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China readies for opening-up of publications distribution
2004-06-12 15:28

China, entering its second year in the World Trade Organization, is preparing to open up the book, newspaper and magazine distribution sectors in Chongqing, Ningbo, and all provincial capitals on the mainland, taking an important step towards fulfilling its WTO commitments.

Liu Binjie, deputy director of the General Administration of Press and Publications, said publication of new regulations authorizing the entry of overseas investment into the distribution market was planned.

The new regulations would feature equal entry into the market for investment from both home and abroad, specific application procedures, improved market supervision and penalties, and the policy on promoting non-state-owned bookstores.

Chen Yizhuo, director of Chongqing Press and Publications Bureau, said overseas investment could provide logistics services in China, adopting chain operations, and invest in giant printing enterprises, but with an investment cap.

Distribution groups could assimilate overseas investment as well and become joint-stock companies. Liu emphasized that China would follow the practice of the majority of WTO members in opening up, but would allow no overseas investment in the editing sector.

Since the 1990s, the Chinese domestic news and publication industry has developed rapidly. China has a total of 2,100 newspapers, 8,800 periodicals and an annual publication of over 100,000 titles of books. The industry employs over one million people and ranks fourth among the pillar industries.

Over the years, a diversified investment and management pattern has formed. Private publication distribution businesses on the mainland number over 40,000, with a market share of about 50 percent, excluding textbooks from the state-owned sector's business. Over 60 overseas companies have set up offices on the mainland to invest in the publication distribution business.

The opening-up policy may bring challenges to the publications industry. "We are under great pressure," said Wang Huaguang, of Sichuan People's Publishing House, adding that foreign publishing giants were more experienced in distribution and management.

Li Cheng, an independent bookseller, said lack of money and expertise were also problems.

In response, China is planning to foster a number of state- owned distribution groups, giant publications enterprises with chain operations and modern logistics services to improve its market competitiveness.

Chongqing has set a good example. Aiming at a better operational mechanism, it has founded a newspaper and distribution group, while the publication group and broadcasting and television group is underway.

To create a better environment for investors from home and abroad, the government has revised laws and regulations on copyright and publication and has rectified irregularities in the publications distribution sector.

The government is also taking measures to increase awareness of copyright. Training sessions on the regulations and WTO knowledge are offered in large and medium-sized enterprises.

Meng Ling, deputy director of Chongqing Copyright Protection Center, said, "It is a demanding work. We still have a long way to go, but we are confident."

(February 01,2003 )(xinhua)

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