Movie piracy is still rampant in China. This, as the Motion Picture Association will tell you as often as possible, is a significant problem.
In its latest annual study, released this week, the group said that of the US$2.7 billion in potential losses each year resulting from piracy, about half was shouldered by China’s movie industry and less than a quarter by the US industry – since China only allows up to 20 foreign movies for commercial distribution.
Significantly, China’s movie industry has grown to the point where piracy can cost it in excess of a billion dollars. Chinese moviemakers, like members of just about every other profession, are trying to learn as much as they can from outsiders and are always eager to find ways to fit new ideas into old traditions.
The point was highlighted by a friend who teaches at a Hong Kong university. While obviously generalizing a bit, she pointed out that her Hong Kong students are generally uninterested while mainland students are like sponges. They ask questions, stay after class to solve problems and are always eager to learn.
More than any economic advantage and huge market potential, the fact that its people want to know about everything and are not shy about their thirst for knowledge may be China’s trump card.
The space race, the auto industry, high tech; these are all industries in which China has made considerable gains. More are coming, including China’s movie industry. In truth, it is not likely to catch up to Hollywood any time soon but little by little it is growing, asking questions and figuring things out.
Every year Hollywood is a few hundred million dollars short in China. It’s not that the problem is not serious. It is. But it is also part of the process of asking, learning and acquiring new tastes that is helping China and its industries develop into some of the biggest in the world.