China update – Beijing / Shenzhen – May 2010

“Novel, Beautiful, Thrilling, Odd” – an English translation of Chinese characters on a poster and a good strapline for my week in China (assuming you share my view that big, manic cities are somehow beautiful).

I travelled to Beijing and then on to Shenzhen for two reasons: firstly, to progress the development of a project actively linking the animation industries in the UK and China to generate new partnership opportunities; and secondly, to speak on two platforms during the Cultural Industries Fair in Shenzhen.

The first part of the UK/China linkage is a proposed Animation Forum in November 2010, produced with the UK Trade & Investment Creative Industries lead in China.

At a meeting with the Chinese Ministry of Culture in Beijing, we received an important indication of government support. A subsequent meeting with major Chinese animation producer Xing Xing also gave useful insight into the type of connection and project which should be the target of our initiative – with a strong focus on IP exploitation across all platforms (including as key, mobile and merchandising).

Next to Shenzhen to take part in the First China International Industry Development Forum on New Media-Movies-TV-Animation.

This event featured speakers from China, Japan, UK and US – including colleagues from Aardman Animations – and had an internationally familiar theme of the traditional media industries having to rapidly adapt to a changing landscape driven by new technologies and rampant consumer demand. Digital media is seen as “the opportunity for the next generation” and 75% of Chinese netizens are under 30 – main instant messaging service QQ has 600M users.

A second event was held in Shenzhen at the Cartoon & Animation Base, a state supported incubation unit for growing animation businesses. Again with Aardman, we presented the UK position and experience and gained further insight into the Chinese marketplace, and the strengths and weaknesses of the animation production community.

There are still significant structural difficulties with any attempt by an international producer to access China – including restrictions on airtime and concerns on copyright. But the scale of the market demands attention, for example there are 740M mobile phones in China with a mobile music download spend of £5Bn p.a.

One comment I noted was that the Chinese “make friends first, do business later”, implying that access to this marketplace takes time. The snapshot I take away from last week is of an open, friendly and highly dynamic market place, one with significant scale and importantly significant weaknesses – creating an appetite for partnership from China and thus providing opportunity for UK businesses. Whilst there are hurdles to overcome, both cultural and political, the potential rewards are great.

If you’d like more detail on the visit or on planned activity in China for later in 2010 drop me an email.

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