You are here

Gary Locke, "Address at the Shenzhen International Cultural Industries Fair," 2008

Gary Locke was governor of Washington, 1997-2005, the first Chinese American elected to a governorship. He was nominated by President Barack Obama to be Secretary of Commerce on Feb. 25, 2009.
May 17, 2008

Source: Ministry of Commerce, People's Republic of China

Thank you very much for the honor of being here for the Shenzhen International Cultural Industries Fair. I am very proud to participate in strengthening the exchange and understanding of Chinese culture here and throughout the world.

I extend my appreciation for this honor to the Ministry of Culture,the Ministry of Commerce,the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television,the General Administration of Press and Publication,the Guangdong Provincial People's Government and the Shenzhen Municipal People's Government.

My grandfather and father are from Taishan, here in the province of Guangdong. So it is a very special honor to return to my family’s ancestral home for this celebration of Chinese culture.

All one must do is take a fleeting look at world history to be reminded of China’s rich culture and our many proud contributions to civilization over the centuries.

In the arts, there is the highly appreciated Chinese calligraphy and painting, where ink brushed gracefully on silk captures the language, lives and landscapes of China’s four-thousand-year history.

The early imperial Chinese perfected the art of porcelain so much that in English, the word “china” is synonymous for the world’s finest pottery.

Chinese architecture is founded on the doctrine of balance and symmetry. It evokes images of stately, colorful palaces and pagodas with beautifully curved and layered roofs and open courtyards. There is no other place in the world where the architecture so strongly captures a culture’s principles, aesthetics and values.

Those values, of course, reflect the philosophies and religions of Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism. These teachings had a profound influence on world history. And they continue to do so today, as China’s world prominence draws more and more people to study the Confucian concepts of ritualism, relationships and humanity.

There are also the world-changing Chinese inventions and innovations, too numerous to count. There’s the abacus and the seismograph, silk and cast iron, the compass and the clock, gunpowder and fireworks, paper and the printing press, and so many more.

And, perhaps most importantly, there are the timeless values of family and honor and respect and loyalty that are so central to the Chinese way of life.

Chinese culture is a source of great national pride. Capturing the country’s rich history and the wisdom of the Chinese people, your culture is your greatest contribution to the world over.

It is also undoubtedly your country’s strongest asset as you move toward even greater economic reform and opening to the world.

As President Hu Jintao said last fall to the National Congress of the Communist Party:

“Culture has become a more and more important source of national cohesion and creativity and a factor of growing significance in the competition in overall national strength.”

Further, President Hu expressed the country’s need to enhance culture as part of the “soft power” of China to better guarantee the people’s basic cultural rights and interests.

This wonderful exposition and gathering celebrates Chinese culture from classic painting and calligraphy to contemporary printing and publishing and film production and now cutting-edge digital media and creative design.

It confirms China’s assimilation into the global community and signals your desire for a two-way cultural exchange with the rest of the world.

And thanks to technology, reaching the rest of the world is easier than ever before.

Close your eyes and imagine that you can share – from a computer -- the wonder of China with nearly everyone on earth.

What one facet of Chinese culture would you select?

Would you choose to share the changing faces, Xingtou, graceful dance and martial arts of the Peking Opera?

Or do you want movie-goers to take in an epic Chinese film recounting the war and revolution in the 1940s or the tragedy and melodrama of Chinese legend?

Or, would you take this opportunity to introduce the world to today’s China the highly sought-after paintings created by contemporary artists in Beijing’s 798 Space arts complex?

Not only is all this possible, it’s all happening now. Made possible through the Internet, satellite, cable and even mobile phones, cultural dialogue is thriving.

The Internet, in particular, has broken through national boundaries and collapsed cultural divides. For developing countries like China, it provides equal footing for cultural exchange with the west.

It also bridges the gaps within borders, between developed and undeveloped communities.

Here in China, you have such enormous differences among urban and rural areas, eastern and western regions, big cities and small towns.

Just think about all the Chinese citizens who have never walked beside the Great Wall, ventured through the Meridian Gates into the Forbidden City, or seen the agility and precision of contemporary Wushu.

And, consider the millions and millions of Chinese who will be totally unaware of -- and untouched by -- the economic, political and social impacts of the Beijing Olympics.

A stronger and deeper cultural exchange within China will help unify this very diverse nation and push economic reform even further ahead.

All of this points to the tremendous opportunity for vibrant world-wide exchange about the Chinese culture.

You can foster this increasingly important dialogue in a number of ways.

First, continue to vigorously develop China’s cultural industry through expositions such as this that focus on both classic and emerging arts. This will help create a thriving cultural market and enhance the industry’s international competitiveness.

Next, I hope you will continue to create opportunities to present the Chinese culture beyond your borders. A truly successful example are the more than two hundred (200) Confucius Institutes throughout the world that are promoting Chinese language and culture and supporting local Chinese teaching.

Another important strategy is to accelerate efforts to build online publications, music libraries, databases and virtual museums.

In this area, China already has an impressive track record. More than four hundred and fifty (450) publishers in China have created the largest single-language e-bookstore in the world.

Your academic community has an equally impressive history of collaboration, creating an extensive online collection of Chinese journals. Students can even download hundreds of lectures made by your country’s leading professors.

Whether government-organized or privately sponsored, these information clearinghouses allow you to accurately impart Chinese culture, past and present.

They are also channels for you to counter biased and sometimes negative views of China put forth by overseas media.

And all of these tools make it almost effortless for those living abroad to study and learn about China.

Within China, online education can harness the power of technology to eliminate inequities between remote villages and urban centers. Online classes through the Internet can easily and effectively expand access to education.

I started an online education project while I was Governor of Washington State. It’s called the Digital Learning Commons and it integrates online courses with web-based teacher and classroom resources, library databases and other digital tools.

And I’m very pleased to tell you that one of the most popular languages offered through the Digital Learning Commons is Mandarin! Young Americans are thirsty for knowledge about China. They understand that learning the language is essential to their futures. Online education satisfies these needs, particularly in rural areas where foreign language teachers are harder to find.

China is also embracing digital learning tools. Late last year, the Ministry of Education approved the establishment of 68 online institutes to provide higher education to those who cannot study as full-time students. That is very exciting news, indeed.

The celebration of China’s rich cultural heritage – through education, technology and exhibitions such as this - says as much about China’s future as it does about your past.

For I believe that in celebrating Chinese traditions, arts, and ways of life, you inspire the forces driving China’s future economic and cultural development.

The rise of cultural industries is China’s next step in transforming the country from a developing nation to a world power.

There’s no question that your country’s rich heritage can be converted into products that have worldwide demand. As this exhibition demonstrates, the cultural expressions of film, music, literature and digital media can be lucrative export items.

And with cultural industries representing just two percent of China’s gross domestic product today, foreign investors believe the country’s cultural market is the next golden opportunity.

Your economic advancement and increasing openness affords an historic opportunity to showcase the vitality, glamour and tradition of the Chinese culture. Harness the power of technology and the Internet, and this cultural dialogue becomes instantaneous, continuous and increasingly powerful.

As you well know, the Beijing Olympics provide an unprecedented opportunity to display all that is great about China – your past, present and future.

In just a few short months, the world’s attention will be centered on China. On laptops, televisions and smart phones, millions will do more than just watch the world’s greatest athletic competition. They will see the splendor – many for the very first time – of China. I wish you a harmonious and peaceful Olympics that brings greater worldwide understanding of this truly unique country.

Last month, the Chinese ambassador to Britain wrote this in the Peoples Daily:

“The world has waited for China to join it, now China has to have the patience for the world to understand China.”

There is much to understand about China its history, arts, religions, political systems, and more.

And even with technology and the Internet, it will take the world quite a while to discover everything we need to know about this great nation. I thank all of you for helping this discovery and supporting continued cultural exchange through music, art, language, film and ideas.

I wish you a successful fair and thank you very much for inviting me to participate.