Ian Yang
Advisor - China I Japan I South Korea
i.yang [at] dutchculture.nl

Cultural cooperation China-Netherlands 2021-2024

Cultural cooperation China-Netherlands 2021-2024

Looking back: finding a balance  
China’s growing role as an international springboard and the explosive growth of a (young) middle-class interested in art and culture have stimulated the Dutch cultural sector to be increasingly active in China, with the government’s support and guidance. Evolving from the intensive Dutch cultural focus in China around the Beijing Olympics (2008) and Shanghai World Expo (2010), cultural cooperation between the two countries has gained both breadth and depth over the past decade.  

For example, the Sino-Dutch museum management training programme (2015-2018) accumulated abundant experience and an extensive network for upcoming museum collaborations. The yearly Dutch contribution to the Beijing Design Week set a solid foundation for exchange in creative industries. The long-term partnership between DutchCulture and the state-owned Oversea Chinese Town (OCT) group induced a series of Dutch exhibition projects in south China. Collaboration is key China-wide, and even across its borders. The Dutch embassy in Beijing also teamed up with the embassies in Tokyo and Seoul to stimulate cultural dialogues between the Netherlands and the entire East Asia region.

All the successful results notwithstanding, there are of course remarkable differences at work in the cultural exchanges between the Netherlands and China. In general, China takes the view that culture and art should promote socialist core values. The subtly benchmarked scrutiny and censorship by the local authorities might create obstacles for Dutch as well as other European cultural events in China. Sometimes collaborating with private or semi-independent parties is a feasible choice to achieve the desired results. The opportunities for cooperation can also be hampered by the high cost of intercontinental travel and transport, visa restrictions, as well as by the relative unfamiliarity of Dutch cultural players in China.  

Looking forward: opening up to differences
In its international cultural policy framework 2021-2024, the Netherlands will continue to cooperate actively with China with an open eye to the differences, which is also in accordance with the policy document The Netherlands and China: a new balance (2019). It is constructive and critical to collaborate, exchange information and seek coordination with/between Dutch and Chinese makers, knowledge institutes, cultural organisations and local authorities. At the same time, it is also crucial to recognise the differences, in order to seek a new reciprocal balance in the cooperation.  

The main goal of the new international cultural policy (2021-2024) towards China is to promote a strong position for the Dutch cultural and creative sectors in China through presentation, exchange and sustainable cooperation. Results are most promising when supply and demand converge. The Dutch diplomatic network in China (the embassy in Beijing and four consulate generals in Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chongqing and Hong Kong) aims to proactively strengthen cultural domains that are highly developed in the Netherlands, and at the same time have great potential in (different regions of) China.  

The prominent (market) opportunities to make the Netherlands visible through cultural presentations lie in tours for orchestras and music ensembles, winning pitches or assignments by Dutch architectural firms, Dutch design showcasing and the online presentations of Dutch arts and heritage, for instance through the Netherlands Cultural Institute Online (NCIO), launched by the Dutch embassy in Beijing. However, sensitivity and flexibility in working with a different culture are unavoidable. There is also an increasing number of artist-in-residency programmes across China with a professional set-up, staff and facilities. However, the longest duration for a single entry visa is for three months.

Collaboration in the museum sector (for exhibitions) is promising thanks to the strong demand from the growing number of art museums all over China, although the high costs, customs regulations or the effort required to obtain the necessary permit from local cultural bureaus could pose challenges. The same applies for children’s theatre and modern dance performance, unless represented by well-established Chinese or international agents. On the other hand, pop music, jazz and Dutch DJ concerts are thriving in the commercially run market.  

The international cultural policy also aims to contribute to Dutch-Chinese bilateral relationships and dialogue in other fields, for instance science, education, agriculture, innovation, human rights and sustainability (referring to the United Nation Sustainable Development Goals).  

To achieve the goals, the Dutch diplomatic mission in China and all other stakeholders in the Netherlands adopt the following tools to support the Dutch cultural and creative sector.

  • Updated knowledge about network and cultural/political developments in China.  
  • Visitors’ programmes. Influential Chinese cultural practitioners are invited to the Netherlands to exchange with potential partners.  
  • Memorandum of Understanding for Cultural Cooperation, The Netherlands and China (2018). It is a general framework to stimulate collaboration with highlighted areas such as museum, film, literature and creative industries.  
  • Subsidies for travelling, transportation and marketing costs.
  • General advice on funding possibilities.  
  • Bilateral conferences, bringing together public diplomacy and international cultural policy. An annual Beijing Museum Meeting is currently being prepared.
  • Cultural programmes initiated by the stakeholders of the international cultural policy, usually on special occasions or to support other interests, for instance the Olympics & Paralympics, the Dutch Days, or online initiatives due to a global pandemic.  

Cultural agenda 

  • Continuous online platform: Netherlands Cultural Institute in China  
  • Annual Dutch participation in Beijing Design Week and Design China Beijing Fair, Lianzhou Photo Festival, Jimei x Arles International Photo Festival


  • Dutch dance and theatre focus at Theatre 1862, Shanghai

2021 and 2023

  • Dutch participation in the Urbanism and Architecture Bi-city Biennale (UABB), Shenzhen


  • Cultural programme at the Winter Olympics & Paralympics, Beijing  
  • The Netherlands Guest Country programme at Business of Design Week, Hong Kong

Information & advice  
Would you like to receive more information regarding opportunities for cultural exchange with China? Feel free to contact our China advisor Ian Yang with your questions. He can inform you about the latest developments in the country, relevant contacts and other cultural venues.

*Special notes regarding COVID-19.

Above-mentioned plan for 2021-2024 is written with a perspective on normalisation. To fully roll out the plan, the quarantine measures must firstly be lifted and the possibility to travel restored. However, in case of (possible) long-term obstacles, it makes sense not only to review the instrumentation of the policy, but also to review its goals.  

At the same time, however, the goals can be partly achieved digitally or in a hybrid manner. Disciplines where the presentation does not necessarily require the presence of the maker – for instance design, visual art and photography, literature and film – can be still pursued within the framework outlined above. For up-to-date information, please stay tuned in to us.