Chinese site ‘incubator’ for overseas OL authors
Published: Mar 13, 2023 10:37 PM
Booths for Chinese online literature platforms China Literature (left) and Fanqie Novel Photos: IC and VCG

Booths for Chinese online literature platforms China Literature (left) and Fanqie Novel Photo: VCG

The WebNovel Spirity Awards (WSA) 2022, awards for online literature (OL) launched by China's overseas-targeted platform WebNovel, was recently held in Hong Kong. More than 90,000 foreign language OL works were eligible for the awards. 

The competition has three language channels - English, Indonesian and Thai. Yang Chen, the vice president and chief editor of China Literature Limited (CLL), the parent company of WebNovel, told the Global Times that the top three winners came from Pakistan, India and Thailand. Yet, they were only a drop in the sea of the 340,000 overseas writers embraced by the platform.  

Li Yilun, an OL industry insider, told the Global Times that due to China's "mature [OL] industry ecology," an increasing number of foreign web novel writers are choosing Chinese platforms to expand their careers. According to WebNovel statistics, the number of overseas OL writers on the platform has increased rapidly since it established its overseas original content section in 2018. Since then, the number of foreign writers has increased by 130 percent. 

While OL writers from countries such as the US, Pakistan, Indonesia, the Philippines and the UK, have flocked to the site, they have started showing growing interest in writing about themes that are indigenous to the Chinese OL market. 

Subgenres such as the "Rebirth" and "Wudi Liu" (a type of OL genre that focuses on a main character who grows in power) that were common in Chinese OL works have now become favorites among overseas writers. 

Pippo, a senior manager of the Reading Business Department for Thai OL site OokbeeU, told the Global Times that Chinese OL is a "window to understand China," and "10 percent of people in Thailand read online novels on our platform every month." 

"I was fascinated by Chinese cultural productions such as the TV series Bao Qingtian (Justice Bao) since I was young," Pippo said. 

Zhang Yiwu, a literature professor at Peking University, told the Global Times that overseas authors are embracing Chinese OL platforms since they can help them become professional OL writers. "Without doubt, China is leading the world's OL industry. You can easily be an amateur writer in your own country, but only in the Chinese OL industry, with its circulation and well-designed industry regulations, can both domestic and overseas writers be full-time professionals," he added. 

At the award event, CLL and the Global Times Research Center also released a report focusing on Chinese OL's "overseas influence." 

Besides promising figures such as the approximately 170 million overseas readers around the world that read Chinese OL in 2022, the report has also introduced its future "IP plan."

Zhao Bipeng, the head of overseas business for CLL, told the Global Times that the platform will help more OL writers transform their works into film and TV productions. 

"No matter the language differences, they all weave stories about people's dreams. Such stories transcend cultural differences. This is the charm of OL," said Yang Chen, vice president and chief editor of CLL.