China's Chengdu gears up for brighter future of sci-fi industry

Xinhua
Chengdu, the host city of the ongoing 81st World Science Fiction Convention (WorldCon), has tremendous development potential in its peripheral science fiction industry.
Xinhua
China's Chengdu gears up for brighter future of sci-fi industry
CFP

The starship "Natural Selection" model, from the Three-Body Problem, is displayed at the 2023 Chengdu World Science Fiction Convention.

Chengdu, the host city of the ongoing 81st World Science Fiction Convention (WorldCon), has tremendous development potential in its peripheral science fiction industry, according to a report on its sci-fi industry released at the convention on Friday.

Science fiction took root early in Chengdu, the capital city of southwest China's Sichuan Province. The city is home to "Science Fiction World," the most-circulated science fiction magazine globally. The publication has had an impact on generations of sci-fi writers and readers, launching the careers of many of the country's most renowned authors, including Hugo Award winner Liu Cixin.

"Despite being a geographical lowland in China, Chengdu undoubtedly stands as the highland of Chinese science fiction," said Wu Xiankui, the inaugural winner of the Galaxy Award for Science Fiction, China's oldest sci-fi accolade, which also originated from Chengdu.

The city has become the cradle of Chinese science fiction over the decades, facilitating its blossoming from a niche fandom to a robust industry.

With sci-fi drawing increasing attention from younger generations in recent years, Chengdu has made great efforts to boost its unique sci-fi culture industry, aiming to establish itself as China's science fiction base.

According to the report, the total revenue of Chengdu's science fiction industry exceeded 127.6 billion yuan (US$17.8 billion) from 2018 to 2022, growing at an annual average rate of 19.1 percent.

In 2022, the revenue of Chengdu's science fiction industry – excluding science fiction equipment manufacturing – stood at 20 billion yuan, accounting for 22.8 percent of the national total.

Chengdu's success is a mirror of a burgeoning sci-fi industry in China. In 2022, the country's science fiction industry yielded a total output value of 87.75 billion yuan. And industry insiders are bullish about its prospects as China's huge consumption potential offers the biggest possible boost.

"I think China has done in 40 to 50 years what took the West 200 years. China's growth is exponential, while the West is stagnant. The US has recently often defunded universities, science and education, but China invests heavily in them," said Robert J. Sawyer, one of Canada's most acclaimed sci-fi writers and a winner of both the Hugo and Nebula awards.

"In China, the government believes the country's future is rooted in scientific and technological advancement. Therefore, the future for science fiction is incredibly bright with China's rapid progress," he added.

Alongside literature, Chengdu has also outlined plans to propel correlated industries.

The game industry, for example, has seen remarkable achievements. From 2018 to 2022, Chengdu's sci-fi games raked in a total revenue of 56.6 billion yuan, playing an important role in exporting Chinese sci-fi games overseas.

Chengdu's sci-fi equipment manufacturing industry is also on the fast track of development, supported by enterprises in the artificial intelligence, big data and high-definition display technology sectors.

By 2022, Chengdu was home to more than 1,000 sci-fi-related science and technology enterprises, providing a steady stream of power for the development of its science fiction industry, the report noted.

Chengdu has chosen "Meet the Future" as the slogan of this year's WorldCon. "The slogan embodies Chengdu's vision of embracing the world and exploring an infinite future with sci-fi imagination," noted Yao Haijun, honorary co-chair of the organizing committee of Chengdu WorldCon.

The convention, organized by the World Science Fiction Society, has taken place annually since 1939, with the exception of the years from 1942 to 1945 during World War II.

This is the first time that the world's largest and longest-running sci-fi gathering has come to China.

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