Cultural laws in focus
China's legislation on culture is in the fast lane. The past two years have seen a slew of new laws and regulations being introduced and coming into effect, including the Film Industry Promotion Law, the Public Cultural Service Guarantee Law and the Public Library Law.
Regulated by legislation instead of departmental rules or "red-letterhead documents", cultural development in China is now governed by the rule of law.
So, questions arise as to what influences these new pieces of legislation will exert on the pattern of government management, the development of the cultural industry and the country's cultural life. Also, among the concerns is what other culture-related legislation is in store.
A People's Daily reporter spoke to Professor Liu Binjie, the chairman of the National People's Congress Education, Science, Culture and Public Health Committee.
For a long time, China's legislation on culture was confined to the Cultural Heritage Protection Law, the Intangible Cultural Heritage Law and a limited number of such laws. But recent years have seen a rise in culture-related legislation. Why is there such a legislative ramp-up on the culture front where legislation is often deemed difficult?
Culture represents the spirit of a country and nation. Cultural development is a vital aspect of the "Five-Pronged Overall Plan" for developing Chinese socialism. Since its 18th National Congress in 2012, the Communist Party of China has attached great importance to legislation on culture. The NPC has accordingly precipitated the legislation process with close cooperation from the NPC Education, Science, Culture and Public Health Committee, the Ministry of Culture, the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film, and Television, and the Legislative Affairs Office of the State Council. In the past few years, we have doubled the number of laws on culture, making legislation on culture a highlight of the incumbent NPC's work.
We have also made technical breakthroughs in the legislation process. The difficulty of making culture-related laws lies in its relationship with ideology, government responsibility, civil rights, the public service system, and the public.
Take the Public Cultural Service Guarantee Law as an example. It has Chinese characteristics because public services in other countries are not comprehensive public cultural services like China's. The unprecedented piece of legislation represents a legislative innovation that aims to keep China's cultural development on the right track. Since we put the people's interest first in terms of cultural development, we should also highlight public cultural services. Legislation needs to reflect the government's responsibility toward public cultural services, meet the people's needs, and at the same time conform to the political, financial, economic and social environment. Legislation is about balancing conflicts and relations and finding mutual ground.
The Public Library Law is another example of legislative innovation with Chinese characteristics. To begin with, the law prioritizes government initiative, making it the obligation of all levels of governments above the county level to provide library services to the public. Second, the law encourages social engagement. China has a long-standing tradition of reading in which reputable and liberal-minded gentlemen in the past cultivated the habit of collecting and donating books. Reaching out to people from all walks of life in society will enrich the public reading experience. Third, the law establishes the provision of services for everyone as the primary purpose of public libraries. Free access, open-toall, and guarantee of the public right to read are the outstanding elements in the law. Fourth and last, the law incorporated a set of metrics to evaluate the public libraries' operation that can't be seen in any other laws. The quality of the service is a key factor in employee performance, and, so, funding and wages eliminate the possibility of public libraries turning into bureaucratic institutions that serve few people or nobody at all. These legislative innovations demonstrated Chinese characteristics.
The Public Library Law is set to come into effect this year, while the Film Industry Promotion Law and the Public Cultural Service Guarantee Law is in effect for almost a year. What does the NPC know about the social ramifications of these laws?
In general, these laws are critically acclaimed. Comments are fourfold. First, they reflected what Article 22 of the Constitution said about protecting cultural rights. Second, they provided legal grounds for public cultural services which allow responsible governmental institutions like the State Council and municipal governments to make and carry out policies. Third, they provided tangible guarantees of cultural rights. Fourth, they incorporated the rule of law in cultural undertakings, which is a step forward for advancing the rule of law nationwide.
To put it more specifically, the Public Cultural Service Guarantee Law and the Public Library Law have successfully raised the standards of public cultural services. To begin with, these laws have enabled municipal governments to budget for public cultural service expenses. In addition, construction of public libraries above county level, including college libraries and corporate libraries, has sped up and is poised to meet Ministry of Culture standards in one or two years. At last, services have improved owing to the new metrics that motivated the employees. The Film Industry Promotion Law also proved to be conducive by diversifying investment channels and making regulations more transparent. We have reason to believe that there will be continued progress made in public cultural services and the cultural industry as we enforce these laws.
What other culture-related laws are to be drafted or amended?
As we are entering the New Era, we need to implement the Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era and carry out high-quality legislation. The NPC and its standing committees is ramping up legislation on culture in an effort to provide a strong legal bedrock for meeting the need for a better life. The Cultural Industry Promotion Law, having gone through a few years of research and drafting, has now reached the eighth draft and is being considered for review in two years. The Cultural Industry Promotion Law is the center of concern of many in light of the critical role the cultural industry plays in overall economic development. The law is critical.
Amendment of the Copyright Law is listed in this NPC's legislation plan. We have encountered updates of the status quo, mainly the development of big data technology, which demand readjustment in issues like internet streaming services, major event broadcasting rights, and how to protect the copyright of news. The latest draft has been submitted to the State Council for deliberation.
Amendment of the Cultural Heritage Protection Law is on our agenda. We will adhere to principles proposed in the 19th CPC National Congress of creative transformation and innovative development, in order to protect and partake of our cultural heritage.
Legislation on the culture market is being considered. The current market is characterized by flawed regulations that resulted in the influx of counterfeit products. We need laws specifically made for the culture products market that provides legal underpinnings for industrial, official, commercial and communication activities.