Sci-fi to inspire next generation of Chinese scientists

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Science fiction carries an important mission of revving up the scientific spirit and interest in China, a senior official with the China Association of Science and Technology (CAST) has said.

Speaking at the just-concluded Another Planet Science Fiction Convention, Bai Xi, head of the CAST's department of science popularization, praised Hugo Award winner Liu Cixin and other Chinese writers for setting off a sci-fi fever that is inspiring the nation's youth.

Bai highlighted the important role of sci-fi in popularizing science, especially as China strives to become an innovative country.

"Science fiction is entrusted with promoting the scientific spirit and thinking in society," he said in a speech to sci-fi writers and fans attending the event in Beijing.

The official said only 16.1 percent of Chinese children wish to become scientists when they grow up, citing a People's Daily survey, a figure he said was even lower than the 22 percent in 1978.

China has set the goals of pushing the scientific literacy rate from 8.47 percent in 2018 to 10 percent by 2020, and to reach an advanced level globally by 2035, and a leading position by 2050, according to Bai.

"To complete this challenging task, we can't just rely on those specializing in science popularization. We are inviting writers, artists and even the 91 million science and technology practitioners to join this cause," Bai said.

There is evidence that China is ushering in a sci-fi boom and quickly leaving behind eras when the literary genre was given short shrift as children's reading or even condemned as pseudo-science.

The Chinese market for sci-fi literature reached 900 million yuan (130 mln U.S. dollars) in the first half of 2018, nearing the yearly total of 970 million yuan in 2017, while the sci-fi box office in the same period of 2018 reached 9.5 billion yuan, said a report by the Shenzhen-based Southern University of Science and Technology.

Earlier this year, China-made sci-fi blockbuster "The Wandering Earth," adapted from Liu Cixin's same-name short story, ignited a nationwide cinema-going craze. With a box office of about 690 million U.S. dollars, it has become the country's second highest-grossing film of all time.

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