Creative industries, art and culture: the Netherlands and China

The Netherlands is your partner in creative industries, art and culture.

Creative industries

The Dutch have always been pragmatic and are known for their smart solutions, inventions and scientific discoveries. LED lighting and WiFi are just two examples.

The popularity of Dutch electronic dance music, art, design, games, fashion and architecture has contributed to the creative industries' strong reputation. The Netherlands is also the second-largest exporter of reality TV formats like The Voice and Big Brother. 

Art and culture

Dutch performing artists are in demand around the world. The Netherlands is also a popular destination for international artists. Dutch audiences are always in for something new and the country has good venues.

Design, architecture, visual arts and e-culture

Dutch design is internationally renowned and Dutch architecture is world-famous.

The Netherlands has long been known as a country of painters, thanks to Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Mondrian and the CoBrA artists. Nowadays, the range of media and movements is extensive.

Dance and music

Dutch dance companies are internationally renowned, from large established ones like the NDT to smaller troupes. The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra also has a solid international reputation.

But Dutch musicians are also forging a niche for themselves in other music genres.

Literature and theatre

A number of Dutch authors are known internationally, because their work has been translated into other languages. You can find a lot of information about Dutch writers and about translations of their books on the website of the Dutch Foundation for Literature.

Dutch theatre companies also perform outside the Netherlands.

Film and fashion

The Netherlands has a small but flourishing film industry. Dutch documentaries in particular are often shown at international film festivals.

Dutch designers have also made their mark in the world of fashion.

Creative industries: the Netherlands and your country or region

For several years already, the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science and the Chinese Ministry of Culture have pledged to work together and have formalized their collaboration in a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU).

In the MoU of 2014–2017 the emphasis was placed on the creative industries as one of three major focus areas. Similarly, in the area of film production, a co-production treaty was signed between China and the Netherlands in 2015.

One of the ways that this pledge has taken shape is through the annual participation of the Netherlands in the Beijing Design Week (BJDW). The BJDW is a Chinese national large-scale annual cultural event held in Beijing, which is co-organised by the Chinese Ministry of Culture, and the Beijing Municipal Government. Since 2011, the Netherlands has been present annually through the participation of many Dutch designers and high-quality design exhibitions. In 2013 Amsterdam was the guest city of the BJDW. More recently, in 2016 the Sanlitun light festival showcased a unique selection of Dutch light designs from the Amsterdam Light Festival.

The Dutch diplomatic network to China focuses on the disciplines related to design with an emphasis on the following areas: architecture, urban planning, design (product, interior, graphic, fashion), new media and digital culture, film and gaming.


Dutch Design is gaining widespread popularity all over the world and has become synonymous with quirky, out-of-the-box application of new technologies, highly-distinctive forms and far-reaching involvement with the (experience of) end users.

The Netherlands is particularly strong in product design, where an individual designer’s vision is often the key focus, such as in the work of Marcel Wanders, or via collaborative initiatives such as Droog Design, and is also strong in the field of high-quality design services. Design management is also highly developed in the Netherlands.

Read more on design and fashion.

Dutch Design in China

Quite a few Dutch designers have been active in China for some time. In communication design, Beijing-based Dutch graphic agency LAVA is very active, having worked on numerous high-profile local projects such as visual identity, website design and way-finding for the Beijing Design Week.

In Shanghai, Link Design and BSUR are strong in providing communication design solutions for projects around China. And award-winning Dutch graphic designers Thonik won the prestigious commission of designing the visual identity of Shanghai’s Power Station of Art.

Interior and product design are also sectors the Dutch are actively exploring in China. Shanghai-based and Dutch-Belgian led firm AIM have designed classy contemporary interiors for clients such as SOHO China, fashion brand zuczug and design store HAY.

Product designers operating in China include Marcel Wanders, Studio Drift and Studio Henny van Nistelrooy, the latter which created a unique Sino-Dutch crossover in the form of a re-interpretation of the classic Chinese Mazha stool. Other areas of Dutch design are also gaining ground in China. Bicycle designers Van Moof sell their bikes at several specialist stores around the country.

Dutch architecture in China

Architects from the Netherlands have won many smaller and larger scale building design contracts in China, making Dutch design a staple in many Chinese skylines. Key examples include the Canton Tower by Information Based Architects. The Canton Tower is the icon of this fast growing metropolis in the south of China. Standing 600 meters tall, the Canton Tower is the third tallest tower and the fifth-tallest freestanding structure in the world.

The world-wide appeal of Rem Koolhaas and the Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA) also reaches into China. As stated, OMA designed the China Central Television (CCTV) headquarters in Beijing. The building is an alternative view on the traditional architecture of the skyscraper. It consists of a loop of six horizontal and vertical sections covering 473,000 m2 of floor space. Other OMA China projects include the Shenzhen Stock Exchange.

For the Dutch Days 2017 in Beijing, the embassy in Beijing presented the architecture exhibition Dutch Footprints. This exhibition showed and enabled visitors to further explore the connection between maker, user and environment.

Digital culture

Gaming is booming around the world, also in the Netherlands. The Dutch gaming industry is one of the fastest growing sectors and is quite highly acclaimed internationally. The Netherlands also has one of the most active online gaming markets in Europe.

In the last five years, the number of people employed in the Dutch gaming industry has doubled. Dutch educational institutes have responded to these trends by developing courses and curricula to support the development in the gaming sector.

The term Digital Culture covers a broad array of activities including among more: interactive design, gaming, serious gaming, web design, viral movies, and animation. While the market for entertainment games is dominated by foreign companies, Dutch firms are performing well in markets such as serious and casual gaming.

Spil Games is the largest online game platform. The websites of Spil Games attract 130 million unique visitors per month. In the field of serious games, Ranj is one of the most innovative serious games company in Europe.

Read more on the Dutch online gaming industry.

Dutch Digital Culture in China

Dutch gaming companies are actively exploring the Chinese market and committed to bringing high quality and innovative games to China. Collaboration is also sought on an academic level, in November 2015 HKU organised a Game Jam in Guangzhou, in cooperation with the Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts (GAFA). Zhuhai Seine Technology Co.,Ltd. assigned the students to create games that promoted social and economic inclusion of disabled employees on the work floor.

Sustainable urbanization

Within the creative industries in China, the Netherlands has especially focused on the area of sustainable urbanization. This subject is one of the major areas in which the Netherlands profiles itself internationally. Due to its age-old fight against encroaching water, the Netherlands has had to organize and structure its spatial planning. This has led to a unique environment where new ideas in the area of urban planning have flourished. 

The focus on this topic in China can be seen in the Dutch presence at the Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism\Architecture (UABB) taking place every other year in Shenzhen and Hong Kong. Highlights have included the guest-curatorship of the biennale in 2013 by Ole Bouman, architecture critic and former director of the Netherlands Architecture Institute, whom presented a vision for the sustainable regeneration of heritage buildings. More recently the participation included special projects by Dutch designers and urban planners such as the Social City project by Droog Design in 2015. 

Other exemplary projects and collaborations in the urban planning sector include the Dutch International New Town institute advising local Shenzhen governments of Da Lang and Guangming New Town on the urban planning of new towns, drawing from lessons in other areas of the world. They specifically look at how to engage local stakeholders and the local existing population in the planning process. Dutch planning firms are also active in China; an example is KCAP who have worked on many planning commissions and competitions throughout China ranging from projects in Shanghai to Beijing to Shenzhen.

In all, Chinese-Dutch creative collaborations are increasingly taking place throughout China and are proving to be very effective in the way that the outcome brings together the best of both worlds, creating unique and innovative results. These results could have never come about without collaboration.

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