The concept of “creative industries” was originally put forward in UK and has grown up in the West during 1990s (Ned, 2008: 32). Creative industries, as the UK definition describes, are “those industries which have their origin in individual creativity, skill and talent and which have a potential for wealth and job creation through the generation and exploitation of intellectual property” (DCMS 1998, cited in Keane, 2007: 4). It covers advertising, architecture, design, interacted software, film and television, music, publication, performance art, etc. (Hartley, 2005: 24). Creative industries have already played an increasingly significant role in the world economy. More than ten years later, creative industry started in China in early 2004 (Ned, 2008: 32). Nowadays creative industries are also flourishing in China, which have made a great contribution in creating fortunes and promoting other industries. Therefore Local governments in China have pressed on with the programming of creative industries. Ningbo also follows the banner of developing creative industries. And this essay will critically evaluate the development of creative industries in Ningbo. First of all, general situation of creative industries in Ningbo will be briefly presented; then some problems emerging from the development of creative industries in Ningbo will be demonstrated; further more, some suggestions for the further development of creative industries in Ningbo will be brought forward; and lastly, a conclusion will be devoted to making a general summary of the whole essay.
1. General Situation of Creative Industries in Ningbo
Harbor industries and advanced manufacturing industries have made great contributions to advance the economy of Ningbo. But recently, creative industries have played an increasingly significant role in promoting other industries and further rising the whole economy in Ningbo. In recent three years, creative industries in Ningbo have developed at a rate of 20 percent annually on average. The contributions of creative industries to the economy and society have been gradually increased, especially in creating job opportunities and expanding values of social assets. In May 2007, Ningbo Creative Industries Association was founded with the purpose of providing a good platform for probing into the ways to promote creative industries in Ningbo. (Lian, 2009: 183) By some figures and statistics, the essay will present the general situation of creative industries in Ningbo from three areas.
Industrial Design Industries: Industrial design in Ningbo has a huge market demand: in 2008, the total industrial production value was 1093.71 billion RMB, increased by 13.9 percent compared with 2006 (Lian, 2009: 183-184).
Software Outsourcing Industries: In 2007, compared with 2006, the income of software was up to 3.61 billion RMB, increased by 44.4 percent; it accounted for 1.05 percent of GDP of Ningbo compared to 0.85 percent in 2006. Its proportion in the Zhejiang province increased from 8 percent in 2006 to 10.2 percent in 2007. (Lian, 2009: 184)
Creative Industries Based on City Culture: There are nearly twenty thousand companies, more than two hundred thousand employees in this industry. The total value of the assets is up to sixty billion. In 2008, compared with 2006, the taking was 813.19 million RMB, increased by 10.07 percent. (ibid)
2. Problems of Creative Industries in Ningbo
Creative industries in Ningbo have developed by leaps and bounds, but we can not neglect the problems emerging from the progress. It is impossible to present all the problems of creative industries in the essay, therefore just two problems will be chosen to illustrate: fever of creative clusters, one in “hardware” construction, and lack of creative talents, one in “software” development.
2.1 Fever of Creative Clusters
One of the most visible measures taken by Ningbo government is to construct creative clusters, “a place for creative enterprise” (Keane, 2008), which, to some extent, improve the creative industries in Ningbo. However, there are many problems emerging in the construction of these “shining” creative clusters.
2.1.1 Lack of Overall Plans
The success of creative clusters relies highly on the good planning (Keane, 2008:35), while the construction of creative clusters in Ningbo unfortunately lacks overall plans, which is incarnated in the following three aspects.
First of all, each district plans and constructs creative cluster in its own way. In Ningbo, under the policy of developing creative industries in Ningbo, district governments independently establish their own projects of constructing creative clusters, which may cause some problems. The biggest problem is the overmuch of creative clusters. The district governments have not had the situation of Ningbo creative industries as a whole in the mind when they are planning the projects of creative clusters. It may result in the phenomenon that the supply of creative clusters ultimately exceeds the demand of the market, which would be a huge waste.
Secondly, most creative clusters in Ningbo are similar without obvious distinctions. The favoured treatments offered by different creative clusters are the same, not beyond the scope of reducing tax and rent. The target clients of these creative clusters are also the same: just “creative companies”, without classification. In other words, the creative clusters in Ningbo do not have clear orientations. There are less creative clusters in Ningbo aim to attract a specific group of creative companies. Even Hefeng Originality Plaza which is known as the center of industrial design companies could admit any creative companies rather than just industrial design companies. The obscure orientations would aggravate the competition between the creative clusters in Ningbo and make against bringing the function of creative clusters into full play.
The last but not the least, in order to bloom the disused factories, some district governments in Ningbo transform these deserted plants into creative clusters, which reveals from the other side that the locations of the creative clusters are chosen without comprehensive consideration. Knowledge concentrated industries rely highly on human capital, so it is better for them to locate and centralize in the area rich of human resources (Zhang and Wang, 2008). Or creative cluster could locate in the area which has a lot of enterprises with a huge demand for product design, advertising, consultation, or other services provided by creative companies. Anyway, the locations of creative clusters should not be oriented by old plants.
2.1.2 Disused Factories as the Main Model of Creative Clusters
Many creative clusters in Ningbo are transformed from disused factories, such as 228 Creative Park, 134 Creative Valley, Loft 8, Third Factory Creative Block, etc. And more old plants are planned to be reconstructed as creative clusters. A typical example is Jiangbei district where at least 3 creative clusters are on construction whose preexistence are all deserted factories (Southeast Business). However, it is not suitable to choose old plants as bases of creative clusters.
The reasons for transforming deserted factories into creative clusters have changed from practical to superficial. In 1940s, in order to reduce the living cost, artists and designers in New York gathered in the SOHO district where the rent was low. And the SOHO district was constituted by a mass of industrial buildings which were utilized by these creative talents as their living space and working space. This is the first case of transforming disused factories into creative clusters. (Fei and Mei, 2010: 142) So originally, deserted plants were chosen to be bases of creative clusters because the constructions could offer both living and working space for creative talents and the rent there was low. Gradually the reasons have been changed. Nowadays, a large number of old factories in China have been transformed into creative clusters because some famous creative clusters abroad and success creative clusters in China, like Beijing 798 and Shanghai Binjiang Creative Park, are all built based on deserted plants. Briefly speaking, these developers of creative clusters just copy the form of some successful creative clusters, but ignoring whether it is still a good way or not in current society. Reconstructing disused industrial buildings could draw rein? Renewing deserted constructions generally costs more than building new ones (Chen, 2006: 92). Old factories could add a sense of art to the creative clusters? The range of art is extensive; different constructions have different histories and different values of art. What’s more, there is usually a potential threat accompanying disused factories: the soil pollution. Here is an instance. In 2007 some worker in Wuhan were poisoned when they were working in a building site, originally a pesticide factory there. After a series of reconnaissance and investigation, finally the result came out: the soil of this building site was badly polluted by chemical reagents. (News365) So it is possible that those creative clusters which are based on the disused factories will have some detrimental effects on people working there. Although no case has been reported in Ningbo, we should be aware of the dangers. After all, to forestall is better than to amend.
2.1.3 Not Purely Creative
Some creative clusters in Ningbo are not purely “creative”, which is manifested in the following two aspects.
Firstly, creative clusters are originally constructed to gather creative companies, but some of the clusters in Ningbo actually admit any non-creative companies. With the purpose of finding out whether the creative cluster in Ningbo insist on accepting creative companies or not, I pretended to be a representative of a foreign trade company and gave calls to 5 creative clusters in Ningbo: Hefeng Originality Plaza (Ningbo Industrial Design and Creative Center), 128 Creative Park, Creative Valley, Third Factory Creative Block, and Creative 1956. The result is that Hefeng Originality Plaza and Creative 1956 both refuse to admit non-creative companies, while the rest could accept any types of companies. 128 Creative Park: non-creative companies can not directly buy but can rent the houses in the park from the house owners, which means the developers do not mind whether the cluster is creative or not after they sell out the houses; the distinction of 128 Creative park, emphasized by the receptionist there, is the “individual house” instead of other things related with creative industries; the beneficiaries of favored treatments are not limited in creative companies, but includes all the companies in the service industries. Creative Valley: non-creative companies can not directly enter the valley, however, as a receptionist there said, these companies can register a creative company to pass the government’s checkup. Third Factory Creative Block: any companies can be admitted in this block; the information given by the receptionist there is all about the acreage and rent of their houses.
Secondly, some creative clusters in Ningbo are not purely “creative”, because they involve large-scale commercial estate. I will take Hefeng Originality Plaza and Book City as two examples. The former is a core demonstration area of industrial design in Ningbo, and the latter is an important part of the project “Sanjiang Culture Corridor”. According to the throwaway of Hefeng Originality Plaza, except for the office buildings for creative companies, Hefeng Originality Plaza also includes hotel, supermarket, KTV, cartoon cinema, book store, restaurants, fitness club, SPA house and etc. Book City is constituted by 8 buildings: a nine-floor hotel, a six-floor clubhouse, a culture & art workshop with entertainment facilities, a five-floor shopping mall, an amusement park, a media tower, a four-floor building planned for restaurants, and a book store (Southeast Business). These clusters are rather all-round commercial real-estate mixed with a creative cluster than purely creative clusters.
2.2 Lack of Creative Talents
The soul of creative industries is talents (Feng, 2009: 118). However, in Ningbo, there is a severe deficiency of talents for creative industries, like creative and technological talents, and talents in operating cultural capital and internationalizing creative industries (Ying, 2008: 26). Take industrial design as an example. There are more than 70 industrial corporations in Ningbo, but only thirty percent of them have an individual design department. Some big industrial enterprises in Ningbo, such as Fotile, Pioneer, Zhuoli, and Huayu, just have 3 to 6 designers for industrial design, and more design projects are given to other specialized industrial design companies. As for the specialized industrial design companies, the number is less than 20 in Ningbo, while there are more than one hundred companies in near Shanghai. (Lian, 2009: 197) The above phenomenon indicates, to some extent, the current situation of the absence of relevant talents in Ningbo.
The first reason for the lack of creative talents is that the creative atmosphere in Ningbo is not as pleasing as that in some metropolises like Beijing or Shanghai, so it is comparatively harder to attract creative talents from other cities (Lian, 2009: 199). Creative talents need not only the attractive treatments, but also the “circles”: circle for living, circle for sociality, and circle for learning and self-promotion. But compared with metropolises, Ningbo does not have a similar creative atmosphere formed spontaneously in the course of city development; and Ningbo government neglects forming the atmosphere or creating the “circles” for creative talents when developing creative industries. Therefore, creative talents prefer to gather in the metropolises where their needs could be fully satisfied. (ibid) Another reason for the lack of creative talents is that colleges and universities in Ningbo have not paid enough attention to creative talents training, so not enough qualified creative talents have been brought up locally. Among 15 colleges and universities in Ningbo, just 4 of them have majors related to creative industries (Ying, 2008: 26-27). And take graduates in Ningbo in 2008 as an instance. There were only 72 graduates majoring in mass media, 18 in performance, 209 in art design, 51 in product design, 72 in visual art design, 86 in computer-based art design, 16 in image design, 38 in management of culture market, and 149 in cartoon design (Ying, 2008: 27). What’s more, it is impossible that all the graduates would stay in Ningbo to have jobs related to creative industries. Though Ningbo government has established a series of policies to attract and cultivate creative talents, the situation is still severe.
3. Suggestions for Creative Industries in Ningbo
After presenting the general situation and some problems of creative industries in Ningbo, the essay will enter on the suggestions for the further development. Except paying attention to the problems mentioned above, the essay will bring forward another significant point that is the protection of intellectual property which is not just for the creative industries in Ningbo, but is suitable for all the creative industries in China.
The core value of creative industries is creativity, a sort of intellectual achievement, which is invisible itself, and easily duplicated once set out to the public (Feng, 2009: 117). And intellectual property could be a means to safeguard the originality of creative achievements, and to protect the legal benefits of the creators (ibid). Therefore for creative industries, intellectual property is the core capital, and the key to survive and further develop (ibid). Currently, there are 3 laws and 2 detailed rules for intellectual property (Feng, 2009: 189). However, cases of violating intellectual properties frequently take place. Take Ningbo as an instance. In 2007, more than eight hundred cases were prosecuted in Ningbo (Lian, 2009: 197). So the government should keep on improving the existing law system of intellectual property, and sternly cracking down the behaviors of violating intellectual property. At the same time, China should strive for the voice in constituting international rules and criterions on economy and trade in order to further protect our intellectual property of our nation culture. What’s more, the public in China should be educated to have the awareness of intellectual property with the purpose of cultivating an atmosphere of respecting and protecting intellectual properties in the whole society. (Feng, 2009: 189)
To sum up, creative industries in Ningbo have developed by leaps and bounds for Ningbo has solid economic basis, advantageous geographic condition, and huge market demand. Admittedly, creative industries in Ningbo are not mature but in the early stage of development like some other cities in China. There are and would be some problems in the progress of development. It is normal and could not be avoided. As for the problems, what we should do is to face them instead of ignoring them; to solve them rather than covering them. For governments, they should not be dizzy with the attractions of creative industries; instead, they should cautiously evaluate how to properly develop creative industries on the basis of actual conditions.
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