The role of art has suddenly become a hot topic in China.
The subject has aroused impassioned debate, both within and outside artistic and literary circles, following President Xi Jinping’s statement that democracy should be promoted in the field.
The discussion continued as Premier Li Keqiang repeatedly expressed his admiration for the great works from the Renaissance during his trip to Italy.
Li found time in his hectic schedule to visit a private museum in Rome where many Renaissance sculptures are displayed. The unplanned trip, which took up his lunch break, delivered an “emotional punch”, he said.
He touched one of the fine sculptures, with the museum owner’s permission, and was impressed by both the artist’s innovative ideas and his splendid skills.
He said he realized that the strong innovative vitality of the Renaissance came from the cultivation of the human spirit, and this vitality initiated the fundamental changes of the era.
As the premier put it, “without the Renaissance, the first Industrial Revolution would hardly have been possible”.
Despite the glories of China’s past, it is embarrassing, but true, to say that modern China has failed to yield artistic works in line with its rising status in the world.
The recent discussions have reminded many of similar remarks made by Chairman Mao Zedong, who said 72 years ago that art and literature should serve the workers, farmers and soldiers.
As the premier has pointed out, art and literature are not separate from real life. They could, instead, be a dynamic driving force for economic expansion, job creation and the liberation of the mind that eventually triggers revolutionary improvements in society.
China has lagged behind in this regard, not because the country lacks creative minds, but because it is not accustomed to accepting diverse opinions in our art schools.
The first step toward nurturing good artists is to produce a healthy, relaxed and harmonious atmosphere that inspires the wildness of creativity.