Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Lack of Explanation for Why the Latest Issue of Newsweek Is Barred from Distribution in China

Jonathan Ansfield writes:

The year-end edition of Newsweek, a China cover entitled "China Now", includes a Fareed Zakaria think piece on the "superpower's" fragile side, excerpts from The China Diary of George H.W. Bush, and a personal history by Beijing bureau chief Melinda Liu spanning her three decades covering the country. In the international edition, there's also a short profile positing what (if anything) the liberal legacy of Party elder Xi Zhongxun might or might not say about his son Xi Jinping, now China's presumptive leader-in-waiting.

Something inside the magazine - it's not clear what - has offended Beijing. The China National Publications Import & Export Corporation (CNPIEC), which normally distributes the international edition to authorized newsstands catering to foreigners - five-star hotels, Friendship stores - has not released the current issue for sale. Copies of the magazine did reach subscribers. But due to its "sensitive contents" CNPIEC held up the rest on orders from the General Administration of Press and Publication (GAPP), according to what a member of the sales and marketing department at CNPIEC told a program director at CCTV, who tipped off this reporter.


It's not uncommon, of course, for official gatekeepers of imported titles to shut out individual issues over an off-putting piece. When this reporter contacted the CNPIEC sales department (6506-1315) to try to confirm the director's info, the woman who answered was gruff and felt no need to elaborate. "If it's not there, it's not there," she said. "I have no explanation to offer you." She questioned whether the contents of the magazine could be read on the Web in China. As usual, they could. "Well, if it's on the Web, isn't that good enough'" Click.

Full text of this article available at:

Comment by me: What I find interesting is not so much the banning of a western news magazine. This is nothing unusual in China. But I do find the embarrassed response of the censor when asked for clarification intriguing. In the past one typically got a vigorously defiant answer denouncing hostile Western forces promulgating "anti-China" (fan hua) "slander." Seems that the Newsweek issue has been banned for revealing some truth or other that the authorities find too threatening to ignore, but which they dare not denounce explicitly. The régime's new attitude of defensiveness in the face of criticism indicates internal weakness. This is worrying and could be a harbinger of bad times ahead.
I seem to be picking up on something of a pattern here.

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