China can take genre to new heights
2018-02-05, LI ZHAOXIN

The biggest advantage of China’s science fiction industry today is a supportive environment that is increasingly conducive to the sector’s development.

Cultural industries rely on the state of social development, and China has maintained an average GDP growth rate of 10 percent in the past 30 years, which is far above the world standard. This background determines the basic premise for the development of science fiction.

In the 21st century, China has invested more in basic as well as cutting-edge research, especially in the fields of space and energy. 

It has devoted enormous resources to upgrading the two fields, which has also led to the development of related sectors of technology, including quantum computing, superconductivity, nuclear fusion, opticals, genetics and graphene — a material made of single-atom-thick layers of carbon.

This technological development and research has given rise to topics for the creation of science fiction stories, providing the public with more expectations for the future and possibly enhancing the demand for sci-fi creation.

In contrast, sci-fi creation in Europe and the United States in the new century has shifted significantly to entertainment, sentiment and speculation. This undoubtedly stems from diminished expectations for the future and no longer seeking technological progress.

This trend shows the advantage of China’s sci-fi creation. It gives Chinese authors a chance to be excellent international science fiction writers. Those authors who can see and grasp this advantage will succeed.

Western science fiction has developed into a highly specialized and community-based world. The values of the new generation cannot be satisfied by the focus on technology and looking forward to the future, which was the focus of the past era. 

The Apollo program, cosmic discovery and Star Wars can no longer inspire the new generation. Writers hope their voice can be heard by the world, but they do not write to help politicians, corporate chiefs or Wall Street elites to think about or forecast how the future world will be.

The post-Cold War West has become a multipolar world. Western countries, no matter active or passive, have to accept this change.

The export of Chinese culture is inevitable. A region that has maintained productivity growth of several times the world average for several decades will inevitably become a powerful source of cultural output.

Creative ouput is the foundation of the sci-fi industry, the driving force for the industry’s development. The offline science fiction creation workshops and online writing camp of the Future Affairs Administration — a company specializing in the promotion of Chinese science fiction — have attracted sci-fi creators and technology experts from all fields. 

The introduction of foreign fiction and exchange programs with science fiction magazines in South Korea has further stimulated Chinese writers’ interest in the genre. Compared with investments or policy support, the strength is weaker, but it can last for a longer period of time. 

The value of cultural industries comes from people and from their love and investment in culture. People’s power also needs time to be nurtured.

The difference in the sci-fi industry’s comprehensive development capability is the major gap of the sector’s development in China and the United States. Science fiction culture has the possibility of unlimited extension — a complete chain upstream and downstream. 

It should be regarded as an independent industry. In addition to exploring market demand and supply, the prosperity of an industry also requires huge investment in research. What Chinese people need to do is to collect and accumulate industrial data and build industrial standards.

We forecast that Chinese science fiction will become an important part of the global industry in the next 10 to 15 years. Chinese sci-fi works, including Chinese stories, films and games, will become a key source of cultural output content.

Chinese people should learn lessons from the US and try to build an ecological system that can provide proper development space for different kinds of sci-fi writers and creators. In addition, we should promote industrial specialization, using our patience and professions to create a better industrial future.


The author is a partner of the company Future Affairs Administration. The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

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