China is supporting an indigenous comic book culture for educational purposes. Last year, it began to produce state-sanctioned comic books for children, including the 48-page Beijing Cartoon.
The Communist party offered a public statement of support for private comics during a general clampdown on media. This was seen as a sign of the importance attached to comics, and the belief that they can be used for educational purposes.
Chinese leaders realise that the heroes of the comic books, such as the football star Captain Tsubasa, are more real to children and provide more influential role models than politicians. Some analysts believe the medium is more influential than television and newspapers.
Cartoon producers are targeting children who have been exposed to Japanese comics. Chinese cartoons used to deal with historical and mythological figures that lacked the imagination and thrills of the comics imported from Japan, Taiwan and Hong Kong. The themes of the state-sanctioned comics, however, are similar to those of the Japanese comics, including space and kung-fu adventures and love.
The characters still have huge eyes, the hallmark of Japanese comics, even though a Chinese directive requires that "eyes should be more Chinese" in homegrown comics. Cartoonists say children have become so used to characters with Japanese features that Chinese cartoonists have to imitate them in order to compete for hearts and minds.