‘Three-Body’ combines hard tech and soft culture – Opinion

A student reading science fiction novel
Three bodies in Shanghai on December 12, 2022,

The reception a TV series about a Chinese science fiction novel has received bodes well for the future of technology. The Three-Body Problem, based on perhaps the best-known modern Chinese science fiction novel written by Liu Cixin, debuted Sunday on both TV and online platforms after seven years in the making.

The book is the first in the author’s Hugo Award-winning trilogy about humanity’s first contact with an extraterrestrial civilization.

It has attracted a great deal of attention as science fiction stories have become increasingly popular in recent years. An animated series of the same story tailored for young minds has already been available on teen-favorite platform Bilibili, while Netflix has struck a deal with Yoozoo to create an English-language adaptation.

Before, Wandering land in 2018 and The man in the moon in 2022 they became Chinese box office blockbusters during the spring festivals of those years.

The growing popularity of sci-fi movies and TV series in China is a good sign at a time when China is determined to become a technological powerhouse.

More than a century and a half ago, Twenty thousand leagues under the sea, a classic science fiction adventure novel by French writer Jules Verne, depicted the Nautilus, a giant submarine, considered to be far ahead of its time. Nautilus had many features that today’s submarines have.

Similarly, cell phones, 3D technology, home robots, smart watches, and self-driving cars, decades before they were invented, can be found in films such as Star Wars And Back to the Future. Such imagination may have even inspired engineers to invent the new gadgets.

In the 1970s, when China began its reform and opening up, there was a popular science fiction novel called Xiaolingtong Travels in the Future, in which a child journalist travels into the future to see robots, satellites and artificial organs for medical use, a concept that was quite ahead of its time for China back then.

Therefore, the re-emergence of science fiction movies and TV series in China should be welcomed as they could inspire scientists to invent new technologies and gadgets.

Furthermore, science fiction can be a new engine for the real economy. In 2021, the State Council, the Cabinet of China, issued a National Science Literacy Action Plan 2021-2035, aiming to make 15% of the country’s population scientifically literate by 2025, and 25 % by 2035. Metropolises such as Shanghai, Chengdu and Shenzhen have enacted policies to support sci-fi-themed forums, exhibitions and matches. In 2023, the World SF Convention will be held in China for the first time, opening a new window for exchanges.

However, it should be noted that the development of the industry needs more IP protection. China still has a long way to go to create sci-fi brands and better combine hard technology and soft culture, to help narrow the gap with its counterparts in developed countries.

The author is a writer of China Daily.

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