by Yang Xia Long, Director Culture of the Chinese Embassy in the Netherlands
Sino – Netherlands Contemporary Art Dialogue
Op 21 september 2015 werd het China Cultural Festival geopend met een forum onder bovenstaande titel. De bijdrage aan dit forum van de heer Yang Xia Long van de Chinese ambassade in den Haag leek ons van veel belang voor de gedachtevorming over de Chinees- Nederlandse uitwisseling op cultureel gebied. Om deze reden wordt zijn bijdrage, die hij heeft geleverd op persoonlijke titel, hieronder in extenso weer gegeven. Eventuele reacties op deze bijdrage kunt u zenden naar firstname.lastname@example.org Wij informeren dan de heer Yang Xia Long over uw reactie.
‘Thinking on Sino-Dutch Cultural Exchange, a personal view’ by Yang Xia Long, Director Culture of the Chinese Embassy in the Netherlands
I am very glad to attend Art Forum in advance of the opening of China Cultural Festival in Den Haag. We Chinese often say “Sit Down and talk the Dao” and “Stand up and take action”, which actually mean the highly unification of theory exploring and practical actions. Art Forum is art dialog, which help us to explore the Dao of art exchange together; and cultural festival is art practice, which enable us put “the Dao of art” into the practice of bilateral cultural exchange, thus to further the diplomatic relationship and people’s friendship. Therefore, I personally think these are the objectives and meanings of this Art Forum we held before the cultural festival.
China and the Netherlands share a long history of cultural exchange. The well-known marine Silk Road 400 years ago is not only a road in physical concept, but also a road both in economy and culture. Tea, China (porcelain), and Tulip, and Deft Blue, are more than concept of products, they are more like cultural icons of each countries. In recent years, the cultural relationship between two countries has been further developed. We jointly open a new cooperation space namely Cultural Creative Industry while traditional cultural exchange like performance and exhibition are continuously developing. According to incomplete statistic, there are total 145 cultural exchange projects in 2014, increasing 45% again the former year, in which there are 35 performances, 45 exhibitions and 10 film showing events. It was also in last year, during our president Mr. Xi Jinping’s visiting to the Netherlands, that two very important MOUs were signed namely cultural cooperation 2014-2017 and the establishment of China Cultural Center in the Netherlands. We have strong reasons to believe that our tomorrow of cultural exchange will be better.
Great achievements we have already made, however, we know we still need work hard. Judged by my working experience, I strongly feel the following critic issues, the Netherlands has the policy principle, “arm’s length”, which takes the rationale that every cultural institute does his international responsibility as granted，hence, there are lots “self-made” or even wildcat cultural exchange projects from the Dutch side, furthermore, Dutch cultural exchange projects sometimes pay more attention to “commercial value” than the real meaning of cultural exchange. While from China side, it is another scenario, although China authority advocates “government guiding pattern “instead of “government leading pattern” (but often does), many cultural institutes in China lack the motivation (a big market and audience group in China) and ability (language barrier, and not familiar to international rules) to go abroad, therefore, there are considerable amount of cultural projects commissioned by the Government, and in many times they are exchanges for exchange’s sake, in a words, Chinese art projects are not good at using the visible and powerful hands of the market. As a matter of facts, China is one of the priority countries of international cultural exchange of the Netherlands, both countries stress the importance of cultural creative industry, there are kinds of possibilities we can do cultural cooperation, for example, the complementary competition and cooperative development of “Dutch Design” and “China Made”, and China can learn mature market experience from the Netherlands and to promote “Go-abroad” of Chinese culture through “European Portal”, etc. However, due to bilateral differences in system and mechanism, and cultural customs and operational models, the pipes of cultural exchange between two countries cannot connect seamlessly, we have to do projects in our own familiar circle. What a pity the beautiful good-wills cannot be thoroughly transformed into concrete projects, international cultural exchange in national level cannot be made reality due to the lack of concrete cultural institute, while occasional cooperation between cultural institutes can hardly represent the will of the nations.
To deal with these objective situations, practical difficulties and working deficiencies, I think we can improve from the following aspects:
- Strengthen art dialog. Chinese traditional art seeks Yijing (roughly means meaning and scene or the combination), nowadays we pay more attention to the atheistic value of artworks, and in many times we ignore the interaction between art and the society, this is partly the reason why Chinese majority hardly accept modern contemporary arts, not mention the recognition from the government, who avoid social problems and political troubles. In the Netherlands, these are not questions, everyone can be an artist, and social interaction and participation are more than welcomed. The art cognition and situation are seemingly different between two countries, however, we can still to see and to be seen. I personally think it is the difference that makes the cultural exchange meaningful. Here I think about a famous saying by the late Mr. Fei Xiaotong, a well-known Chinese sociologist, that “The world will be a harmonious place if people appreciate their own beauty and that of others, and work together to create beauty in the world.” We have always called for respecting the diversity of civilizations and advocated dialogue, exchanges and cooperation among them.
- Utilize cultural funds. Now, China has already set up National Art Fund, we should take methods like experts evaluation and project commission more often than ever, thus to involve more cultural institutes and private persons participating the international cultural exchange. In the mean time, there are lots cultural funds in the Netherlands, and merely from central government level, there are 6 cultural funds, like Performing arts, Mondriaan, Literature, Creative Industry, Film and Social Participation, furthermore, some projects show inclination and preference to China, we need take advantage of these funds.
- Strength interaction between culture and economy. The Netherlands had kept the position of the second biggest trade partner of China in EU for 11 years continuously, and the third last year. Each country has lots of cross-boundary companies operating in the opposite country. Rationally and practically, we should think out of the cultural circle when we do cultural projects, positively explore the enterprise resources, utilize the social responsibility of the enterprise, not merely one cultural event, but a series well-organized cultural projects with sound story and operational model, thus to form an situation where economy and culture interact well.
- Innovate cultural exchange model practically. Here I think about two sentences, but I don’t want to make political dispute. The first sentence is “without communist party, there is no new China”, and the second is “without the Netherlands, there is no America”, you may feel surprised, what does these matters? Actually, both sentences illustrate the facts. The establishment of the Dutch Republic occurred about 200 years earlier than in Britain，and the Act of Abjuration of the United Provinces of the Low Countries in 1581 has deeply influenced the 1776 Declaration of Independence of the United States. More recently, the Netherlands, as one of the founding member states of the EU, has greatly shaped and impacted on the EU’s cultural policy. In a word, the Netherlands is “small but complete” country, which is easy for China to learn and cooperate. China is a big country representing oriental culture, and ready to cooperate with the Netherlands to innovate cultural exchange model, which will benefit both countries and the dialog between the east and the west.
This is my shallow review and superficial thinking on Sino-Dutch cultural exchange, which must have many mistakes and ignorance. I sincerely welcome your criticize and correction.
Thanks for your attention.