The Creative Industries as an Instrument of Soft Power

A Japanese political framework in Western countries?

 

About one week ago, on Saturday the 4th of October, the first TomoFair took place in Nijmegen. TomoFair is the biggest indoor Japanese market of the Netherlands (more than 2500m2) and has a lot of stands, workshops, lectures, demonstration and a lot of emphasis on cosplay, merchandise and Japanese food (www.tomofair.nl). The fair was well-visited and this popularity of Japanese Culture shows an interest in the East Asian culture by western people that’s still expanding.

This influence of East Asian elements in the Western culture has increased in the past few years. The circulation of texts on a global scale is something that we see more and more as an result of globalisation. This circulation has multiple consequences in different areas. The urge to make a text global is most of the time based on an economic drive; it’s a way of making money. Making your movie, book or other form of art go global makes that you create a bigger market to sell it. The social aspect of globalisation mostly has to do with social aspects of outsourcing labour. When the products, or certain parts of products, are being produced in another country, it’s called transnational production. There’s a motion where certain types of work stay in western countries and more hard labour is outsourced to third world countries.

In this blog we want to emphasize on the political area. We have this political framework that shapes the creative industries and influences the texts being created. But at the same time, these texts can put our thoughts and the way we see things in another perspective. How can the creative industries be an instrument of soft power and as a result: how can they influence the political framework?

Soft power is a form of power which isn’t written in the law or authorities like the police. Soft power is about culture, about exercising power on a global scale by exploring your values, and one country allows another culture to enter the country and people get in contact with values from another culture. Especially pop culture seems a way to influence a lot of people nowadays.

When a country is starting to lose his part in the global economy (and the political world), creativity and knowledge become more important to give the status of the country a boost. The creative industries become important for a countries place in the world economy. But on the other hand, this idea of ranking countries and the notion of the nation is starting to lose its meaning. Boundaries get blurred and this has a lot of consequences when it comes to texts going global for example. This interaction between concepts on a suprastate-level (for example the European Union) and the substate-level (more local identities) has now been given the new term ‘glocalization’.

In the text ‘East Asian Pop Culture’, from the book Genre in Asian Film and Television: New Approaches, Chua Beng Huat is talking about how different regions in the world have different dynamics when it comes to how the industries are organized. Chua Beng Huat has written more about this subject, for example in his own book Structure, Audience and Soft Power in East Asian Pop Culture. He writes about the creative industries of East Asian and how they develop regarding to globalisation. He focuses on the Japanese government and how they make plans and come up with strategies for the growth of their nation (HUAT: 125 – 126):

  1. The government’s ‘New Growth Strategy’ and ‘Industrial Structure Vision 2010’ expect that Japan’s cultural industries, such as design, animation, fashion and movies will become a strategic sector that drives nation’s future economic growth.
  2. Under the single, long-term concept of ‘Cool Japan’, the Creative Industries Promotion Office will promote these cultural industries in cooperation with the private sector by facilitating their overseas expansion and human resource development.
  3. More specifically, as a section within METI dedication to measures to promote cultural industries, the Creative Industries Promotion Office will work with related ministries and Japanese/foreign private organizations to plan and implement inter-ministerial measures, such as helping these industries cultivate overseas markets, disseminating relevant information in Japan and abroad by hosting domestic and international events, and developing creative human resources through collaboration with universities and human resource matching programs.

These are ideas of how Japan wants to spread their culture, and the TomoFair is one example that shows that Western cultures are getting more and more interested in East Asian cultures. Fairs like this, and also pop culture for example, are in this form a way of soft power contributing to spreading your culture and your values. The first point shows that they use the creative industries to contribute to the economic growth of the country. These points also show that they want to propagate a certain image of their country: ‘Cool Japan’, and they use a translocal way of working to provide this. In the end, they want to use the creative industries for a lot things to provide their country, like inter-ministerial measures and cultivate overseas markets.

The creative industries are a valid instrument when it comes to giving your country an economical boost and it’s also a useable instrument when it comes to soft power. By using elements of the creative industries a country can propagate certain values in another country or culture and by doing this, Japan also tries to have some political influence in the Western culture. For a lot of people, the first contact with another country or culture (in this case Japan), isn’t by really being in that country, but through different kinds of media, forms of art and elements of the creative industries. At first sight, the Japanese values doesn’t really seem to have any direct effect on our political framework. But this contact with other countries relates in adapting your values and your view on the world. The image we have of Japan is very selective and westernized. It also contributes to spreading a certain image of your country, which leads to the creation of myths and maybe imagined communities. But that’s (maybe) for another blog.

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