Since the worldwide success of Zhang Yimou's "Hero" in 2002, Beijing is increasingly churning out glossy blockbusters whose production values (and budgets) rival those of Hollywood. This is all part of a China's plan to build a movie and entertainment industry, not just for its 1.3 billion inhabitants, but for the whole world—a $32 billion market.
Over the past couple years, China has built thousands of movie theaters and injected billions of dollars into state-run television and media organizations. In his address to the National People's Congress earlier this year, Premier Wen Jiabao encouraged strengthening cultural industries, including film. He understands that Hollywood is not just a hugely profitable industry but also an exporter of American values. And this "soft power" will be key to China's peaceful rise as the world's largest economy.
Big Think spoke to Yang Lan, China's most famous television personality, whom the media has dubbed the Oprah of China (even though Oprah has an estimated 7 million regular viewers, while Yang has just 200 million). She described the movie industry in Beijing, the hub of China's burgeoning media and entertainment establishment, as booming:
"The movie industry has grown from 6 billion renminbi [$935 million] last year to 10 billion [$1.51billion] this year—more than 40 percent growth," she says. There are also hundreds of thousands of new theaters being built in China as part of what Yang describes as a "renaissance" of art and culture. "In 10 to 20 years you will see a huge increase of entertainment and original programming exported from China," she adds. "Animation may lead the way, and television dramas could be second. Talk shows will be difficult because of the language barrier. But you will see exhibitions of contemporary art, different performances, like "The First Emperor" opera starring Placido Domingo in 2007."
Yang says that in 50 years time, China will "definitely" rival Hollywood's global might if it continues on the right track.