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Cartoons Popular In China Amidst Flagging Domestic Output
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Around 500 million Chinese read animation books or watch cartoons, making China the world's largest animation market, according to experts at a cartoon industry forum held in Qingdao at the weekend.

Fifty-nine percent of animation fans are aged between 14 and 17 with adults accounting for 30 percent.

However, China's cartoon industry is still lagging behind world leaders, experts said, despite increased government investment of late.

"Several hundred schools and universities that offer animation majors have now been set up," said Sun Lijun, head of Beijing Film Academy's animation college. "These efforts will help boost China's cartoon industry development."

Chinese animation works have been criticized for a lack of originality and are subject to strict government controls over their content.

The forum, organized by the central committee of the Communist Youth League of China and the State Council’s Information Office, called for all cartoons to promote "excellent traditional culture and represent the modern spirit".

Foreign cartoons, especially from Japan, are hugely popular with China's 250 million children and American cartoons such as The Simpsons have gained a cult following among young adults.

However, in August, the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT), issued a ban on foreign cartoons during prime time.

Zhao Shi, SARFT's deputy director, said that the ban was imposed in response to requests by children and parents to screen domestic cartoons on prime time television.

China produced more than 50,000 minutes of animation by the end of August this year, exceeding last year's total output, and is expected to produce 70,000 minutes of animation by the end of this year.

(Xinhua News Agency November 7, 2006)

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