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BEIJING (Reuters Life!) - For years, many of the hottest entertainers in China have come from Taiwan and Hong Kong, places fans believe make for edgier performers. But veteran Taiwanese singer and actor Alec Su thinks this will change.
Su, still going strong two decades after starting his career and who is mobbed by fans whenever he sets foot in Beijing and other Chinese cities, believes the sheer size of the audience in mainland China is becoming a huge influence on the music scene.
"If you look at the population, there is a huge difference between Taiwan and Hong Kong and the mainland. Slowly but surely the mainland will be seen as a major market," Su told Reuters in a rare interview with foreign media.
"I believe that the influence of the mainland will only get bigger. They have the most people who will watch films, or listen to music," he added.
Hong Kong and Taiwan stars have been seen by mainland Chinese as cooler and more avant-garde than their domestic counterparts, who have to tread a cautious creative line to avoid getting into trouble with the Communist government.
Taiwan's Jay Chou in particular is massively popular in China, his face adorning countless advertisements.
But mainland pop singers such as Li Yuchun, winner of a television talent show in 2005, have already made inroads in an industry traditionally dominated by "outsiders."
"I think there's a lot of very good mainland singers, very creative. What they are writing about, their lives, have changed vastly because of China's opening up," Su said.
"Our mainlander friends see this as very cool. They won't necessarily feel the same way about Hong Kong or Taiwan."
China and Taiwan have been ruled separately since 1949, when defeated Nationalist forces fled to the island at the end of a civil war. But since tensions between the two governments began to ease in the late 1980s, cultural and economic exchanges have rocketed, helped by a common language and culture.
Su owes his fame to Little Tigers, a Mandarin boy-band reminiscent of Take That or New Kids on the Block and which rocked the Chinese pop world from the late 1980s.
But in the often bubble-gum world of Mandarin pop music, where flash-in-the-pan singers change styles and even their names with alarming frequency, Su is a rare example of an artist who has maintained his popularity.
"I think I'm very lucky that I've always had opportunities," Su said bashfully when asked to explain his enduring appeal.
"Also, I'm a Virgo, I'm a perfectionist. I always put my whole heart into doing something. But of course I have to thank everyone for not getting fed up with me," he added with a laugh.
These days, though, Su spends more time acting. He has just done a voiceover for an MTV animation which aims to highlight the dangers of human trafficking and sexual exploitation.
And if he has worries about whether he, as a Taiwanese artist, will in the future have trouble appealing to a mainland audience, he does not reveal them.
"We all speak the same language," Su said. "Some people will still be able to produce works which move everyone."
Editing by Miral Fahmy