While trade officials from Western countries grumble about intellectual property rights (IPR) violations in China, they have to acknowledge that the country is becoming increasingly tougher towards wrongdoers in this regard.
Part of the reason for the government's firmer hand may be trade partners' complaints. But Chinese policy-makers are also well aware that there is a growing need for anti-piracy measures domestically.
The government is determined to make innovation a more significant aspect of our economy, with cities such as Beijing and Shanghai including the creative industry in their development strategies.
However, there is already a broad consensus that piracy has been suffocating the development of the software industry and the production of original music.
When directors Zhang Yimou and Chen Kaige released their blockbuster movies, they had to take some extreme measures to stave off piracy such as making their production crews take an oath and scanning cinemagoers for hidden recording equipment.
All of this has made the government realize that something must be done.
Despite the difficulties, progress has been made.
One does not have to ask for official statistics to know about the plight of IPR pirates. A walk along a typical business street will give one a strong feeling about the increasingly difficult times for people involved in piracy.
In big cities, which represent the lion's share of the market in pirated products, many shops selling pirated DVDs, CDs and software have been closed or changed to a different line of business over the past few years. This can be attributed to the crackdown on every link of the piracy chain, from production and wholesaling to renting and retailing.
Now the government is stepping up its effort. A cross-ministerial anti-piracy committee recently decided to take tougher measures against those who did not receive sufficient supervision in the past.
These people are corrupt officials sheltering IPR violators and street peddlers, who appear to be taking the place of shops in selling pirated products.
The gradual expansion of the committee's remit reflects the complex nature of the piracy problem in this country.
As in any country, the fight against piracy will be a long-term and hard one. But one thing is certain, China is committed to the fight against piracy. This is vital to ensure the rights of artists and other workers in this sector, and for the sake of an innovative society.
(China Daily July 17, 2006)