BEIJING Culture and entertainment can sneak onto center stage in both global economics and diplomacy. Take the recent opening of the Japan Anime Festival 2011 in Beijing, where Japanese Foreign Minister Genba Koizumi and Chinese Cultural Minister Cai Wu shared their own childhood memories of watching manga films.
From the Astro Boy science fiction series of the 1960s to the latest Crayon Shin-chan, Japans animation industry not to mention related phenomena such as Hello Kitty or Nintendo electronic games still exerts global influence.
Faced with a prolonged economic slump, the new government of Japanese Prime Minister, Yoshihiko Noda, has drawn up a new three-pronged national campaign to boost industry, labeled Life, Clean and Cool. Life covers the health and well-being fields, particularly associated with an aging population; Clean is for renewable energy; and Cool is for the creative industries like animation, television series, music, films, architecture, computer games, fashion and design.
On the Cool front, Japans Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry opened in October the Creative Industries Promotion Office with a staff of 60. Cool Japan is its slogan for promoting the diffusion of Japanese culture in other countries.
The Cool Japan approach
Back in the second half of the 20th century, Japan adopted a convoy approach to marketing its products abroad. The Japanese government took the initiative to form a team of enterprises and promoted them as a whole package to the West. This was once the driving force of Japans rapid post-war economic development. But over the past two decades, this force slowed down and eventually collapsed, under the weight of American resistance, the diversification of the market, as well as the rise of a more independent enterprise spirit.
Of late, the world has instead watched Chinas troika industrial and export policy. Driven by the Chinese government, its state-owned banks and state-owned enterprises marched proudly into the world market. Tokyos response now appears to be Cool Japan, seeing this soft power strategy as the most effective way of spreading and maintaining its influence in the 21st century.
Under the governments guidance, Japan is unveiling its Cool Japan program in nine countries and 13 regions around the world. Currently, Japanese animation, comics, games and films are very well accepted overseas, but its export ratio is a very low 5%. The output simply does not meet the needs of the increasing Asian audience. For instance, integrating Japans anime industry with Hollywood, so as to establish a Japan-America-Asia transmission model for Japanese culture would be critical. The trade and industry ministry has set a goal of more than tripling the present 0.7 trillion yen ($8.9 billion) worth of Japans cultural products sold overseas.
I have my personal view as how to promote Japans soft power. China and Japan should work jointly to seize the world market. Theres already an example of such a joint venture. This year, The Tibetan Dog, an animated film co-produced by Madhouse and the China Film Group Corporation has set a precedent.
When I saw the Chinese and Japanese ministers singing the Astro boy theme song together at the Japan Anime Festival, I was convinced that the two countries harvest from the same cultural soil.
Japan has the most advanced technology while China has the most talent. If they work together, like they did on Tibetan Dog, theyd be able to develop joint cultural products. This would be an invincible blend, first occupying the vast and growing Chinese market before exporting to the entire world.
Next year will be the 40th anniversary of China and Japans normalization of diplomatic relations. Together Cool Japan and Hot China can join forces to advance a Sino-Japan cultural strategy.
Read the original article in Chinese
Photo - utpala