Like many cities in China, Guangzhou has built a top-notch performing arts arena in the hopes of lifting its cultural credentials and offering new forms of live entertainment to the increasing numbers of middle-class and wealthy Chinese.
Those stages now need content, and that has Western producers and promoters looking at the Chinese market, and at ways to build new audiences and expand their activities — and earnings.
Yet many arts professionals from the West say China has a long way to go. Audiences remain small. Many of those who attend are not accustomed to paying for tickets. And after years of state-financed performances, the government is increasingly looking to the private sector to support both foreign and domestic arts troupes.
Tracking the number of foreign performing arts troupes that visit China is difficult. According to data from the Ministry of Culture, the number of state-sponsored cultural exchanges seems to be declining; China’s government invited 44 overseas artistic troupes to perform in 2009, half the number it sought in 2008. But 600 to 700 commercial performances from abroad were staged in 2009, a slight increase from 2008.