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From Made in China to Created in China - A Comparative Study of Creative Practice and Production in Contemporary China


Jeroen de Kloet (PI)

Members of the research group

Jeroen de Kloet
Esther Peeren
José van Dijck
Christoph Lindner
Stephan Landsberger (LU)
Laura Vermeeren
Zoenie Liwen Deng
Rowan Parry
Arjen Nauta
Yuefan Xiao


  • Beijing Film Academy, Beijing, China
  • Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing, China
  • Hunan University, Changsha, China
  • Jinan University, Giangzhou, China
  • Baptist University Hong Kong, Hong Kong
  • Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong

Description of the research programme of the research group

This project is funded by an ERC consolidator grant. It asks: What does creativity mean in the context of China, and what does it do? With its emergence as a global power, China aspires to move from a “made in China” towards a “created in China” country. Creativity and culture have become a crucial source for innovation and financial growth, but are also mobilised to promote a new and open China to both the citizenry as well as the outside world.The leading research questions of this project are:RQ1: What are the claims of creativity in different cultural practices and among different actors in China? RQ2: How are contemporary creative practices and productions promoted by different actors and agents?RQ3: What are the critical implications of contemporary creative practices and productions in China?Using a comparative, multi-disciplinary, multi-method and multi-sited research design, five subprojects analyse (1) contemporary art, (2) calligraphy, (3) independent documentary cinema (all in Beijing), (4) Hunan Satellite Television (in Changsha) and (5) “fake” (shanzhai) art (in Shenzhen).  

Envisaged results

Four PhD dissertations on subprojects 1-4.
Per PhD subproject: three articles in peer reviewed academic journals (total twelve articles).
Postdoc (subproject 5): three articles and one monograph.
Expert workshop in Beijing.
Based on this workshop: one edited volume (with PI and Postdoc as editors) on creativity, governmentality and criticality in China, with contributions from academics, policymakers and creative workers (Open source publication to facilitate optimal dissemination).
Four articles by PI in peer reviewed academic journals. 
International conference in Amsterdam (end of year 4): synthesis of all the subprojects, bringing together the research team with leading scholars in the field of creativity in China with policymakers.
Based on this conference: one edited volume (with PI as editor, incl. chapters by team members).
Monograph by PI building on the four subprojects together.
To facilitate further dissemination of results in the specific countries, we aim to work together with local publishers, open a Weibo project account, and publish translations of articles

Work plan and time schedule

Running time: 5 years (September 2014-August 2019)
Each subproject has nice months of fieldwork in the second year (2015-16), plus one-month update in the third year (2018). The PI will join field research for minimum of one month per subproject.

Societal relevance

This project is innovative in both empirical and theoretical aspects and will impact on policymaking by directly involving policymakers in its research design. Its six points of innovation are:
First, this project will not just analyse what creativity, governmentality and criticality mean in China, but also, what China means for creativity, governmentality and criticality. It positions creativity at the centre of humanities research, probing into a variety of creative practices with their specific textual practices, social practices and heritage practices. It thus moves from creativity to creativities, insisting on its multiplicity.
Second, it moves beyond the Euro-US-centric approach that characterises research on creativity. It resists a state-centric approach through studying five different creativities at three different localities.
Third, in engaging with different creativities, it moves beyond the high versus low distinction that dominates research on art and popular culture, the inclusion of fake art allows for a unique take on the creative possibilities of mimicry and fakery.
Fourth, it is thoroughly comparative in terms of theory, methods, research sites, creativities, and the different dimensions within each creative sector. This allows us to critically scrutinise different claims on creativity, between different creativities, localities, histories, and actors (see table 2).
Fifth, its multidisciplinary approach draws on a cutting edge combination of qualitative research methods consisting of a multi-sited ethnography, mobile methods, cultural mapping, collaborative research and aesthetic and discourse analysis.
Sixth, in its focus on the possibilities to be critical, this project engages with creativity and politics in an authoritarian system, as well as with the question how to be critical at the current geopolitical conjuncture.