While the world waits for the mainland to open up industries from retail to record and film distribution, Beijing-based singer Na Ying, far from fearing the competition, is looking forward to the benefits that will bring. It is not difficult to understand why. Na's work has been pirated into a dozen compilation albums, which have earned her not a renminbi in royalties. The twentysomething Shenyang native is past the stage of frustration, she said during a promotional visit to Hong Kong recently. 'In China, the industry is still developing and until they set a system, no one cares. It's not something that I can change nor is it something that affects only me. In China there are hundreds of pirated Faye Wong compilations. 'In the beginning I was frustrated but when fans all come to you with covers for pirated copies, what do you do? Faye would refuse to sign because she always encouraged her fans to buy original products. But for the rest of us who have no new recordings, what can we do?' said Na, who has just released her first album in Hong Kong, Conquer. If Na speaks with familiarity about Wong, it is because they have been friends for almost eight years. 'Whenever she went back home to Beijing, we would run into each other. After getting to know each other, we found we had a lot in common towards life and love. So we get along very well,' she added. Na travelled from her hometown to Beijing for the first time 10 years ago to take part in her first nationwide singing competition. She came second but one of the judges was impressed enough with her talent to offer her singing lessons. She ended up staying in Beijing and took part in many more singing competitions. At the same time she built a career singing theme songs for television dramas and movies, including the Feng Xiaogang-directed Beijingers in New York. At the time, there were no recording labels in China, neither were there popular songs and Na was quite happy singing her television theme songs until she caught a glimpse of the world outside. 'About four years after I got to Beijing, I entered a lot of competitions where there were contestants from overseas. That was when I found out that singers in other countries had record contracts and released albums,' she said. Na thought the smart move was to find a record label to represent her interests and to package her singing. Finding a suitable company on the mainland was not easy: most record companies and production labels were just starting out. But one of her TV theme songs attracted a record producer from Taiwan. She signed with him and released two albums: Thinking of You Day and Night (1994) and The Day Doesn't Know The Darkness of the Night (1995). Just last year she switched to an international record label, EMI, for which Conquer is her first release. Conquer was released in Beijing with a million-dollar press conference in the Great Hall of the People, attended by press corps from all around Asia. 'It was such an honour being in the Great Hall. I had never been there before and to have so many reporters there, it felt great,' she said. At her first autograph signing session in the Chinese capital, Na was overwhelmed by the massive support from her fans. Not only was she inundated with flowers and gifts, she also received a marriage proposal from a fan. 'It was quite touching. He just came up to me with some flowers and said, 'Na Ying I like you very much. Marry me'. Everyone was pushing him and telling him to hurry up so he just left the flowers with a note which said he wanted to marry me and that he had been listening to me for a long time. He wanted to meet me on his birthday!' recalled Na with a laugh. She did not meet him - she was afraid her boyfriend would get jealous - but she was happy anyway because she enjoyed meeting all her fans who had 'grown up' with her. While most Beijing singers have a more raw-edged sound, Na - who sometimes sings with Beijing rock band Ling Dian - admits that her style is 'more Taiwanese'. And, even though, Taiwan and Beijing are known for their singer-songwriters, Na has not tried her hand at writing her own songs. 'I feel that [my] writing songs is equivalent to a film star wanting to try singing: it's not a very serious effort. I've never made a real effort to try. I think I want to sing well first. Then maybe I will think about it,' she said. Although Na travels to Hong Kong every few months, for business or pleasure, it is not always as easy for her to go to other places, especially Taipei. As a result, Conquer was achieved through telecommunication. 'I was in Beijing, the producer was in Taipei and my management people were in Hong Kong, so everything was done by fax. We even set my [singing] key on the telephone and everyday I would receive packages of demo tapes by courier. I think I had about 150 songs sent to me this way,' she laughed. 'My producer and the recording label people would make day trips to Beijing to have meetings with me. 'Taking the aeroplane was like a bus ride for them! They have put in so much effort that I feel pressure to do well.' After The Dream, the first single from Conquer also features good friend, Wong, on guest vocals. Na said Wong's help has made her strive even harder to do a good job. 'She helped me choose the singles. I let her listen to all the songs and she likes most of them. She makes suggestions because she understands me. And clearly she has very good taste because those she told me were potential singles were the ones the record company eventually chose,' she said. Conquer will be released all over Asia - where there are Chinese markets - and while Hong Kong is not the only place Na is targeting, it is a priority. 'If I can do well here, I can have a lot of opportunities here. I'm not too ambitious; as long as I have tried my best, I should be OK. 'And I have one big motivation and inspiration: Faye. 'I hope I can achieve in Hong Kong what she has done.' The entertainment pages are edited by Winnie Chung. Tel: 2565 2216; Fax: 2562 2485.