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For all intents and purposes, China Film Group is the Chinese film industry — it controls the purse strings, the facilities and the talent, and it decides who makes what and when. As the head of CFG, Han Sanping is the film biz’s top dog in the world’s most populous nation.

Yet he is a figure many outside of China have not heard of, even though China Film controls both the Beijing and China Children’s film studios, operates seven circuits comprising 400 theaters, is the country’s largest film distributor, has the country’s sole film import license and controls national movie channel CCTV-6. And he’s not stopping there.

“CFG will play an increasingly large role. … We have partnerships with 40 to 50 companies. These include Disney and Warner Bros., the big Hong Kong movie companies and private-sector companies in China, too,” he says.

Han, who is also head of the China Film Producer Assn. and veep of Beijing Film & TV Artists Assn., believes the Chinese market is primed for annual growth of 30% over the next five to eight years. Given that the theatrical market enjoyed total grosses of some $350 million last year, B.O. will reach $1.3 billion by the end of 2011 if growth continues as Han predicts.

Since Han took over the reins at China Film, he has aggressively pushed for the group to expand even further, culminating in a recent announcement that it would seek a public listing.

Han is a fervent nationalist, urging filmmakers to make more patriotic movies, and has responded to his critics by saying that nationalism is also common in Hollywood pics. He wants more “ethically inspiring” films and deflects charges of being a propaganda merchant by citing films such as Will Smith starrer “The Pursuit of Happyness” as a template.

“The reality of this country’s economic reforms is that the country … is prospering. This must be extolled. It can only be extolled. There can’t be anyone who makes fun of it. People who do either have ulterior motives or they’re mentally challenged,” he said in an interview run on Sina.com.