China's President Says Art Must Serve The People, Not The Market

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Xi Jinping

Despite its huge TV and movie market, China's cultural impact is still too weak, says a commentator

Art must serve socialism and the people, China's President Xi Jinping told an audience that included entertainment industry figures this week, and art must not bear "the stench of money" nor be "slaves to the market."

"Socialist culture and art is, in essence, the culture and art of the people," he said, adding that serving the people and the socialist cause is what the ruling Communist Party demands, and was fundamental to the future development of the country's cultural and artistic sectors.

Hollywood has been eagerly trying to access the booming Chinese market, but the president's comments will come as a reminder that China is still a Communist country, despite appearances.

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Art and culture, which includes the burgeoning film and TV sectors, were indispensable to the Chinese dream of national rejuvenation, the president told an audience of authors, actors, scriptwriters and dancers in Beijing.

China's dramatic economic rise in recent years has been built on "socialism with Chinese characteristics," but the country is officially a Marxist-Leninist state run by the Communist Party.

A follow-up commentary on the state news agency Xinhua said that despite producing a huge amount of TV shows, movies and publications, the country's strength in culture has yet to be fully realized .

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"This weakness goes against China's ambition in realizing the national revival and sharpening its global image," it said.

Xi's remarks chime with a Marxist ideological position — his remarks echo those of China's founding father Mao Zedong, who said in 1942: "There is in fact no such thing as art for art's sake, art that stands above classes, art that is detached from or independent of politics."

While the remarks have a strong Cold War-era tone, they are a reminder of the kind of situation that filmmakers face in China when it comes to passing the censors.

Xi said it was vital that artists learn from the masses, that artists should create works that are both artistically outstanding and morally inspiring, to serve the people and socialism and best illustrate socialist core values.

Artists should not "lose themselves in the tide of market economy nor go astray while answering the question of who to serve, otherwise their works will lack vitality," he said.

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"Popularity should not necessitate vulgarity and hope should not entail covetousness," Xi said. "Pure sensual entertainment does not equate to spiritual elation."

Art must have "bones, morality and warmth." They must be innovative and put the social benefits of their works before everything else.

"The true value of a masterpiece lies in its intellectual depth, artistic exquisiteness and skillful production," the president said, quoted by the official Xinhua news agency, and he urged Chinese artists to produce more works that "disseminate contemporary Chinese values, embody Chinese traditional culture and reflect Chinese people's aesthetic pursuit."

Artworks should also present patriotism as the main theme and foster correct viewpoints of history, nationality and culture, as well as strengthen pride in being Chinese, he said.

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