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SHA's opening speech at ACCF 2004


Following is the speech by the Secretary for Home Affairs, Dr Patrick Ho, at the opening of the Asia Cultural Cooperation Forum 2004 held at the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts this (November 15) afternoon: (English only)

The Making of a Creative Economy


Honourable Ministers, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

Good afternoon, and a very warm welcome to you all for joining the opening session of the Second Asia Cultural Cooperation Forum. I am heartened to see, once again, so many familiar faces from all over Asia, whom I greeted, chatted and debated with this time last year at the First Asia Cultural Cooperation Forum. Apart from renewing friendship, I also cherish very much the opportunity of making new friends who have flown from all over the world to Hong Kong. Of course, my heartfelt gratitude also goes to our local supporters: artists, policymakers, cultural commentators as well as people who are attracted to arts and culture.

The title of this forum is creativity. So, what is creativity? The simple answer is: creativity lies in our culture. In the absence of a strong and coherent culture, creativity could seldom thrive on its own. A society with insufficient cultural depth may spring off a few geniuses by accident, but it could never nurture creativity on a massive scale. And it is the prevalence of creativity that helps build, over time, a strong nation and a vibrant economy.

But, creativity is not the monopoly of the Western world. Being part and parcel of human instinct, creativity exists everywhere. It may take a different form, and it may be equally, if not more, useful and powerful in its contribution to our civilisation. While, in the past, the abundant source of creativity of Asian culture escaped our attention, the core values of Asia -- harmony, co-existence, discipline and respect for collectivity -- have gradually and subtly given birth to a different sort of creativity, which I call the "oriental creativity" or the "Asian creativity".

Creativity mattered in the past, and matters even more at present and for the future. In the wake of globalisation and a knowledge-based economy, creativity, together with culture, is increasingly seen as an engine for growth and civic pride. This calls for new development strategies. What we need to do is to adopt strategies that could preserve the most value-added part of the business at home and attract the money earned overseas back to the homeland. We could consider letting go the middle part of the production and manufacturing process, but have to safeguard the beginning and the end of the business process in our homeland. To enable ourselves to become a creative economy as such, we need innovation in technology, creativity in cultural content and in management. Government will have to promote innovation and creativity on the one hand and help the business sector to bring home the profits earned elsewhere on the other. To begin with, we need a cluster of strong and vibrant creative industries to propel us to a new stage of economic development.

It is against this backdrop that the recent rise of creative industries gives us extra impetus to maintain our regional distinctions. Creative industries are widely regarded as the driving force of economic growth in the coming decades. More and more economies around the world, in particular the advanced ones, are focusing on creative industries. Unlike traditional industries, creative products are driven by desire, and not by physical need. They are the things we want, not necessarily the things we need. And "desire" can be cultivated, deeply rooted in the culture of the particular society, value dependent and can be influenced, such as through the media and marketing strategy. The unique features of creative industries provide a rare opportunity for the developing economies to compete on equal grounds with the developed economies.

In the 21st century, competition is no longer one between country and country. Cities have become the dominant players. Except for those with substantial population and geographical areas, a single city alone is seldom sufficient to compete on its own. Alliance is called for. A cluster of cities with similar strength in economic and cultural terms is the answer to this challenge. Such an alliance will provide the necessary critical mass to attract talents and nurture them, as well as to create a market that is large enough to achieve economy of scale and encourage diversity in products and services. In the past, alliance of cities usually centred on economic co-operation, but this proves too narrow an approach in a globalised world where culture plays an increasingly pivotal role. We need cultural co-operation to foster a closer and more vibrant city alliance, one that provides ample room for mutual appreciation, improvement and cross-fertilisation.

In response to the challenges of the new age, Asia must form a cultural alliance based on our common heritage and good will for regional harmony and prosperity. Only in this way could Asia present itself strongly to the rest of the world. Just as there is economy of scale in industrial production, there is also economy of scale in cultural cooperation. If political muscle and military might constitute the "hard power" in the context of international competitiveness, the way we co-opt ourselves, the oriental values we all believe in and the image we present ourselves internationally are the essence of our "soft power". This soft power is crucial to a country's international stand and contributes significantly to its national security, regional peace and sustainable prosperity.

Ladies and gentlemen, like many of you, I dream of a creative Asia, an Asia with ideas and values to inspire humanity. Since the last time we met, we have talked, we have argued, we have agreed and disagreed, and we all want these to continue, so that this dream of a creative Asia will one day come true. I am sure the rediscovery of creativity in Asia signifies the awakening of modern humanity befitting another Renaissance of the present time. Thank you very much.

Ends/Monday, November 15, 2004


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