Cultural diversity

News Releases / Speeches / Declarations

"La France et la Chine s'allient pour défendre la diversité culturelle"

Le Figaro - Économie , édition du 16 octobre 2004 - 2004/10/16

In this article, Emmanuel Schwartzenberg submits that France and China do not view culture in the same way. While the former “worships lifestyle differences and supports an aggressive policy,” the latter “does not distinguish the commercial world from the cultural one, which encourages it to develop a policy of ultraprotectionism.” And yet, he declares, these two countries have agreed to “take part in developing an international cultural agreement appended to UNESCO.” France, he stresses, under the impetus of its president, has long defended cultural diversity—each country’s right to determine its own culture—on a global scale. But the support China is lending is decisive. It has attracted Brazil’s support and makes the process of adopting the text in 2005 practically irreversible. According to the author, although China officially prefers to speak “of tradition and modernity,” its real motivation is to take its place on the world stage and participate in a broader cultural dialog separate from the omnipresent American line. The fact the China “hosted and organized” the 7th INCP Annual Ministerial Meeting in Shanghai is to the author “synonymous with approval.” For this empire, it is less a question of containing the freedom of cultural goods and services than fighting against the economic homogenization perceptible on every street corner.

The author reports that the French minister of culture maintains that “this convention must be at least on par with the other treaties. It must confer legal rights in cases where cultural diversity is adversely affected.” According to the author, the French minister of culture, in an effort to reassure, says the UNESCO convention should not challenge existing agreements “unless they prove to cause serious damage to the diversity of cultural expression or constitute a serious threat to it.” This draft, stresses the author, will be appended to the Treaty on European Union, but will not be in any way subject to it. The power of such a treaty, if it comes to be, is as much symbolic as it is legal. Referring to the list of priorities each country wishes to defend, the author contends that “while France includes audiovisual production, Anglo-Saxon countries deem it an industry.” Japan, presently hostile to the agreement, goes even further and deems the automobile, video games, and technology in all its forms cultural elements. It says “such a treaty would put the brakes on economic expansion.” Italy fears that religious freedom may be infringed upon. “Since culture is what makes each country special, it would hard indeed to come to a common agreement if the need for such a treaty weren’t more and more pressing every day.”

In this regard, he says, Chile, Morocco, and Australia have signed agreements with the United States on free trade and economic liberalization in all sectors and can now no longer adopt the least provision to defend their cultural heritage. If the UNESCO convention had been signed, these countries could have at least invoked it in their dealings with the United States. “To date, 25 out of 148 WTO countries have signed agreements with the United States, which leaves 123 others to mull these issues over. Glaringly absent from this public debate is the United States, which is opposed to the principle of cultural diversity. It is less the idea of a system of protection as such that concerns the United States than the possibility that this convention will spur the setup in all UNESCO member countries of systems aimed at defending audiovisual and cinema production. To the author, this convention will encourage Europeans to set aside their differences and speak with one voice. Together with the Chinese, France plays a key role that should allow the Middle Kingdom to open its doors to world recognition. To date, he says, “ China has authorized only twenty foreign films to be distributed on this continent. France and Europe, along with China, are laying odds that helping this country develop its production capacity and preserve its identity will help it open more doors to world cultures.” ( Available in French ) [77]