In recent years, Chinese science fiction has undergone a renaissance. Actually, more like a reinvention — even though Chinese authors have been writing sci-fi tales since the early twentieth century, various political movements have pushed back on the genre throughout its history.
But nowadays, with mainstream sci-fi smash hits such as The Wandering Earth and The Three-Body Problem, could sci-fi become a mainstay genre in China? Its government certainly seems to think so.
“The Wandering Earth”: Propaganda, Ratings Wars, and the Future of Chinese Sci-Fi
A document entitled “A Few Opinions on the Promotion and Development of Science Fiction Movies” was published on August 7 outlining plans to create a robust sci-fi film industry and, more importantly, “push our country from a movie power to a movie superpower.”
The statement was released by the China Film Administration, which is housed under China’s Central Publicity Department, and the China Association for Science and Technology, a group of scientists and scientific organizations.
The goals of the movement are to “study and implement Xi Jinping’s ‘socialism with Chinese characteristics,’ establish a humanity-centered creative direction […] highlight Chinese values, pass on Chinese aesthetics, establish the present age of Chinese innovation […] promote a scientific consciousness,” the document adds.
As Rebecca Davis points out in Variety, the recommendations themselves are a combination of concrete steps (using sci-fi movies as part of science education, setting up a national sci-fi screening alliance) and conceptual measures to transform the genre into a vehicle for promoting China’s scientific values on a domestic and global scale.
Chinese science fiction stories have already demonstrated potential on the world stage: Liu Cixin’s The Three-Body Problem novel was famously recommended by President Barack Obama and has inspired countless TV and film adaptations. Yet this new strategy may well experience a few bumps as it attempts to get off the ground.
Frant Gwo’s massively successful The Wandering Earth quickly became the country’s third highest-grossing movie of all time. However, another attempt at a sci-fi blockbuster, Shanghai Fortress starring “little fresh meat” star Luhan, was so badly received that the director apologized for it on social media.
“Luhan Has Destroyed Chinese Sci-Fi”: What This Epic Flop Says About China’s Changing Moviegoers
Whether or not a simplistic mixture of CGI effects and nationalist messaging will win over domestic, let alone international audiences, therefore seems far from certain.
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