China will invest 800 million yuan (USD $117 million) this year improving cultural facilities in rural areas where some 800 million people live. In addition to 200 million yuan allocated earlier this year, the investment, announced last week, will mainly be used to build cultural centers while improving old ones in small towns and villages, according to the Ministry of Culture.
China has constructed about 36,800 such centers since 2006. More than 20,000 centers will be built before 2010, mainly in less developed central and western areas, said Zhang Xiaoping, director of the ministry's division for mass culture affairs. Total investment could reach 4 billion yuan by 2010 according to the government's plan, he said, adding that last year saw 100 million yuan spent to start the project.
With cultural centers next to their homes, villagers do not need to travel far to find a library, a cinema or a museum. They can enjoy folk performances and fine arts created by fellow villagers, or set up a handicraft workshop. They can also enjoy movies or read books via computers as many rural centers will be linked with a network called the National Cultural Information Sharing Project, Zhang said. He said the plan was to give rural people better access to cultural facilities to improve their quality of life.