State Council. CCTV (China International Television), the Central People’s Broadcasting Station, and China International Broadcasting Station have been integrated into the Central Radio and TV Station, which, as an institution of the State Council, is under the leadership of the Central Propaganda Department. At the same time, the Ministry of Culture and the National Tourism Administration have integrated into the Ministry of Culture and Tourism.

The cultural policies promulgated by the Central Government are detailed by the local governments in their implementation. At the same time, the local governments at the prefectural, city, and county levels have the legislative powers of the local cultural policies granted by law. Local governments (provinces, autonomous regions, and municipalities directly under the Central Government) and their competent cultural administrations own management authority with regard to local cultural undertakings and cultural industry development, and formulate local cultural policies based on local conditions, and protect citizens’ cultural rights and interests. Almost all local governments in China have promulgated policies on the protection of local intangible cultural heritage. The hierarchical structure of China’s cultural policy formation is shown in (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Hierarchy structure of China’s cultural policy formation

Operation Structure

The operational structure of China’s cultural policy involves top-down implementation and cross-ministerial or intergovernmental cooperation. Resolving cultural policy issues through inter-ministerial cooperation is an important component of Chinese cultural policy formulation. The government departments and institutions involved in China include: the State Administration of Cultural Heritage, the National Development and Reform Commission, the Industry and Information Committee, the Ministry of Finance, the National Bureau of Statistics, the Ministry of Commerce, the State General Administration of Customs, the State Administration of Taxation, the Ministry of Information, the SARFT, etc. These organizations separately or jointly issued cultural policies with Ministry of Culture or SARFT7 . In addition, China also has a provincial cooperation mechanism, established by the Ministry of Culture and provincial-level local governments. This cooperation mechanism mainly involves more specialization. The Ministry of Culture guides the construction of local public cultural services, the development of cultural industries, artistic creation and cultural heritage protection in accordance with the country’s macro strategy and development requirements. As for the top-down formulation and implementation of cultural policies, high-level cultural policy makers pay attention to the top-level design, and the designed cultural policies are subordinated and implemented by the lower-level organizations.

We use planning policies as an example to explain the operating structure of cultural policies. China’s “Cultural Development Plan” is the basis of China’s cultural policy system. It is the concrete embodiment of cultural related contents in the “Outline of the National Economic and Social Development Plan.” Relevant central ministries and commissions work out “Cultural Development Plan,” based on which the provincial and municipal governments and relevant departments further refine the planning. (Table 1) is an overview of China’s cultural planning policies after 2001.


National Planning

Central Ministry Planning

 Local Government Planning


“Five-Year Plan”

Ministry of Culture: “Outline of the Tenth Five-Year Plan for the Development of Cultural Enterprises” and “The Outline of the Tenth Five-Year Plan for the Development of Cultural Industries”8

China’s 31 provinces, autonomous regions, and municipalities all have their own cultural industry development plans. Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan also have their own development plans.


“Eleventh Five-Year Plan” and “Outline of Cultural Development Plan for the Eleventh Five-Year Plan”9

Ministry of Culture: “Eleventh Five-Year Plan for Cultural Construction”


“Twelfth Five-Year Plan”

Press and Publication Administration: “Development Plan for the Press and Publishing Industry during the Twelfth Five-Year Plan,” “The Planning of the 12th Five-Year Plan Period for the Construction of Public Service System for Press and Publication,” “Planning for News and Publications Technology ‘Going Out’ during the Twelfth Five-Year Plan” and seven other planning policies; Ministry of Culture: “Multiple plans for Cultural Industry during the Twelfth Five-Year” and “Outline of Cultural Reform and Development Plan for the Twelfth Five-Year Period”


“Thirteenth Five-Year Plan”

“Thirteenth Five-Year Plan for Cultural Reform and Development”

Table 1: Overview of China’s Cultural Planning Policy

8The first plan for the development of cultural and creative industries issued by the Chinese government. This document makes policy planning for the two areas of cultural development, namely cultural undertaking and cultural industry.

9By Public Office of the CPC Central Committee and General Office of the State Council.

At present, China has basically formed a relatively complete planning policy system, from the central to local governments, in which the national overall plan is the basis, three levels planning of the national, central ministries, the local governments constitute the main body, cultural industries plans play a role of supplements. Planning policy has played an important orientation and leverage role in the development of Chinese cultural industry. According to data from the National Bureau of Statistics of China, from 2011 to 2015, Chinese culture and related industries have grown rapidly, with an average annual growth rate exceeding 14%; the internal structure of cultural industries has become more and more reasonable. In 2015, added value of Chinese cultural service industry reached 13.64 billion RMB with an increase of 14.1% compared with last year, accounting for 50.1% of the total added value of Chinese culture and related industry.


Objectives of China’s current cultural policy include three aspects: 1) establishing a cultural system that is compatible with the market economic system; 2) building a socialist cultural power, which requires upgrading civic cultural quality, developing cultural industries and undertakings, optimizing cultural management, and promoting Chinese culture to go abroad, and so on; 3) Promoting the modernization of the national cultural governance system and capacity, which is the policy goal of Chinese cultural legal system construction. In order to achieve the above objectives, the main value orientation of China’s major cultural policies presents four characteristics.

Simplify administration and decentralization

Accelerating the transformation of government functions and deepening the reform of administrative system is one of the most important cultural policies promoted by China in the past decade. The General Office of the State Council promulgated the “Decision of the State Council on Cancelling and Delegating a Batch of Administrative Examination and Approval Projects” in 2014, reforming the traditional highly centralized cultural system, encouraging and supporting local governments to develop cultural industries, gradually deregulating authority for cultural (such as film and television) examination and approval. This decision gives local government greater authority for examination and approval. Except for major projects involving national cultural security, all of them are subject to examination and approval by local governments. These projects include those promote local development of cultural industries, implement cultural system reforms, change enterprise restructuring, and establish independent markets, and so on.

At the beginning of 2013, the Ministry of Culture retained the right to approve 13 administrative licensing projects and 12 non-administrative license approval projects. During the year, the Ministry of Culture canceled 3 of the original 13 administrative licensing approval projects, devolved 6 projects, and only retained 4 projects. Film production was once one of the areas that require the most approvals. After 2011, it has gradually eliminated 10 administrative approvals for films. The “Film Industry Promotion Law” stipulates that, “all is permissible unless prohibited.” In addition to reviewing topics involving national security, diplomacy, ethnicity, religion, military, etc., it is only necessary for a film screenplay to record, but without review. Approvals of “establishment, change, and termination of film production units” were also canceled. Furthermore, with the implementation of the “Film Industry Promotion Law (2016)”, the originally retained relevant approval authority was also abolished. With these policies, Chinese film has achieved great development. By the end of 2016, there were 772 domestic feature films produced and national movie box office reached 49.2 billion RMB, ranking the second in the world. The number of screens of mainstream theaters in the city was 41,179, making China the country with the largest number of screens in the world.

Promote Local and Ethnic Minority Areas Cultural Industries

During the “Twelfth Five-Year Plan” period, local cultural industries that are characterized by Chinese cultural traits and the use of ethnic minority cultural resources began to develop. The Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Finance jointly issued “Guiding Opinions on Promoting the Development of Characteristic Cultural Industries,” which proposes an incentive to produce cultural products and services with distinctive regional characteristics and ethnic characteristics through creative transformation, technological upgrading and market operations. Since then, various localities, especially those regions with rich cultural resources, have also introduced corresponding development strategies. A number of cultural industry projects with distinctive features have started.

Developing cultural market

After joining the World Trade Organization, China gradually opened up the cultural industry market access and developed non-public ownership cultural enterprises. A series of cultural policies10 clarify that non-public capital can enter relevant areas of the cultural industry. Large-scale private cultural capital began to enter fields from cultural product production to circulation. Private cultural enterprises in China has been rapidly grown, for example, Wanda Group in the field of film circulation, Huayi Brothers Film Company in the field of film production, Shengda Network in the field of online games, Hangzhou Songcheng Group in the theme park field. Meanwhile, a group of cultural technology enterprises, including Alibaba and Tencent, are emerging.

Opening capital markets

Orderly opening capital markets and expanding financing channels promote financial support for cultural industry development. China is required to relax market regulation in the capital market so that it can provide a better environment for cultural industries development. In 2010, the CPD, the People’s Bank of China, the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Culture, the SARFT, the Banking Regulatory Commission, the Insurance Regulatory Commission and other departments jointly issued the “Guiding Opinions on the Revitalization, Development and Prosperity of Financial Support Cultural Industry,” to adapt to and meet the needs of cultural industries development for capital opening. This is the first macro cultural financial policy jointly issued by several ministries for the financing difficulties of the cultural industry. According to this policy, the Ministry of Finance has formulated the “Interim Measures for the Administration of Special Funds for the Development of Cultural Industries” (2010), which clearly states the role for the central and local governments on the use and management of “special funds for cultural industry development”11. At the same time, China further relaxed the capital market financing policy and encouraged conditional private cultural enterprises to raise funds through the capital market at home and abroad. According to the comparative analysis of listed cultural enterprises in Mainland China, Hong Kong and the United States, in 2013 the total number of Chinese cultural enterprises listed in the three places is 64, 62% were domestically listed cultural companies, 22% were from the United States, and 16% from Hong Kong, forming a pattern of tripartite cultural capital markets.

Support Small and Micro-sized Cultural Enterprises

Small and micro-sized cultural enterprises can bring vitality to the development of the cultural market and enrich the employment of the society. In 2012, the Chinese government issued “Opinions of the State Council on Further Supporting the Healthy Development of Small and Micro Enterprises” to vigorously promote and support the development of small and micro-sized cultural enterprises, so that to enhance the competitiveness of the cultural market. The Third Plenary Session of the 18th CPC Central Committee also put forward the requirement of “supporting the development of various forms of small and micro-sized cultural enterprises” in 2013. According to the opinions of the State Council and the requirements of the CPC Central Committee, the Ministry of Culture, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, and the Ministry of Finance jointly issued the “Implementation Opinions on Supporting the Development of Small and Micro-sized Cultural Enterprises” in 2014. This document aimed to support the development of small micro-culture enterprises and the construction of public cultural systems, and encourage small and micro-sized cultural enterprises to participate in public cultural services and government procurement. Support policies for small and micro-sized enterprises include promoting the construction of entrepreneurial carriers, improving and implementing fiscal and tax support.

Building cultural confidence

In addition to adopting liberal policies at the economic level, Chinese government attaches importance to cultural self-confidence and promotes the prosperity of socialist culture in cultural development. This tendency was emphasized by President Xi Jinping in the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (referred to as 19th Congress hereafter). The 19th Congress fully emphasized the importance of cultural construction and pointed out the requirements and path for building socialist culture, which is adhering to the Chinese traditional culture that was nurtured for more than 5,000 years of Chinese civilization, and promoting the creative transformation of traditional culture. President Xi emphasizes the social effects of culture and the importance of self-confidence in culture. In the 19th Congress, he advocated to promote the popularization of Marxism and the spread of the socialist thought, strengthen ideological and moral construction to resist decay and backward culture, and pay attention to the social benefits of culture. China’s emphasis on the social effects of culture leads to the strengthening of cultural content management, although it is applying liberal economic policies to promote its cultural industry. The institutional reform of the State Council in 2018 indirectly explained the importance the state attaches to cultural management. Among the changes, press, publication, and film management responsibility were included in the Central Propaganda Department. This reform highlights the state’s emphasis on the social benefits of film and press publishing content. Based on the understanding of the spirit of the 19th Congress, agencies and organizations of the Chinese government have also strengthened the review and supervision of online film and television programs.


Promote the integration of culture and technology

Technology has become a core support for the development of cultural industry. It influences cultural production from product design, dissemination to consumption. In 2012, the Ministry of Science and Technology, the Ministry of Culture, the GARFT, and other 12 departments jointly formulated the “National Cultural and Technology Innovation Program Outline,” which made a comprehensive plan for the implementation and promotion of the integration of culture and technology. Based on the principles of the outline, the Ministry of Culture issued the “Twelfth Five-Year Plan for Cultural and Technological Development” in 2012. In 2015, SARFT and the Ministry of Finance issued the “Guiding Opinions on Promoting the Integration of Traditional Publishing and Emerging Publishing,” to encourage the deep integration of traditional publishing and emerging publishing technology. On the basis of the above, the State Council issued a “Development Plan for National Strategic Emerging Industry during 13th Five-Year Period” in 2016. This plan aimed to promote the vigorous development of the digital creative industry through motivating innovative design with digital technology and advanced concepts. More specifically, policies on the integration of culture and technology are implemented in both upgrading digital equipment and innovating digital content.

Promote Network and Cross-media Integration

The networking trend of media points cross-media integration a new direction for the development of cultural industries. Taking use of new media to promote cultural industry has become a direction of cultural policy. The Fourth Meeting of the Central Comprehensive Deepening Reform Leading Group in 2015 approved the “Guiding Opinions on Promoting the Integration of Traditional Media and Emerging Media,” which aims to integrate traditional media with new media, especially social media. With the integration, China intends to create a number of mainstream media with advanced technology, competitiveness, influence, and reputation, so that to form a modern communication system. This policy will fundamentally change China’s media development, which was oriented by the traditional view of news. Incorporating modern technology into news production and communication would also have a profound impact on the international media communication pattern.

Promoting cultural consumption and public cultural construction

Cultural consumption is the basis for the long-term prosperity of a cultural market. It is also a decisive factor for the development of the cultural industry. In 2015, the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Finance jointly implemented the “Pilot Project for Promoting Cultural Consumption of Urban and Rural Residents” with the aim of expanding cultural consumption. The expansion of cultural consumption is considered as a way to stimulate economic growth. China has a tradition to subsidy cultural producers and supporters. Government finance investment or subsidy is still the main source for the operation of Chinese cultural institutions. The amount of financing support is mainly used to measure how important that the government values the social effects of culture. Current financing support includes national fiscal expenditure for public culture, subsidy for cultural undertaking, and investment to cultural assets. Nowadays, Chinese government starts to subsidy consumers. People in first-tier city such as Shanghai have a quota to go to museum or theater at a relatively low price.


China’s cultural policy has undergone its transitions from new-democracy to socialism, and ultimately to the market economy system. Along with this transition, China started to develop its cultural industry, besides cultural undertaking. After 2001, the major macro cultural policies were planning and promotion policies. The planning policies make overall arrangements for the industry, through setting the direction and goals for its development; while promotion policies develops measures and programs to overcome the main obstacles and problems in industrial growth. 

As for the formation of Chinese cultural policy, it is jointly decided by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, the NPC and the State Council. The state government, central ministries, and local governments are responsible for the management and operation of cultural policies. In the progress of operation, these institutions formulate a series of corresponding policies as a refinement and supplement to the central policies. Generally speaking, China’s current cultural policy turns to apply liberal economic policies to promote cultural industry, as well as attach importance to the social value of culture to guarantee cultural security. For example, as for the economic aspects, the government is decentralizing authorized power, relaxing market access, opening the capital market, and supporting small and micro-sized cultural enterprises, and promoting cultural consumption. In terms of culture, it is promoting cultural industries in local and ethnic minority areas, and emphasizing cultural confidence and cultural identity. Recent cultural policy also emphasizes cross-media integration and the integration between cultural industry and high tech industry. The characteristics of Chinese cultural policy is deeply influenced by the formation and operation mechanisms of Chinese policy, as well as the history, contents, and orientation of cultural-related policies. For example, due to the top-to-down formation and operation mechanism, Chinese culture policy emphasizes the social and cultural effects of cultural enterprises and cultural products. Meanwhile, due to China’s overall development policies and its accession to the WTO, China is committed to build a open cultural market so that to vigorously develop the cultural industry. How to balance the social, cultural and economic effects of cultural industry is the challenge that the current Chinese cultural policy has to face. The important influence of culture on social stability and economic prosperity makes Chinese cultural policy more cautious in facing this challenge.

China’s domestic and international development strategy has brought new challenges to its formulation of future cultural policies. At this stage, the Chinese government has implemented supply-side structural reforms internally and initiated the “Belt and Road” initiative as an international strategy. The supply-side structural reform policy stems from the Chinese government’s concern about the adverse consequences of extensive development policies. Its purpose is to find new possibilities for economic growth by integrating essential resources, optimizing the industrial structure, and promoting supply-demand matching. At present, the supply-side reform is mainly applied in the economic field. How to implement supply-side reforms in the cultural field in order to improve cultural product quality and promote supply-demand matching so as to increase the international competitiveness of the cultural industry is a challenge for China’s current cultural policy. This is also why the Chinese government places great emphasis on innovation in the cultural field. Innovation helps to integrate cultural elements and resources so that to enhance the quality of cultural products and expand effective supply. However, it is not easy to design reasonable cultural policies to effectively stimulate innovation.

“One Belt and One Road” initiative was raised by the Chinese government in 2013, with the idea of “building a shared community of human destiny.” China’s National Development and Reform Commission and the Ministry of Culture have successively issued relevant documents to elaborate Chinese cultural policy in this initiative. However, the “One Belt and One Road” initiative involves different ethnic groups and religions, social systems, cultural traditions and cultural policies. Thus, how to formulate cultural policies that are consistent with China’s objectives of the initiative as well as fully respect the differentiated culture and tradition of related regions is the biggest problem facing China’s cultural policy innovation in the future. In other words, the requirement of embodying the idea of “building a shared community of human destiny”12 in cultural policies will become an important driving force for cultural policies innovation in future, and to a large extent restructures the Chinese cultural policy system.

Besides China’s own national strategy, technological progress has also affected its cultural policies. Technology promotes the emergence of digital cultural contents and cross-broader cultural innovation. On the other hand, technology enhances the competition among existing cultural formats given the same size of market, and raises new challenges for the protection of cultural heritage. It is also changing the creation process of cultural product producers and the consumption behavior of consumers. Those heritages that cannot take well use of new technology and media are at risk of being squeezed out from the market. How to effectively preserve and promote Chinese traditional culture in the process of cultural modernization is a problem that Chinese culture policies will always face. Chinese cultural policy faces the challenge of the maintenance of domestic cultural diversity and its own cultural traits in the context of globalization. 

China is entering an era when agricultural civilization, industrial civilization, and information civilization are simultaneously superimposed. These overlaps have become China’s most distinctive social feature at this stage. At this stage, any kind of cultural achievement alone is not enough to solve the problem in its economic and cultural development. Only with constantly innovation in cultural policies, Chinese cultural policy system would move forward in exploration and development.

1See the “Common Program,” which was adopted by the Communist Party of China in cooperation with various democratic parties. “Common Program” plays an “interim constitution” role.

2Since 1956, China has started the line-to-country campaign. Educated intellectual youth had to go to live in the countryside until 1978. In October 1978, the National Working Conference for Young Intellectuals going to the countryside decided to stop the movement and properly arrange the return and employment of the educated youth to the city. After 1979, the vast majority of educated youth returned to the cities.

3The first and second industries account for too much in the whole economy, and the tertiary industry is insufficient developed.

4The State Council accounted for 9%, the Party Central Committee and the Ministry of Finance accounted for 7% separately, the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television, and the State Administration of Press and Publication accounted for 5% separately, and the National Bureau of Statistics accounted for 4%, and the China Insurance Regulatory Commission, the People’s Bank of China, and the Ministry of Commerce, Customs Administration, State Administration of Taxation accounted for 3%, separately.

5The Ministry of Culture has internal offices such as Administration Office, Policy and Regulation Department, Planning and Finance Division, Personnel Division, Department of Arts, Department of Culture and Technology, Department of Cultural Markets, Department of Culture and Industry, Department of Public Culture, Intangible Cultural Heritage Division, Foreign Cultural Liaison Bureau (Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan Affairs Office).

6National Development and Reform Commission

7For example, the Ministry of Science and Technology, the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Culture, etc. Jointly issued a document named “National Outline for Cultural and Technological Innovation Projects” in 2012.

10For example, Ministry of Culture promulgated “Opinions on Encouraging, Supporting, and Guiding Non-Public Ownership Economy in Developing Cultural Industries” in 2004, and “Implementation Opinions on Encouraging and Guiding Private Capital into Cultural Fields” in 2012. The State Council issued “Decisions on Non-public Capital Entering the Cultural Industry” in 2005. The Ministry of Culture, the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Personnel, and the State Administration of Taxation jointly issued the “Opinions on Encouraging the Development of Private Cultural Performance Groups” in 2005.

11From 2013, the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Culture have begun to implement the Cultural and Financial Support Program. In 2013, the subsidy funds for 92 cultural industry projects were 460 million RMB, and the bank loans were 77 billion RMB. In 2014, 670 million financial loans were discounted, and more than 800 were incited. In November 2014, the Ministry of Finance issued a special fund for cultural industry development of 5 billion RMB, supporting a total of 800 projects, including 191 central and 609 localities. As of 2015, according to incomplete statistics, the Ministry of Finance’s special funds for cultural industry development have accumulated a total of 19.2 billion RMB, supporting more than 3,300 projects.

12“Building a community of human destiny” means China has to make its own ideology more inclusive while upholding its core values, and provide more public goods in a broader field.


Citation: Huilin H, (2019) Chinese Cultural Policy: History, Formation and Characteristics. Forensic Leg Investig Sci 5: 030.

Copyright: © 2019  Hu Huilin, et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

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