“Collect gold in times of trouble, collect jade in good times”: private market, public engagement and the protection of cultural property in the People’s Republic of China
SIMONA NOVARETTI CDCT Working Paper 44-2017 / CTL 20
“Realizing the Chinese dream of the nation’s great rejuvenation” has become, since its first mention by President Xi Jinping, in November 2012, the new “political manifesto” and “mission statement” for the Party and the Nation, in the PRC. Deeply rooted in Chinese understanding of history, the concept – which takes for granted the glorious past of China, and refers to the hard and tortuous path taken by the Country from the decline of the Opium Wars to the recent renaissance led by the CCP – has necessary had impact also on the politics about cultural relics.
Do non-governmental actors (private citizens, museums, NGOs) have a role in this process? Is the new and growing class of Chinese collectors involved, in some way, in the protection of the PRC’s immense cultural legacy? What legal tools, if any, can be used to this end?
In this paper, I will analyze the ways in which, in the last few years, the relationship between public institutions and the private sector has been shaped, concerning the protection of cultural relics. In particular, I will try to understand to what extent the legalization of private transactions and the creation of a licit cultural market has been helping the Chinese government to keep track, recover and protect antiquities, and whether the Chinese legal system supports and facilitates private collecting “in the public interest”, in order to preserve its enormous cultural property.