China is to begin a program to encourage private investment to improve the local animation industry.
The State Broadcasting and Radio Administration has promised quality, privately-financed cartoon agencies would be treated the same as state-backed animation and cartoon production organizations.
China's predominately state-funded industry has experienced slow growth because of problems caused by a shortage of professionals and limited investment.
The industry has been struggling to compete with foreign productions.
Zhang Songlin, deputy head of China's Animation and Comic Society and a well-known animation producer, said the country needs about 250,000 professionals to work in the film, TV and computer game industry.
But there are only 10,000 college-trained animation and comic specialists across China, and each year animation programs turn out only 300 graduates.
China's animation and comic industry is growing rapidly. Visitors have packed fairs held in Beijing, Nanjing and Guangzhou and Shanghai.
Surveys conducted in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou show foreign cartoons occupy 90 percent of the Chinese market.
Animation is only produced at the Shanghai Fine Arts and Film Factory and the Animation Works Department with the China Central Television in Beijing.
China produced 29,000 minutes of original animation last year, but processed or reworked another 30,000 minutes for foreign productions such as "Finding the Nemo " and "The Lion King" for Chinese audiences.
Television stations have time allocations for domestically-produced animation, but cannot find enough content.
Sean Zhang, a junior middle school student from Beijing and fan of Japanese animation, said Chinese cartoons are unpopular with him and his friends because they lack a sense of humor.
Yang Hongwen, secretary general of the China Children's Culture and Art Foundation, blamed the focus on education and a lack respect for the local products for the unpopularity of Chinese animation among children.
(Xinhua News Agency August 23, 2004)