As of 2025, several platforms dedicated to cultural trade are operational; a slew of digital cultural platforms and industry leaders with global presence are formed; Chinese cultural products and services are more competitive; cultural brands are bigger names internationally; cultural trade has a stronger bearing on export of Chinese culture and greater contribution to the building of a cultural powerhouse country. These are some of the visions and objectives listed in the recently-enacted Opinions on Promoting Quality Development of External Cultural Trade, a joint policy of 27 agencies including Ministry of Commerce, Central Publicity Ministry and China National Intellectual Property Administration.
Twenty-eight specific tasks and measures including expansion of digital cultural trade, export of publications and copyright trade and enhancement of IP protection are scattered in the Opinions' seven sections including deepening reform and open-up in the culture sector, inspiring innovation to generate new momentum and stimulating the energy of market players.
Solid protection covering all
Enhancement of IP protection is one of the requirements specifically provided in the Opinions. Follow-on measures include improving IP protection system and diversified dispute settlement mechanisms, intensifying international cooperation in IP protection, actively attending international norm setting in traditional knowledge protection, supporting enterprises' IP right enforcement overseas. The Opinions also requires bolstering protection of digital copyright, stepping up copyright protection of all the links of the sector, encouraging generation and use of copyright, inspiring enterprises' innovative energy.
There are already some proven examples in copyright protection and cultural export in China that may serve as templates. At the recent Third Jiangsu (Nanjing) Copyright Trade Fair, three copyright industry clusters, Nantong (Jiangsu) textile, Dehua (Fujian) ceramics, Wujiang (Suzhou) silk, all acknowledged by WIPO's (World Intellectual Property Organization) case study program of best practice in copyright protection, appealed to fellow copyright industry clusters and enterprises nationwide to install copyright protection measures and unleash creative power in culture.
"Being the first selected into WIPO's case study program of best practice in copyright protection, Nantong textile is a perfect embodiment of showcasing the role of copyright protection in inheriting and spreading the essence of traditional Chinese culture, promoting vibrant development of copyright economy with unique local elements and telling Chinese copyright story right," a principal of Nantong News and Publication Administration (Copyright Administration) says.
Culture trending digital
Multiple objectives listed in the Opinions are tagged with the keyword 'digital or its derivates', like expanding digital cultural trade, upgrading digitalization of cultural trade, developing innovative processing of digital contents. Specific measures carry 'digital' nature too, as in supporting digital art, cloud exhibition, immersive experience, grooming export strengths in Internet literature, digital films and digital animations.
Li Jiashan, Executive Vice President of National Institute of Cultural Development, acknowledges "Digitalization has gradually become a fresh momentum to spur global cultural, economic growth." She believes the Opinions will speed up digitalization of cultural trade, facilitate traditional industry's transformation to digitalization and activate a new momentum of innovative development of cultural trade.
In recent years, China has accelerated commercialization of digitalization in cultural and museum sectors. Forbidden City, Dunhuang and other Chinese IPs have been working with digital service enterprises to make their new products. Beijing has launched an online platform for incubating cultural/museum derivatives, offering digital sampling, digital copyright registration and other services for cultural places of interest. The platform has recorded data of 41,000 cultural relics and issued more than 5,200 copyright registration certificates for cultural/museum resources and creative works, according to platform executive Li Xiongfei.
Copyright industry underpins cultural export
Chinese copyright industry is contributing more and more to the general economy and offers strong support to the growth of external cultural trade. In 2021, external cultural trade of China grossed 200.03 billion U.S. dollars, up 38.7% year-on-year; 155.81 billion dollars of which was generated by products, up 43.4% and 44.22 billion dollars by services, up 24.3%.
Export of Chinese TV series, Internet literature, audio-visual products, creative products are booming these years and becoming popular in many places. With an aim to making these exports more competitive, the Opinions suggests to expand export of publications and copyright trade. For copyright trade development, measures are expanding copyright export scale, upgrading copyright export quality, optimizing content quality and regional planning, exploring copyright export channels and platforms.
According to published data, from 2016 to 2020, the added value of copyright industry in China hiked from 5.46 trillion yuan to 7.51 trillion yuan while copyright industry's share in GDP grew from 7.33% to 7.39%. Tang Zhaozhi, Deputy Director General, Copyright Administration, Central Publicity Ministry notes during the 14th five-year plan period, China will keep improving its system for handling copyright external matters, building and refining relevant international trade services, further beefing up capability in running copyright operations in international markets and guarding the 'venturing out' of the copyright industry.