The Hon Martin Foley MP - travel report - China - October 2015


Martin Foley MP


Creative Industries

Countries visitedChina
Date of travel24-31 October 2015
No of official travel days
(including date of departure and date of return)
8 days
Number of accompanying Ministerial Staff1
Accompanied by spouse in an official capacityNo
Funding for the overseas trip was paid by
(list Department/s or Agency)
Creative Victoria
Air fares (including taxes and fees)$16,056.04
Accommodation (including taxes and fees)$7,735.98
Other expenses (includes surface travel and travel allowances)$3,921.84
Travel cost for minister and staff$27,713.86

There is an additional $3,426.60 to be added to the airfare costs published above due to a time lag in the department's financial processing.

Purpose of travel.

I visited Hong Kong, Shanghai and Beijing to forge stronger links between the enormous emerging market of China – Victoria's biggest trading partner – and Victoria's $23 billion-a-year creative industries. My goals were to connect with international partners, attract investment and increase exports, and share skills and ideas – as well as lay the groundwork for future blockbuster exhibitions for iconic arts bodies such as the National Gallery of Victoria. Audience interest in such shows is attested to by the phenomenal success of the recent Andy Warhol/Ai Wei Wei exhibition, which attracted 95,000 visitors in its first month alone.

In China I met senior government, commercial and institutional partners. The overall objectives were to: seek new industry, institutional and commercial partnerships; promote Victorian skills, expertise and innovation across the breadth of creative industries; and strengthen and reinvigorate our deep and enduring cultural relationship.

I followed up directly with the Chinese Ministry of Culture on the ground-breaking cultural exchange agreement between the Victorian Government and China – China's first such agreement with an Australian State Government.

I also took this opportunity to re-affirm Victoria's commitment to closer cultural relations with China, share ideas on creative sector development, and seek opportunities for new partnerships and collaborations.

Benefits of travel to the State of Victoria 

During this visit, I met with senior government, commercial and institutional stakeholders.  The findings and outcomes of this visit will:

  • lead to new jobs, exports and audience development opportunities
  • lead to new international partnerships between Victoria and China
  • inform sections of Victoria's new creative industries strategy
  • enhance Victoria's international reputation as the cultural and creative capital of Australia

My key findings will be applied to relevant sections of the new creative industries strategy, and are outlined below:

1. Support for creative businesses and cultural institutions to seize the opportunities in China is important

My meeting with the Ministry of Culture was productive and positive. Their support for our proposed projects and future engagement is significant, and crucial, for our creative industries to pursue their interests in China. It means that our institutions and businesses will be able to work with Chinese partners to deliver joint projects and programs in a welcoming and co-operative environment.

There are significant commercial opportunities for Victorian creative industries in China, in arts and venue management, training and education, design, film and digital games.

A list of stakeholders and organisations I met with follows:

  • Mr William To, Director, PMQ
  • Mr Eric Yim, Chair, Hong Kong Design Council
  • Mr Duncan Pescod, CEO, West Kowloon Cultural District
  • Prof Yang Xianjin, Chairman, Tongji University
  • Mr Yao Qiang, Deputy Director, Shanghai Science and Technology Museum
  • Mr Lu Feng, Vice President, Phoenix Media and Publishing
  • Mr Jack Zhang, Chairman, Mili Pictures
  • Mr Michael Favelle, CEO, Odin's Eye Entertainment
  • Ms Fedina Zhou, President, Shanghai Symphony Hall
  • Mr Feng Nai'en, Deputy Director, The Palace Museum
  • Mr Xie Jinying, Ministry of Culture
  • Ms Shi Jiandong, Assistant Secretary General, China International Cultural Association
  • Mr Wang Quanxing, Deputy Director, National Ballet of China
  • Mr Chen Dongliang, CEO, Beijing Industrial Design Centre
  • Ms Alison Friedman, Producer, Ping Pong Productions

2.      Strong relationships are the key to success in China

The meetings with organisations and government bodies in China all emphasised the importance of ongoing engagement to build strong and mutually beneficial relationships for Victorian cultural and creative organisations seeking long term success in China. 

The Victorian Government's landmark five-year Cultural Exchange Agreement with China's Ministry of Culture is significant for Victoria's creative industries sector. It will enable the exchanges of festivals, creative partnerships, tours and artist-in-residence opportunities. This agreement focuses on: exhibition and collection exchange; staff and resource exchange; and shared cultural experiences. These focus areas, and the support from the Ministry of Culture for future partnerships, will help establish and realise new and exciting opportunities for Victoria. The agreement is expected to boost Victoria's creative and cultural industries, which employ more than 220,000 people, represent eight per cent of the state's total economy and generate more than $1 billion in exports and a further $1 billion in cultural tourism every year.

The National Gallery of Victoria, Museum Victoria and Melbourne Symphony Orchestra have established formal partnerships with high-profile Chinese partners. These relationships have already led to collection exchange, resource-sharing and professional development opportunities in both Victoria and China. Opportunities arising from the visit extend to Arts Centre Melbourne and Australian Centre for the Moving Image, with productive discussions with counterpart institutions for additional collection and exhibition exchange, training and education programs, staff exchanges, and further professional development opportunities.

The importance of relationships and exchange was reiterated during the meetings with The Hong Kong Design Centre, The Palace Museum, Shanghai Natural History Museum, Shanghai Symphony Hall and the Ministry of Culture. Each of these institutions has, or is interested in, establishing a formal relationship with a Victorian partner. The benefits of these relationships will be borne out through exclusive-to-Victoria exhibitions, staff and research exchanges and new employment and commercial opportunities.

The partnership between NGV and The Palace Museum saw the highly successful The Golden Age of China: Qianlong Emperor exhibition presented exclusively in Victoria. The success of this exhibition has built confidence in our institutions' ability to present objects of historical and cultural significance in an engaging and innovative way and drew interest from new audiences – guided tours in Mandarin were so popular that additional tour guides have since been employed and trained by the NGV. This partnership between the NGV and the Palace Museum sets the benchmark for future relationships between Victorian and Chinese cultural institutions. Such relationships boost the Victorian economy – the China market spent $2.1 billion in Victoria's visitor economy in the year ended September 2015 and accounted for 65 per cent of the growth in international expenditure.

I witnessed the formalisation of a partnership between Swinburne University School of Design and the prestigious Tongji University College of Design and Innovation to establish a joint PhD research centre. I also signed, on behalf of the government, an agreement to develop a PhD scholarship prize, to encourage post-graduate students to continue their studies in design research in Victoria. These partnerships enhance Victoria's reputation as a trusted international partner and one willing to enter partnerships to advance Victoria-China relations.

I also officially launched the 2017 Asia Triennial of Performing Arts (Asia TOPA) at the Beijing Centre for Performing Arts. Asia TOPA is a new festival of cultural and creative experiences from around the region, which will feature an unprecedented four-month program of the best of Asia-Pacific performing arts in Melbourne in 2017.  Each performance and exhibition is being developed and delivered in collaboration between a Victorian and an Asian partner, to create a unique and innovative way for us to share in new cultural experiences. Significant cultural content from China has been curated for Asia TOPA, which will be a major new arts event for Australia's creative capital.

3.      Victoria's creative talent and cultural institutions are highly regarded and sought after in China

An overwhelming impression from my visit is that our creative talent – designers, curators, artists, digital games developers, animators, performers and dancers – is held in high regard.

The creative industries sector is, and always has been, an internationally facing sector. Victoria's skill, innovation and expertise are highly regarded, valued and sought after across China. This was particularly evident in my meetings with and visits to the Hong Kong Design Council, West Kowloon Cultural District, Tongji University, Mili Pictures, GDC China, Shanghai Natural History Museum and the Ministry of Culture.

I was proud to have supported The Voxel Agents, a Victorian digital games studio, at the 2015 China Games Developers Conference (China's largest digital games showcase) and the Independent Games Festival Awards. The Voxel Agents are in the process of securing a Chinese publishing partner, which will open up greater commercial and business development opportunities. Demand for Victorian talent and product in this large and growing market is strong recognition of the excellence in Victoria's creative sector and our highly skilled workforce. Their success demonstrates that smaller creative enterprises can achieve recognition and commercial success in this large market.

Victorian expertise in venue management, enhancing visitor experience, programming, curatorial, research, arts management training and back of house technical skills were also identified by the Ministry of Culture, Shanghai Natural History Museum, Shanghai Symphony Hall and The Palace Museum as highly sought after. The recognition of our skills and expertise in these areas presents opportunities for our organisations to develop training programs, internships and important professional development opportunities.

I attended a performance of The Australian Ballet's Cinderella at the Shanghai Grand Theatre, where I was invited to provide a welcome address at a consular reception. This performance, and the overall tour, were a great success, and showcased one of our cultural institutions to new audiences, encouraged new and shared cultural experiences, and benchmarked our talent against some of the best in the world.

It's not just our creative and cultural products and institutions that are highly regarded. Victorian creative industries alumni also continue to make their mark globally. I was pleased to meet a number of university and sector alumni forging successful careers in China, from curators to designers.

4.      Nurturing creative talent and supporting sustainable careers is important

Dedicated spaces to nurture, support and develop creative talent are important. This was emphasised through my meetings with PMQ, Hong Kong Design Council, Tongji University, Mili Pictures, 798 Art District and Beijing Industrial Design Council (HKDC), which all operate incubator, accelerator, professional development and mentorships to ensure creative talent is accompanied by the tools to grow a sustainable and successful career.

There is a role for government, industry and the commercial sector in ensuring creative talent thrives.

PMQ is a creative precinct, tenanted by a range of emerging designers. At PMQ, emerging designers are encouraged to develop not just their design skills, but take advantage of the professional mentoring opportunities and business skills training available. The idea behind PMQ was to develop a creative industries precinct to nurture and develop the next generation of design driven innovation and entrepreneurship. This precinct has been operating successfully since 2009 and currently hosts 100 designers, practising across the spectrum of design disciplines.

The HKDC operates both incubator and accelerator spaces for emerging designers and start-up businesses. The organisation also works as a sector development peak body, promoting design as crucial to innovation, economic development and as an enabling technology. HKDC also runs the successful Hong Kong Business of Design Week, which will be attended by a Victorian delegation this year.

I toured Beijing's 798 Art District – a former industrial site that has been transformed into a cultural, retail and dining precinct. This precinct houses both established and emerging artists, and provides professional development, mentoring and important commercial exposure opportunities for emerging artists.

Experiencing these precincts first hand impressed upon me the importance of providing spaces for creative talent to practise and master their skills, as well learn business skills and develop professional networks.

Some of these models can be explored through the upcoming creative industries strategy as a way to nurture, support and develop innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship.

Next Steps / Follow Up

The next steps after my successful visit will be for Victoria's creative and cultural institutions and businesses to pursue the opportunities raised, including potential for touring major Victorian exhibitions to China, attracting Chinese film production to Victoria and further export opportunities for Victorian creative businesses.

I will also ensure the findings and lessons are applied to and inform the new creative industry strategy.

Victoria and China have a strong foundation on which to build a successful long-term relationship, based on sharing skills and expertise, new cultural experiences, commercial relationships, and  stronger institutional links. Some of the findings from this visit can be applied in the new strategy to ensure the skills and international partnerships are in place for a vibrant and thriving creative industries sector in Victoria.

These include:

  • Optimising the opportunities afforded through the Cultural Exchange Agreement toencourage closer cultural links and create an environment to realise opportunities across the spectrum of creative industries. This will include exhibition exchanges, professional development opportunities and new shared cultural experiences.
  • Exploring opportunities to develop creative hubs and co-working spaces, and encouraging complementary skills development to sustain creative enterprises.
  • Encouraging further investment in, and joint partnerships with, Victoria's creative industries, from joint research projects to creative studios.

Page last updated: 13 April 2017