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Senior Chinese Official Warns Rural Cultural Services Starved of Funding

China's rural residents received inadequate public cultural services in comparison with urban people due to a lack of government funding, Yu Youjun, deputy minister of culture, said Sunday.

In the 2006 government budget for the cultural sector, 28.5 percent went to the 737-million rural population while 71.5 percent went to 563-million urban residents, Yu said at a conference of China's culture officials in Beijing.

"The 2007 figure is not available, but little improvement will be found," said a ministry official who refused to be named.

Township culture stations, the lowest departments to directly serve rural Chinese, only received about 1.09 billion yuan (US$149 million) of government money in 2006, Yu said. "Each rural resident got 1.48 yuan on average."

In the countryside, public cultural services play an important part in local life. Culture stations are assigned to open libraries, organize entertainment such as films and dramas, hold exhibitions and fund cultural and sport events.

Due to meager investment, many grass-roots culture stations failed to work, Yu said.

"It will be a key task for the culture department to solve this problem," he said. "This year, the budget will lean toward rural areas, especially isolated mountainous areas and those inhabited by ethnic minorities."

The ministry also planned to bridge the urban-rural gap by organizing more urban cultural groups to tour rural areas and donating books to rural libraries.

Non-governmental organizations were welcome to take an active part in cultural services in rural areas, Yu said.

The government had included a balanced development of urban and rural areas into its development goals.

(Xinhua News Agency February 25, 2008)

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