With Hong Kong thriller “Cold War” as its opening night film, controversial Chinese thesp Tang Wei as host and top helmer Jia Zhangke as dean of the Asian Film Academy, this year’s Busan Intl. Film Festival has a strong Chinese flavor.

China is the darling of the Asian — indeed the world’s — entertainment industry right now and Chinese bizzers are coming to Busan in a position of strength. The Chinese industry is trying to be more outward-looking these days, and cultural links with South Korea give it an edge in helping China’s growing internationalization.

China saw B.O. receipts of more than $2 billion last year, and according to data from government regulator the State Administration of Radio, Film and TV, total B.O. in China is up 40% over last year’s midpoint, to 8.07 billion yuan ($1.26 billion) for the first half of the year.

Hong Kong filmmaker Nansun Shi works closely with Korean filmmakers, especially in post-production and vfx services, but is also working with Korean talent and says she uses Busan to strengthen relationships.

Shi, who produces Tsui Hark’s films via Film Workshop and is executive director of Asian pic sales outfit Distribution Workshop, will receive the 2012 AFCNet Appreciation Plaque awarded by the Asian Film Commissions Network at the festival.

“I feel that there will be more interaction between South Korea and China/Hong Kong. Korea has an abundance of very (good) and technically savvy filmmakers, many of whom are very interested in accessing the China market, plus an abundance of on-camera talent as well,” Shi says.

And while the Chinese market continues to grow, there are still not enough qualified people to fill the positions needed to fuel the demand for content.

Chinese shingles making the rounds in Busan will be looking to set up co-productions with their Korean counterparts.

Co-productions are guaranteed a Chinese release, which is very appealing to the studios as they try to break into the China market; co-productions also qualify for a greater share of revenues in that country.

Successful colloboration between South Korea and China will be on show in a gala presentation of Hur Jin-ho’s “Dangerous Liaisons,” which features Chinese stars Zhang Ziyi and Cecilia Cheung, both of whom are expected to attend with thesp Jang Dong-gun.

Tang Wei, who drew a ban at home after her starring turn in Ang Lee’s “Lust, Caution,” nevertheless has a serious Korean following.

She will be the first non-Korean to host the event.

Tang was chosen because of her special links to the fest — she was in Busan last year with “Xu xia” and in 2010 with “Late Autumn.”

“Cold War,” from co-helmers Longman Leung and Sunny Luk and top Hong Kong producer Bill Kong (“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”), gets its worldwide bow at Busan.

Chinese pics feature heavily in the section A Window on Asian Cinema, including Zhang Yang’s “Full Circle,” with Li Bin, Wang Deshu, Zhong Xinghuo, Zhang Huaxun, Yan Bingyan and Gao Ge. Pic features more than 30 elderly Chinese actors, and is about a group of senior citizens trying to escape from a retirement home to pursue their dreams.

Also in this section will be Lou Ye’s “Mystery” and Zhang Yuan’s “Beijing Flickers.”

This year’s Asian Film Academy, which is an intensive educational program for up-and-coming Asian filmmakers, now in its eighth year, will be led by Chinese helmer Jia Zhangke.

Jia heads up a faculty that includes Oh Seok-geun, director of the Busan Film Commission, as deputy dean; Iranian filmmaker and screenwriter Parviz Shahbazi as directing mentor; and Japanese cinematographer Watanabe Makoto as cinematography mentor.

Jia is one of the Sixth Generation of Chinese filmmakers that have done much to open up cinema in China and push the envelope on style and content.

He has long-term links with Busan — his international career began in 1997 at Busan with his first feature, “Xiao wu,” which won the New Currents Award.

His second feature, 2000’s “Platform,” was realized through the Pusan Promotion Plan (now called the Asian Project Market), which will also feature several Chinese filmmakers, including Wang Xiaoshuai and Chang Tso-Chi.

Fest Traveler: Busan Intl. Film Festival 2012
Big fest flaunts arty ambitions | Busan flavored with strong Chinese flavor | Mart beefs up numbers | Project Market travels beyond Asia for lineup