June 6, 2024

The cultural and creative industries market in China

by vvr-auteur-1 in Commercial development

The cultural and creative industries market in China

China plays a central role in international trade, industry and technology, and now also in art and culture. Indeed, since the early 2000s, aware of the potential of these fields for the country’s economic growth and influence around the world, the Chinese government has been supporting the sector through a number of policies and massive investments. China’s creative and cultural industries are multiplying and diversifying their activities. The expansion of the middle class in China, accompanied by a general increase in purchasing power, is contributing to the growth of the cultural and entertainment sector. As per capita disposable income rises, people are more inclined to increase their spending on leisure, cultural and artistic outings. These dynamics support players in the sector and create new opportunities.

The emergence of the art and culture market in China

The contemporary art market

In the early 2000s, China’s economic expansion was accompanied by an opening up to the world of contemporary art. Marginal in the early 2000s, China is now at the centre of the world contemporary art market. By 2021, China will be the world leader in contemporary art, ahead of the United States, with a market share of nearly 35.5%.

This meteoric rise can be explained by a number of factors.  Between 2005 and 2008, the government introduced policies to make the contemporary art market more flexible and facilitate sales. The aim of these policies was to legitimise and promote Chinese contemporary art internationally. The aim was also to promote national creation within the country by lifting the ban on exhibiting works of contemporary art in public museums, which had been in place since 1989.

Over the last twenty years, an affluent class has developed and expanded. Made up of entrepreneurs, often urban dwellers with substantial incomes, this affluent class is developing a taste for art, which is expressed in leisure activities as well as in the purchase of works of art. In China, for example, the number of contemporary art collectors continues to grow. This dynamism is also illustrated by the significant growth in auction sales by internationally renowned Chinese artists such as the visual artist Zeng Fanzhi, born in 1964.

The arts and culture sector at the heart of China’s strategy

In recent years, the Chinese government has initiated a policy of financial support for the creation of public and private contemporary art museums across the country. These massive investments have helped to develop cultural infrastructures across the country: between 2000 and 2019, 42 new contemporary art museums were created. In addition to these public institutions, the State has also contributed to the opening of 88 private contemporary art museums over the same period.

Numerous public initiatives aimed at promoting the cultural and creative industries are being carried out at national, regional or local level, such as the creation of creative clusters in major cities like Beijing and Shanghai. At the heart of megacities with intense economic activity, the aim of these clusters is to bring together players and companies in the creative sector in a restricted area in order to create synergies, stimulate creativity and develop ambitious, innovative projects. These zones bring together companies in the sector and benefit from support to stimulate innovation.

This development of creative and exhibition spaces to showcase the country’s creative wealth has helped to boost the contemporary art market. Private players – art galleries and art centres – have multiplied, supported by the development of major contemporary art fairs such as Art Basel in Hong Kong, which bring together art market players, artists and collectors from all over the world . This combination of political will, the commitment of private players and the growing interest of the Chinese public is contributing to the dynamism of the arts and culture sector in China.

The creative and cultural sector: economic leverage and influence

The importance of the cultural and creative industry sector is not only economic, but also geopolitical. China is exporting more and more cultural products such as films, animation and visual arts to foreign markets. These exports help to promote Chinese culture around the world, strengthen its influence and shape a certain image of China.

A number of major international events take place in China every year, helping to establish its importance in the field of cultural creation. At the crossroads of entertainment, production and technology, video games occupy a strategic place in the Chinese economy and in its influence on the cultural and creative industry sector. The number of players involved and the number of dedicated events bear witness to its importance and dynamism. The China Joy (China Digital Entertainment Expo & Conference), for example, which takes place every year in Shanghai and brings together the main Chinese and international players in this creative industry, is considered to be one of the biggest video game trade fairs in Asia. At its 17th edition 5 years ago, China Joy brought together more than 1,360 Chinese and international exhibitors and attracted nearly 365,000 visitors. This success illustrates the importance of the video game and digital entertainment sector in China in recent years.

What opportunities are there for foreign cultural and creative industries (CCIs)?

For the year 2021, the Chinese government’s annual budget allocated to the “culture, tourism, sport and communication” sector was EUR 2.45 billion, with EUR 433.28 million allocated directly to culture and tourism (services, museums, halls, libraries, artistic dissemination, management).[6] This amount testifies to the importance of the sector in the Chinese economy. This vast market, with its many players and diverse activities, offers great opportunities for foreign companies. By contributing their know-how, their cultures and their unique artistic and cultural offerings, they have everything they need to establish themselves successfully in China.

There is strong demand for foreign cultural products in a wide range of fields, including live performance, music and the support and creation of large-scale cultural projects (galleries, fairs and museums). What’s more, the development of world-class cultural infrastructures and facilities initiated in the 2000s offers major opportunities for dissemination and the creation of partnerships.

Finally, despite certain regulatory constraints and the government’s sometimes cautious approach to foreign investment, China welcomes and encourages the growth of the cultural and creative industries through public funding, which is seen as a new economic and job-creation engine. Nevertheless, investing in the Chinese culture and entertainment market requires a prior understanding of its specific features and the rules that govern it, particularly the import quotas for foreign cultural content, which still limit opportunities.

Finally, products and services need to be adapted to the Chinese market, not only to match the tastes and practices of the target audience, but also to comply with the rules governing the creation and distribution of cultural content in China.


The cultural and creative industries market in China is flourishing. Boosted by public investment, the emergence of creative clusters and the middle class’s appetite for leisure and culture, accelerated by the digital transition, it is continuing to grow rapidly while becoming increasingly international.

Are you in the Cultural and Creative Industries sector? Are you interested in the Chinese market? Did you know that there is a development support programme in China dedicated to CCIs?

Download the Cultur’export China programme brochure here