Chinese government releases new guidelines for science fiction

The China Film Administration, which is part of China's Central Publicity Department and the China Association for Science and Technology, has released a new official set of moviemaking guidelines titled, "A Few Opinions on the Promotion and Development of Science Fiction Movies." As Variety reports:

To make strong movies, the document claims, the number one priority is to "thoroughly study and implement Xi Jinping Thought." […] This includes creating films that "highlight Chinese values, inherit Chinese culture and aesthetics, cultivate contemporary Chinese innovation" as well as "disseminate scientific thought" and "raise the spirit of scientists." Chinese sci-fi films should thus portray China in a positive light as a technologically advanced nation.


The country should "encourage the research and development of VFX's underlying core technology and platform tools with independent IP rights," it said, as well as "support the R&D and industrialization of key technologies in the fields of film digital content processing and digital copyright protection." It should also "support the R&D, production and use of Chinese-made high-precision film equipment." International exchange should be encouraged in the context of furthering these goals.

The People's Republic of China has had a bit of a science fiction renaissance in recent years — and thanks to books like The Three Body Problem and films like The Wandering Earth, it's found a foothold in the US as well. Some of this is due to government directives to — as evidenced in the film guidelines above — use content creation to stimulate imaginations in a way that drives scientific innovation. Some of it is due to, well, life in China. As The New York Times writes:

It's no surprise that sci-fi is booming in China, where the breakneck pace of technological transformation can feel surreal. Economic growth has lifted hundreds of millions of Chinese citizens out of poverty, and brought extreme wealth to the upper and political class, but technology has also become a tool of state oppression. Some Chinese factories have outfitted workers with devices that measure brain-wave activity to monitor their emotional fluctuations and alertness. Bird-shaped drones have been used to surreptitiously spy on citizens, and surveillance through facial-recognition technology is widespread. On social media and messaging apps, posts containing certain banned words are automatically censored. China is now also leveraging its technology to conquer the solar system: After lagging behind in the space race for decades, the nation recently made a historic landing on the far side of the moon, where it has plans to build a permanent research base, and aims to have a rover exploring Mars next year.

"In China, there's this official propaganda position that science fiction is about imagination and this is what the future is all about," [Author Ken] Liu told an audience in New York in April, when he appeared on a panel with Chen Qiufan at the Museum of Chinese in America and spoke about the growing popularity of Chinese science fiction. "In reality, much of the most interesting science fiction is much more subversive," he continued. "It is a kind of wry commentary on what is happening in society. And because so many things are changing in China so rapidly, science fiction feels like oftentimes the most realistic way to describe what's happening."

The People's Republic of China has become a major market for US films — to the point, some would argue, that some of them even pander or self-censor in order to secure a potential Chinese theatrical release. Thus, it was only a matter of time before the country tried to break into the international movie industry itself.

Chinese science fiction in general does bring a much-needed diversity of perspective, experience, and narrative to the world, and that's a net-positive. Even if these PRC government-issued guidelines look a little Draconian — something which is weirdly kind of science fictional itself, if not wholly unsurprising.

China Issues Guidelines on Developing a Sci-Fi Film Sector [Variety]

Chinese Film Authorities Put Sci-Fi at Heart of "Movie Superpower" Plan in New Guidelines [Allison Jiang / Radii China]

How Chinese novelists are reimagining science fiction [Will Dunn / New Statesman]

How China Became a Sci-Fi Powerhouse [Emily Feng / Foreign Policy]

How Chinese Sci-Fi Conquered America [Alexandra Alter / The New York Times]

Why sci-fi could be the secret weapon in China's soft-power arsenal [Jing Tsu / The Financial Times]

How China is using science fiction to sell Beijing's vision of the future [Aynne Kokas / The Washington Post]

Image: Screenshot from The Wandering Earth trailer