Some analysts believe that China will become the second-largest advertising market in the world by 2008, the year it hosts the Olympic Games. Despite what we in the West would regard as crippling media censorship, advertising revenues in China continue to grow at around 20 per cent each year.
The market's evolution reached an important new stage last year, when major advertisers began to look beyond the so-called tier one and two cities - home to around 16 million people - and started targeting the smaller third- and fourth-tier cities. And they have still only scratched the surface of China's 1.3 billion population.
In fact, a significant chunk of the populace is not exposed to much in the way of advertising at all - and there's still only one TV channel, China Central Television, with anything like national coverage. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it accounts for one-third of all advertising spend.
But China, which is now officially the world's fastest-growing economy, is clearly the world's hottest advertising market - and that's before we even begin to factor in two other important regions of Greater China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.
Following its handover from British to Chinese rule a decade ago, Hong Kong, which remains a semi-autonomous region, has stagnated economically - although it remains an important regional centre for the advertising business.
Taiwan's status is, as it has been for more than half a century, even more ambiguous. While most nations (and the UN) recognise China's assertion that Taiwan is a renegade province that will ultimately be reabsorbed into Greater China, Taiwan continues its de facto existence as a prosperous independent state - and it is also one of the most liberal media markets in the region.
But the Taiwanese economic miracle is as nothing beside the emergence of China as an economic superpower. The nation is already the largest consumer of oil outside the US and is the world's largest producer and consumer of coal. Since joining the World Trade Organisation a few years ago, China has also become the world's greatest exporter.
The big question now is whether all this energy and industry will bring further political liberalisation and greater media freedoms, both ideologically and commercially.
ADVERTISING EXPENDITURE USdollars million at current prices. All years based on US$1= Rmb 8.28. *Estimated Total TV News- Maga- Radio Other papers zines 1994 1,567 541 611 48 60 307 1995 2,007 785 781 46 89 306 1996 2,536 1,097 939 68 105 327 1997 3,236 1,382 1,170 64 128 492 1998 3,718 1,639 1,261 86 161 571 1999 4,159 1,887 1,357 108 151 656 2000 4,772 2,041 1,770 137 190 634 2001 5,122 2,167 1,905 143 228 678 2002 6,132 2,791 2,277 184 265 615 2003 7,658 3,081 2,936 295 309 1,037 2004 8,449 3,522 2,788 246 398 1,494 2005 9,716 4,071 3,158 291 457 1,739 2006* 11,309 4,739 3,653 339 543 2,036 2007* 13,175 5,520 4,229 395 619 2,411 2008* 16,338 6,846 5,212 491 768 3,022 Adspend notes 1) Excludes agency income, which comprises regular commission and income from programme syndication, sports sponsorship, event marketing, industry training and other sources. 2) Excludes production costs .3) Includes classified advertising. 4) Before discounts. FACTFILE Highest circulating titles - Newspaper: Reference News (weekly, 3,000,000 copies) - Business magazine: Securities Market Weekly (336,000 copies) - Consumer magazine: Family (fortnightly, 3,000,000 copies) Top TV shows - Most watched TV programme (2004): Hou Nian Shuo - Best new TV format: Super Girls, a Pop Idol-style show Major measurement tools - Circulation: General Administration of Press; Global China Group Holdings - Readership: Central Viewer Survey and Consulting; Institution of Public Opinion Polls, Renmin University - TV viewing: CSM Main media owners: Newspapers Guangzhou Daily Magazines Trends: Cosmopolitan Television: CCTV (public)
Media topic du jour: TV inflation could be starting to ease after CCTV failed to reach its revenue targets in November's airtime auction.
Reigning media guru and why: Jack Ma, the founder of alibaba.com, is the country's most prominent (and perhaps only) dotcom millionaire. He has now taken control of Yahoo! in China following a joint venture deal and is well placed at the forefront of the new Chinese media economy.
Media mogul to be seen dining with: Li Ruigang, the chief executive of Shanghai Media Group, the second-largest media owner in China. He is the most Western-friendly and accessible of China's media moguls and has been courted by just about every multinational media owner.
Car to drive: Buick Excelle.
Phone to carry: Hyundai MP280.
Whatever you do, don't say: Wouldn't it be fun if we called the 2008 games the Tiananmen Square Olympics?