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China opens up press wholesale market
By Xin Dingding (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-08-19 01:19

China will open its book, newspaper and periodical wholesale market to overseas investors by the end of this year, China's senior publications official said Wednesday in Beijing.

Overseas investors will be allowed to form book, newspaper and periodical wholesale and retail firms by the end of 2004, said Yu Yongzhan, deputy director of the General Administration of Press and Publications.

China has already opened up these markets and the printing industry to overseas investors, fulfilling commitments made on entry to the World Trade Organization, said Yu.

"Foreign capital in the publications sector is now mainly focused in the printing industry," he said.

Yu cited official statistics, which showed the administration has approved 202 foreign-funded printing companies in 2002 alone, with a total investment of US$568 million.

Last year, another 84 foreign printing companies were approved, with an investment of US$469 million.

In the publications retail market, the administration has already approved 11 foreign-funded companies.

"As the wholesale market is set to open at year end, we believe more overseas media groups will apply to establish enterprises then," said the official.

Yu stressed that China is not yet ready to open its publishing sector to overseas firms.

But Chinese and overseas publishers can strengthen copyright trade and jointly publish material, he said.

The copyright trade has been brisk over the past few years. Statistics show China has imported 58,077 copyrights from overseas publishers between 1995 and 2003.

In contrast, the export of China's copyrights are only a 10th of the imports, or 5,362 over the past nine years.

Confronted with such an imbalance in the copyright trade, Wang Huapeng, an official at the administration, said the situation will still remain for a while into the future.

Wang said this was due to two reasons.

On the one hand, the overall status of scientific and cultural development in China still lags behind other countries, so it is necessary to import foreign publications in certain fields, he said.

On the other hand, Chinese publishers need to learn from the copyright trading experience of their overseas counterparts, such as gaining information about foreign market demand, he said.

"The administration is also thinking of ways to promote copyright exports. We have trained staff, planned to participate more book fairs to strengthen exchange with foreign counterparts, and might set up a special fund to reward those doing well in the trade," he said.

Beijing International Book Fair

As a move to strengthen exchanges in the short term, the administration will sponsor the 11th Beijing International Book Fair in Beijing between September 2 and 6.

At least 900 publishers from 42 countries and regions are expected to participate in the annual fair, which is said to be the largest international book fair held in China and an important Chinese book fair in the global market.

Along with the fair, CEOs and presidents of world famous publication groups as well as senior officials from China will gather at the Beijing International Publication Forum from August 31 to September 1.

The International Book Fair Federation will hold a session during the fair, promoting exchanges and co-operation between Beijing and other book fairs.

China has 570 book publishers, 320 audiovisual product publishers and 121 electronic publication publishers, according to the latest statistics.

A total of 190,391 titles were published last year, including 110,812 new titles.

The national gross sales of publications were valued at 107 billion yuan (US$12.9 billion) last year, with an annual consumption on 5.23 books per capita in China.

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