BEIJING, March 10 -- She is best known for taking this year's Spring Festival Gala to the United States, where all 4,000 tickets for the rendition of the annual cultural extravaganza were sold out days before it opened.
After the success of the mainstay of Chinese families' lunar new year celebrations at the Kodak Theater in Hollywood, Li Yuling said the stage is now set for US and other foreign audiences to enjoy Chinese culture at full blast.
"Instead of staging a humble show that might have gone largely unnoticed, we intended to create some powerful ripples," the president of the American Cultural Exchange Foundation said of the Jan 20 event which cost $700,000.
"For a long time, the government has been trying to raise the profile of our nation by exporting our culture. It's time we reflect on how to do this effectively, and, if possible, make it financially feasible," Li, 52, said on the sidelines of this year's session of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) over the weekend.
As a member of the top political advisory body, Li is pushing for more government support to take advantage of the growing international interest in Chinese culture.
One mistake that has been made repeatedly is to treat the export of Chinese culture as an expensive government endeavor, she said.
"If you look at how much money the government has spent on major national theater companies and performance groups, and what they have so far achieved in promoting Chinese culture overseas, the result is disappointing," Li said.
"Like all exports, cultural products should be further commercialized - not necessarily in content, but in production and marketing.
"Only when the work of a performance company is put to the test of the market can it take into full consideration its potential audience."
Such consideration might also include innovation to make offerings more attractive, Li said. To that effect, her Hollywood show featured zither players accompanied by a local symphony orchestra.
She pointed to the enduring success of British musicals on Broadway as another example of government support for cultural enterprise.
"You think they (the British theaters) made it on their own? You are wrong," she said. "When they first ventured onto Broadway, the British government gave every production double the amount of their stage earnings."
And through the generous support of the Canadian government, a little-known street acrobatic troupe from the 1980s transformed itself into one of the world's biggest stage phenomena - Cirque Du Soleil. The company's annual income reached $1 billion in 2002, according to Li's proposal to the CPPCC.
"In both cases, the governments made a smart investment in culture and created a calling card for their countries," Li said.
"A successful cultural project is as much about creating an image as it is about making money."
(Source: China Daily)