The Digital Transformation of China’s Film Industry and the establishment of Chinese Digital Soft Power

All Abstracts > The Digital Transformation of China’s Film Industry and the establishment of Chinese Digital Soft Power

The Digital Transformation of China’s Film Industry and the establishment of Chinese Digital Soft Power

Author | Affiliation:
Wendy Su | University of California Riverside

Presenting at:
2B | China’s digital communication industry and its discontent


The digitalization of China’s entertainment industry and the extraordinary growth of online streaming platforms such as Tiktok have become a remarkable cultural and economic phenomenon that attracts worldwide attention. This research investigates the digital transformation of China’s film industry as a way of establishing China’s digital soft power for its global reach. Because of the increasing convergence between the Internet and the film industry in the full value chain of production, distribution and exhibition, China’s film industry and film market are uniquely standing out from the film industries of other countries.

Drawing on Industry reports, trade journal data and the interviews of professionals, the research analyzes the latest trends in the digital transformation of China’s film industry. Firstly and most evidently, digital platforms and online streaming, gradually replacing theaters, have become the most popular venues and channels for exhibiting and circulating movies with 80% first-run movies available on digital platforms. With the estimate that global revenues from subscription streaming video services will overtake the total worldwide box office next year, the share and contribution of China’s market to global box office is on the track to increase.

Secondly, digital platforms have also started to alter the audience’s movie consumption habits.The audiences and online fan communities are turning from movie “”viewers”” to movie “”users”” and “promoters” with short videos in Tiktok and Kuaishou, tweets and messages in WeChat and Microblog that create a virtual space for film multi-consumption.

Thirdly and most remarkably, digital platforms such as Maoyan and Tencent use their extensive data to more deeply engage into project planning and movies production process, leading to the fast growth of online movies.

This research argues that the above-mentioned trends help create a new type of cultural power of China—digital soft power, which is fast outreaching globally and exerting undeniable influence via cross-border digital platforms. This digital soft power and the fast convergence between the digital technologies and the film industry in the traditional sense, has posed a challenge to Western domination and started to reshape the global power structure.

About the author

Wendy Su


Wendy Su is Associate Professor of the Department of Media and Cultural Studies at University of California Riverside. Her research areas include China’s communication and cultural policy study, cultural industries research, transnational film studies, audience research, and Asian modernity. She is the author of China’s Encounter with Global Hollywood: Cultural Policy and the Film Industry, 1994-2013 (University Press of Kentucky, 2016), and co-editor of Asia-Pacific Film Co-productions: Theory, Industry and Aesthetics (Routledge, 2019). She has published in a number of high-ranking academic journals.

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