China's film and TV producers are taking some of their best work abroad, with a boost from the country's top leader. Industry experts tell Wang Kaihao how they hope to overcome barriers of language, culture and audience expectations.
While American, British and South Korean TV shows have become a staple of after-dinner conversations among urban Chinese youths, Chinese productions are being prepared with less fanfare for distribution abroad.
During his visit to Mongolia last week, President Xi Jinping announced that China would provide Mongolia with 25 translated versions of outstanding Chinese films and TV shows for free in the next five years. So far, no institution has been reported to have begun translating the 25 productions.
It was not the first push on this front by the State leader. Xi presented three DVDs - two Chinese TV series and one feature film - as national gifts to Argentina's vice-president Amado Boudou in July.
"There were other similar agreements reached between governments," says Luo Xubing, deputy marketing director of China Radio International's film and TV translation centre. "It will take some time to realise the agreement and go through the process of getting broadcast licenses overseas."
Luo discloses that last year CRI dubbed with audio 80 films and TV shows into multiple languages (Swahili versions for Tanzania, for example), and they are ready to be exported. Major markets include African countries such as Tanzania, Senegal and Nigeria, as well as those in Southeast Asia.
His centre is one of the country's major institutions promoting Chinese productions abroad. Its first attempt in taking A Beautiful Daughter-in-Law Era, a family drama, to Tanzania in 2010 was a trial.
"There were only a few scattered organisations in China making translated TV series for export then," he recalls. "We didn't charge for that project. We can only do business after foreign audiences know what Chinese TV series are like."
Luo was surprised that the show proved popular in that country. The Chinese public, meanwhile, did not know that a Chinese TV series was broadcast in an African country until President Xi mentioned it during his visit to Tanzania last year.
CRI also took the family drama series Jin Tailang's Happy Life to Myanmar last year. The more recent Marriage Battle, which depicts a husband-wife relationship, has been one of the most-watched programs on Myanmar's national MNTV since it premiered in April.