It’s 2015 and one of the most exciting series of events of the year will be the Year of Cultural Exchange between the People’s Republic of China and the United Kingdom. This is the first time that the UK and China have collaborated in this way and it promises to be a showcase of innovative UK culture in China and Chinese culture in the UK.
As part of his first visit to China and the first by a senior Royal for over 40 years, HRH The Duke of Cambridge heralded the start of the Year of Cultural Exchange and at the same time recognising the Chinese year of the Sheep, by dotting the eye of a sculpture of Shaun the Sheep, one of Aardman Animation’s most famous characters.
This gesture echoes the auspicious ceremony of dotting the lion’s eye in a traditional Chinese lion dance, bringing good fortune and happiness to this Year of Cultural Exchange.
Prince William also used his visit to deliver an invitation from Her Majesty The Queen to the Chinese Premier Li Keqiang to attend a state visit to the UK later this year.
2015 will be an incredibly innovative showcase of great UK culture in China and great Chinese culture in the UK. The UK season will see a carefully curated series of contemporary, adventurous, multi-disciplinary and innovative works, with digital media at its heart.
For China, it is the first Chinese state-level cultural festival to be held in a western European country, which will also highlight China’s modern cultural creativity.
The year will inspire and support creative talent in the UK and China, stimulating increased collaboration between artists and creative organisations in both countries and will help promote cultural harmony, cherish the diversity and richness of our different cultures, and promote dialogue and mutual learning between the two countries.
The first half of the year will see the UK season of culture held in China, with the second half of the year for the Chinese season of culture held in the UK. There will be close cooperation between the two countries to ensure that this is a great success.
Starting immediately, it all gets off to a flying start with the GREAT Festival of Creativity in Shanghai from 2-4 March, showing UK innovation at its very best in sectors such as fashion, luxury retail, health, technology, education and entertainment and demonstrating the UK’s track record in bringing competitive advantage through commercial creativity.
The UK Culture Secretary Sajid Javid also announced the ratification of a landmark film co-production treaty between the UK and China at the GREAT Festival of Creativity.
The deal, which was negotiated for the UK by the British Film Institute (BFI) and China’s Film Bureau and China Film Co-production Corporation, with support from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and UK Trade & Investment in Beijing, was co-signed by Mr. Tong Gang, Vice Minister of SARFT. It will allow qualifying co-productions to access national benefits including sources of finance and an easier distribution route to audiences.
In addition, the treaty will mean that all eligible co-productions will be able to be shown in China. Currently China permits only 34 revenue sharing non-domestic titles to be shown in Chinese cinemas each year. As such, many more UK films will be shown to Chinese audiences than current restrictions allow.
Mr. Javid said: “It will pave the way for UK producers and their Chinese counterparts to share their creative expertise and make incredible films that will be enjoyed around the world.”
Mr Miao Xiaotian, President of the China Film Co-production Corporation, said: “The British and Chinese film industries have reason to celebrate the signing of the Sino-UK Film Co-Production Treaty, which is now effective, by the two countries’ governments. The signing of the Sino-UK Film Co-Production Treaty heralds the start of a new era in collaborative film production between the UK and China. I have reason to believe that it will open the way for broader cooperation between our respective film industries. We can look forward to a future of integrated development and win-win cooperation.”
Amanda Nevill, BFI CEO, said:
“This film Co-Production Treaty represents a hugely significant moment for UK film and opens the door to a relationship with the largest growing film industry in the world, allowing our filmmakers to collaborate with and contribute to this success story. I’m very excited by the opportunities for growth and shared success, both creatively and commercially, that this treaty presents for the UK and China.”
This announcement was made on the second day of the GREAT Festival of Creativity, at the Long Museum, West Bund, Shanghai, China and coincides with the launch of the UK China Year of Cultural Exchange.
The impact of the UK-China Year of Cultural Exchange will extend far beyond 2015 itself and will create a lasting legacy in the culture and arts for the UK and China, enabling creative talent in the UK and China to flourish over the long term, and for the UK-China relationship in culture and creativity to thrive.
The British Council in China has also announced the launch of the China-UK Connections. This will comprise study tours and networking events – regular visits and meetings in both countries, bringing together groups of practitioners and policy makers to discuss topics of common interest, share knowledge and experience, and identify potential partners.
China-UK Connections through Culture is an initiative that builds long lasting relationships and develops exciting cultural collaborations between organisations in the two countries.
The initiative offers support, information, advice, networking opportunities and development grants to cultural organisations in China and the UK.
China and the UK both have a rich cultural heritage. Cultural organisations in both countries can benefit from the inspiration gained from exchanging ideas and sharing their cultural history.
From television shows and etiquette lessons to private schools and mock Tudor housing developments, China has been embracing British culture with a passion.
Chinese viewers are captivated in their millions by shows like ‘Sherlock Holmes’ and ‘Downton Abbey, ‘with the former's star, Benedict Cumberbatch, so popular he has his own Chinese nickname - Curly Blessing.
The fascination with Edwardian England depicted in Downton has created a growing demand for butlers in China, and the country's elite are donning tweeds and taking up deer stalking.
There are also very strong ties between the two countries in the education and research sectors with an emphasis in teaching English in Chinese schools and Mandarin being taught in schools across the UK.
Affluent Chinese parents have been sending their children to British schools for some time and some of the most notable names in British education have established campuses in China. Harrow, Wellington College and Dulwich College have all opened sister schools in the country.
China will send 10,000 government sponsored students to the UK over the next 5 years, while the UK will send 80,000 students to China by 2020. This is on top of the already very dynamic exchange of students that has been taking place for many years. Currently, there are some 100,000 Chinese students in the UK studying undergraduate courses and postgraduate programmes.