China's flourishing sci-fi industry shows potential for further development
China's sci-fi blockbuster "The Wandering Earth II" and "Three-Body" TV drama have lately gained considerable attention on the Internet.
These productions feature Chinese themes and showcase the country's unique imagination and culture, contributing to the growth of China's sci-fi industry by instilling confidence and vigor.
Directed by Guo Fan and starring Andy Lau and Li Xuejian, "The Wandering Earth II" — a prequel to the 2019 sci-fi blockbuster "The Wandering Earth" — tells the story of humanity building enormous engines to propel Earth to a new solar system as the sun rapidly burns out.
Since its release on January 22, the movie has earned over 4 billion yuan (US$579 million) at the box office, according to box office tracker Maoyan. As of March 10, it has also been released in 23 countries and regions, including the United States, Canada, Singapore and Malaysia.
Renowned Chinese sci-fi writer and Hugo Award winner, Liu Cixin, said that China's rapid development and its modernization process have provided fertile ground for the growth and evolution of Chinese science fiction.
Guo explained that people are exposed to news of Chinese astronauts engaging in extravehicular activities and China's lunar probes landing on the moon, making them more receptive to the futuristic scenes depicted in sci-fi movies.
He added that scientific and technological progress has provided a realistic basis for sci-fi literature and art, while economic development has provided a sizeable cultural consumption market for sci-fi creation.
In recent years, China has released various documents on promoting sci-fi movies. A document, jointly issued in 2020 by the China Association for Science and Technology and the China Film Administration, emphasized the significance of sci-fi movies as a catalyst for the high-quality development of Chinese films.
Several major Chinese cities, including Chengdu in Sichuan Province, have taken significant steps to boost the development of their sci-fi industries. Known as the home of pandas, the city is also the cradle of "Science Fiction World," China's most popular sci-fi periodical.
In addition to this, the city has been selected to host the 81st World Science Fiction Convention in 2023, a testament to its growing reputation as a hub of sci-fi culture and creativity.
The 2022 China sci-fi industry report, jointly compiled by the Beijing-based China Science Fiction Research Center and the Research Center for Science and Human Imagination under the Southern University of Science and Technology in south China's Guangdong Province, was launched in February this year.
The report analyzed the four primary business sectors of China's sci-fi industry and revealed that in 2021, the industry's total revenue was 82.96 billion yuan, up 50.5 percent year on year, maintaining steady growth.
In 2021, sci-fi games made the maximum contribution to the industry with a revenue of 67 billion yuan, up 39.6 percent year on year. The total revenue of the sci-fi film and TV industry hit 7.19 billion yuan, increasing 171.4 percent year on year, according to the report.
Wu Yan, a professor at Southern University of Science and Technology, pointed out that several sci-fi-related policies and awards have been introduced and implemented, and many new films and videos have been launched, which have generated new opportunities and bolstered confidence in the development of China's sci-fi industry.
Industry insiders acknowledge that there is still significant work to be done to further industrialize the sci-fi sector and cultivate talent to support its continued development.
Bringing imaginative stories to life requires a robust and well-established film industry, not just in terms of equipment and technology, but also in terms of the process and standards, Guo said.
Following the filming of "The Wandering Earth," Guo's studio and the Beijing Film Academy joined forces to establish a film industrialization lab aimed at promoting the adoption of standardized management and operational processes across the film industry.
"The goal we are pursuing is no longer to create beautiful individual shots, but to develop a process capable of managing the production of thousands of shots at a relatively high quality," Guo said.
Wang Ting, director of the China Research Institute for Science Popularization, said that as China accelerates its efforts to become a scientific and technological powerhouse, it is necessary to use imaginative education as a strong support to cultivate talent in the field of innovation.
However, despite the growing demand for talent in the domestic sci-fi industry, there remains a shortage of skilled professionals in this field, Wang added.
To address the issue, industry insiders suggest that sci-fi education should be introduced in primary and middle schools, where possible, and a communication platform for sci-fi creators and people who work in the fields of science and technology should be set up, among other measures.