China is a “priority country” in the Netherlands’ global cultural strategy, a top Dutch official has said during a visit to Hong Kong for an annual design event, adding that she aims to expand collaboration in creative endeavours to address environmental issues.
Barbera Wolfensberger, director general of culture and media at the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, arrived in the city this week as part of the Netherlands’ delegation to Business of Design Week 2023, held from Monday to Friday.
“China is a priority country for us in our international cultural policy,” Wolfensberger told the Post in an exclusive interview on Tuesday. “We’re also here with the Ministry of Economic Affairs, not only the Ministry of Culture.”
The director general said there was already extensive cultural cooperation between the Netherlands and Hong Kong, as well as mainland China, in various fields including architecture and music, citing Dutch singer-songwriter Wende’s show in the city and the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra’s performance in Rotterdam next year.
“The arts give us a really good chance to learn to understand each other and see each other’s points of view, and really know where we’re coming from,” she said. “That’s important if you want to work together and to understand each other.”
Wolfensberger said a meeting with Hong Kong’s tourism minister Kevin Yeung Yun-hung during his trip to the Netherlands in March was significant and that she hoped to establish a long-term relationship with the city.
“We are here because we want to work together long term, not because we just want to shake hands and go away,” she said, adding that cultural collaboration encompassed a wide range of areas.
“For us, design is also culture,” she said. “I think creative professionals are never really bound by the boundaries of what is culture.”
Wolfensberger added that design artists could use their imagination to help create a more environmentally friendly world with a focus on the circular economy, which aimed to extend the life cycle of products and reduce waste.
“The designer can take you on that road in small steps and in the design thinking process,” she said. “This is what we need to listen to, ‘Oh, this is technically possible’. In the end, often it’s the same person because that person is an artist and also a creative professional.”
Director of CLICKNL Bart Ashmann, also a member of the Dutch delegation, said the Greater Bay Area presented a lot of opportunities and he was looking to work with businesses in the region.
The bay area refers to Beijing’s initiative to integrate Hong Kong, Macau and nine mainland Chinese cities into an economic powerhouse.
“Hong Kong can play a role as an entry point, the starting point of collaboration,” he said, adding that the concept of circularity extended beyond the city, the mainland or any other place.
According to the Dutch Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong, there are at least 140 Dutch companies in the city, down from at least 190 three years ago.
“We have seen a dip, but that is especially among small and medium-sized enterprises and freelance entrepreneurs due to Covid-19 travel restrictions,” a chamber spokesman said. “Virtually, all bigger companies stayed in Hong Kong and kept their status of regional head office.”