Zhang Pimin becomes SARFT deputy director

Former studio head, producer now a top film regulator

BEIJING -- China's Cabinet has promoted Zhang Pimin to deputy director at the State Administration of Radio Film and Television, state media said, confirming an earlier report by The Hollywood Reporter.

The Xinhua News Agency said Monday that China's State Council had appointed Zhang to the new post at the country's media regulatory body, replacing Lei Yuanliang, who reached the typical government job retirement age of 60 in December.

Zhang, 56, formerly was a SARFT film censor in charge of supervising the selection of the 20 imported films allowed to share revenue at  China's boxoffice each year.  He also previously ran the Xi'an Film Studio.

His credits as a producer include the costume epic "The Emperor's Shadow" --starring iconic actors Jiang Wen and Ge You -- thought to be the most expensive film ever made in China at the time of its release in 1996.

Zhang also is credited as producer on director Zhang Yang's (no relation) 1997 debut, "Spicy Love Soup," an apolitical tale of love and food in contemporary Beijing. The film won Best Film awards at the Beijing Student Film Festival and the national Golden Rooster event that year.

Zhang's rise at SARFT comes at a time when China's top leadership is pushing investment in cultural industries and supporting the creation of art, film and television that reflects the notion of the "harmonious society" said by President Hu Jintao to lead to the development of a strong middle-class society.

Long operating in the shadows cast by the more public SARFT vice ministers Zhao Shi and Tong Gang, Zhang takes over oversight of the film industry as China's boxoffice is beginning to tap a new middle-class wealth. For five straight years, domestic boxoffice has grown more than 25%, swelling 30% in 2008 to gross RMB 4.3 billion ($635 million).