|QINGDAO: Though bookstores in China are packed with Japanese and Korean comic books, China's cartoon critics still regard the future as promising for Chinese-authored books, given the large number of single-child families in the world's most populous nation.
"I believe the cartoon industry will boom in China since it is closely connected to the large number of small kids in the country, '' said Jin Yanshi, chief economist of Changsha-based Xiangcai Securities Co Ltd.
Jin attended a cartoon industry forum held here in October.
Jin quoted a recent survey conducted by Peking University that found consumption by single children contributed to some 4 per cent of China's annual gross domestic product growth.
The increasing cartoon mania in the country and strong demand have seen cartooning become one of the most sought after occupations in the job market in Nanchang, capital of East China's Jiangxi Province.
However, some cartoonists and industry watchers said there is still a long way to go.
There is no shortage of aspiring artists for the work since thousands of fans fancy themselves creators, and some, like Li Weichong, have found their alliance on the 400-member Internet community named "SPACE." It is based in Qingdao.
"It is common for publishing houses and magazines to hold back payments for our cartoon works," Li said. "So we find a home in the community."
Currently, most of China's cartoonists are just processing materials for foreign companies, such as animated cartoon giant Disney, the way many Chinese companies did during the early stage of the country's reform and opening-up drive.
"China has many excellent young cartoonists, but lacks an environment to draw cartoonists' comics," said Kimura Tadao, head of a Japanese cartoon college.
There are currently only two bases for film animation in China, Shanghai Animated Film Studio and China Central Television, with China's investment in comic books and animated cartoons totalling less than 100 million yuan (US$12 million) every year.
Observers said foreign cartoon producers' 80 per cent dominance in the Chinese market shares and domestic indifference towards young cartoon artists might stop the sector in China from expanding rapidly.