China Sets Up $70 Million National Arts Fund, But What Will It Promote?

They say the winning projects will be "easy to enjoy."

A prize-winning photo of President Xi Jinping holding an umbrella has spawned a meme related to the Hong Kong protests. Via Hong Wrong

China will spend RMB429 million ($70 million) on domestic art projects in the coming year. The money will be distributed through the newly established China National Arts Fund (CNAF).

“Art projects winning this year’s fund will feature rich thoughts, high artistic values and are easy to enjoy, and a special focus is on those targeting grassroots people and the remote, impoverished and ethnic regions,” CNAF director Huang Jiayu told state media outlet Xinhua News.

CNAF vice director-general Zhao Shaohua also told Xinhua that more than 70 applicants for the grants drew inspiration from the theme of “Chinese Dream,” an idea of prosperity and “national rejuvenation” that has been touted by President Xi Jinxing since he came to power two years ago. The total number of applicants for the grants was unspecified.

If you want that grant money, you’d be wise to tow the party line. Last month, President Xi re-emphasized the need for socialist values in the arts. Speaking at a national cultural symposium, Xi explained that the true “connoisseurs and critics” of art are the common citizens of China and that they should be the main subjects of artistic works. “Socialist culture and art is, in essence, the culture and art of the people,” said Xi (see “Chinese President Calls Artists “Market Slaves”“).

However, while outward ovations of support for the arts grow, Xi’s leadership continues to suppress voices of dissent amongst the artist community. Prior to the symposium, a spate of arrests were made of Chinese artists who have shown support for the ongoing, pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. Outspoken poet and performance artist Wang Zang was detained after he posted a photo that blatantly shows support for Hong Kong as well as Taiwanese independence (see “Artist Arrested for Supporting Hong Kong Protests“).

Artistic projects currently under consideration for the CNAF grants include plays, paintings, calligraphy, photography, as well as communications and talent cultivation programs. There will be an emphasis on the stage with RMB230 million going to dramatic theater, musicals, traditional opera, and children’s plays. The 394 winners of the grants will be announced at the end of 2014.

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