Every city has its differentiating edge. For Hangzhou, it is animation and cartoons.
In March 2005, Hangzhou won its bid to host China's first International Animation and Cartoon Festival, which started on May 31 and runs until June 5.
To date, the city boasts some 20 animation production enterprises that churn out about 1,500 minutes of animation works annually.
"If the Yangtze River Delta is a newspaper office, Hangzhou is the newsroom," said a Hangzhou-based animator.
The animation industry really took off in China only in the 1990s. Cities like Shanghai, Beijing, Changsha, Guangzhou, and later Hangzhou, led the way in setting the trends.
Although Shanghai is considered to be the birthplace of China's animation industry, the Shanghai Animation Studio is still the municipality's only animation production institute.
Hangzhou, on the other hand, has witnessed a rapid development of its animation industry over the past two decades.
In 1988, Hangzhou kick-started its animation industry with the establishment of the Hangzhou Animation Production Co. Ltd.
The industry in Hangzhou has flourished since then. So much so that the Hangzhou High-tech Industry Development Zone and the China Academy of Art were included in China's first group of National Animation Industry Bases and National Animation Teach and Research Bases last December.
So why is it that Hangzhou and "anime" go together like hand and glove?
Wang Jian, deputy director general of the Hangzhou Culture and Broadcast Bureau offers this explanation: "Preferential policies, rich capital resources and abundant professional talent."
To accelerate the development of the animation industry, Zhejiang Province listed cartoons or animation as one of its leading industries. It also offered a monetary incentive of a 1 million yuan annual bonus for the development of its own animation brands.
The Hangzhou municipal government also established an "encouragement fund" for original works, and set up an expert consultation committee and a professional association to steer the healthy development of the industry.
The State Administration of Radio, Film and Television also promised privately owned animation companies that they would be given equal treatment as state-backed firms. Hangzhou benefited the most from this policy because revenue generated by private enterprises formed 80 percent of the city's 251.5 billion yuan gross domestic product (GDP) in 2004.
What's more, Hangzhou is home to 35 higher education institutions, more than ten of which have established animation as an academic subject. These include Zhejiang University, the China Academy of Art, and the Zhejiang Institute of Media and Communications, all of which offer majors in digital media, animation and software development. It is from these institutions that Hangzhou draws its constant supply of bright young talent.
Currently, six cartoon series are under development in Hangzhou. By the end of 2005, 15,000 minutes of animation works would have been finished, and over 20,000 minutes of processed or post-production work should be ready for general viewing. There are also plans for an original feature film, 30 cellphone games, and comics.
(China.org.cn by staff reporter Li Xiao, June 2, 2005)