A top official from China’s official agency in charge of press and publishing suggested in an interview with the overseas edition of China’s official People’s Daily that China’s unique cultural character made it particularly suited to the development of a Web-based economy, and that he expected the country’s Web economy to surpass that of many Western countries. [BELOW: Screenshot of coverage of GAPP officials statements via Sohu.com].

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Kou Shaowei (寇晓伟), a top official in China’s General Administration of Press and Publications (GAPP) in charge of audiovisual content and Web publishing, said China’s Web-based economy was growing rapidly, particularly in the areas of SMS messaging and online games. China’s online game industry was worth 6.5 billion yuan (US$830 million) in 2006, he said, up 73.5 percent on the previous year and substantially surpassing estimates. “In terms of software development, we still lag behind other countries, but when you talk about the new levels of business at online game companies in China, many Western colleagues voice their admiration,” said Kou.

But some of the deputy minister’s statements concerning the reasons for China’s success bore overtones of cultural nationalism, or what has in China been termed “cultural subjectivity” (文化主题性).

The debate over cultural nationalism has found some limited following in China in recent years, and was evidenced in 2006 by an open letter issued by 10 Chinese graduate students on the Internet urging action to limit Christmas celebrations in China on the grounds that these endangered China’s “cultural subjectivity”。 [Zhao Mu blog on students open letter]. [Leeman, Lee and Xu lawfirm blog on open letter]. [Washington Post coverage of open letter].

Resorting to broad cultural generalizations (China versus “the West”) rather than demographic or market research data, the deputy minister said that when “compared with countries in the West, China’s situation is rather particular”:

When assessing the development of China’s Web, we cannot use viewpoints inherent to the West. I believe China’s Web-based economy will surpass those of many Western countries in both scale and speed. This owes to the particulars of the Web and the consumption habits of Chinese. The characteristics of the Web are rapid transmission, strong interactivity, and massive information capacity. In an increasingly open world, the Web’s utility is major. The Chinese people, moreover, enjoy public discourse and are eager to join in the excitement. With this kind of cultural background, the Web industry will develop as the Web suits the consumption habits of the Chinese.

[Posted by David Bandurski, February 16, 2007, 11:20am]