Ai Weiwei, Zhao Lianhai, Zhang Xiaogang and China's Five-Year Plan
So what is culture industry? Basically the production of anything that has to do with "culture" - films, art, animation, books, TV, comics...you name it, and this list can never end.
In terms of films, China certainly rocks, with its national box office in 2010 reaching the record 10.2 billion yuan - more than 60% growth from the previous year, more than six-fold increase from a decade ago.
And with art, Chinese art - from contemporary art to 20th Century paintings and Chinese fine art - commands staggering prices in the art market, as we can see from Sotheby's spring sale through out the week. Zhang Xiaogang's early triptych fetched HK$79 million - the MOST expensive piece of contemporary art ever sold in auction.
So on the money side, everything looks perfect! And these figures fit in with China's ambition to boost the culture industry. But one thing is missing - if you do not have the freedom to liberate your creative mind, how can you produce quality culture products that will sell to the world?
Art is about taking risk, and to dare to challenge the status-quo to make our world a better place. I'm no art expert, but I can tell that the best pieces of art are produced during the most difficult times when people are striving to make their lives and their world better. And the key to this is to be able to speak what's on your mind.
But it was heart-breaking when I watched the news this morning. Zhao Lianhai, the activist who petitioned for the children suffering from drinking the melamine-tainted milk but eventually got himself into jail last year, released a video on YouTube showing support for his comrade artist-activist Ai Weiwei who has been reportedly detained and lost contact with the outside world. It was the first time for Zhao to speak up, after he had an early release from the 2 1/2 years imprisonment four months ago. He has been keeping a low-profile after the release, but because of the "disappearance" of Ai, he took the risk to speak up.
In this 20-minute long video, Zhao pleaded for Ai, and also other activists who petitioned and spoke the truth with an intention only to make the country a better place for the future generation. At one point, he couldn't help crying, and tears rolled down on my face as well.
We are lucky because we are in Hong Kong, and we get to see all these. But what about people in China? Why does the Chinese race always have to suffer from this kind of ill-fated incidents over and over again? Why do Chinese people have to be prosecuted for what they say through out the course of history? Is it really the "Curse of the Dragon" as we discussed in class?
If there's such a curse, I hope it will soon be lifted, otherwise this grand Five-Year Plan to boost China's culture industry will not be realised. Well, it might, with China's economy thriving for the time being, but then it will just be all about money, and all is left is a nation with no soul.
Shit! Maybe I should just shut up?