There is only one decent English-language bookstore in Shanghai. It’s backed by Hong Kong money. There are numerous state-owned places but these have selections that are limited to language-training materials, photography books, travel guides and a handful of paperbacks. These are usually avoided by your correspondent.
Nevertheless, a lapsed subscription to the Economist prompted AsiaPundit to seek the newest issue from his local little-red bookshop. Upon entry to the small red-brick store on Hongqiao Lu, AP was shocked by what he discovered.
As shown in the bottom-left corner, Jung Chang’s Wild Swans was on prominent display at the bookstore. By prominent, we imply that it was face up and there were multiple copies (staff are not really trained at promotion, so that’s about as prominent as you will get for a state-owned bookstore).
Why the shock? Here’s a passage from Jung Chang’s introduction to the book itself (pages xxiv-xxv):
…Wild Swans is not allowed to be published in Mainland China. The regime seems to regard the book as a threat to the Communist party’s power. Wild Swans is a personal story but it reflects the history of twentieth-century China from which the party does not come out well. To justify its rule, the party has dictated an official version of history, but Wild Swans does not toe that line. In particular, Wild Swans shows Mao to have criminally misruled the Chinese people, rather than being basically a good and great leader, as Peking decrees.
. . .
That is why publication of Wild Swans is banned in China. So is any mention of the book of me in the media. Although over the years many Chinese journalists have interviewed me or written about Wild Swans, all write-ups except a couple have bitten the dust as few editors dare to break the ban. The ban is particularly deterring because the toughly worded, top-secret injunction was co-signed by the Foreign Ministry, which, for a book, is most unusual, if not unique.
As noted, AsiaPundit would not have wandered into the Little Red Bookshop were it not for an expired Economist subscription. That’s mildly ironic, given that the two magazines subscribed to by AP both had issues banned in China simply because they contained reviews of Chang’s most-recent work.
Technorati Tags: asia, censorship, china, east asia, northeast asia, jung chang
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Mao: The Unknown Story - by Jung Chang and Jon Halliday:
A controversial and damning biography of the Helmsman.
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