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    Reporters Without Borders said in it’s 2005 special report titled “Xinhua: the world’s biggest propaganda agency”, that “Xinhua remains the voice of the sole party”, “particularly during the SARS epidemic, Xinhua has for last few months been putting out news reports embarrassing to the government, but they are designed to fool the international community, since they are not published in Chinese.”
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Soft power with books does not come easy for China

Posted by Author on October 9, 2009

DPA, via, Oct. 9, 2009

Beijing – In China, interest in serious literature is waning. The typical Chinese readers today read mainly to foster their career and pass their time with popular novels and escape into the world of fantasy stories. In China’s still booming economy, business focus and consumerism are the prevailing trends. Many million Chinese, acting as trendsetters for other countries, read mainly on their computers or mobile phones.

Chinese writers may have more creative freedom today than in the past and describe the country’s rapid change in many, often very personal, facets.

However, they hardly address the problems caused by the underlying Communist system: Censorship, as well as self-censorship, are clear limits for authors wanting to publish in their home country.

China’s stint as special guest at the Frankfurt Book Fair, the world’s largest book-trade fair, is one of Beijing’s most important attempts to present itself abroad not only as an economic power, but also its cultural “soft power.”

However, this modern approach is visibly at odds with outdated attempts at propaganda. In China, no other industry faces more government scrutiny than publishing, which is overwrought with ideology.

The partner of the Frankfurt organizers is none other than the state-run General Administration of Press and Publication (GAPP), China’s top censorship body, which decides what can be published in the country of 1.3 billion.

Beijing’s top censors are also in charge of the official Chinese contribution to the fair.

While the guest nations usually leave translation into German and the marketing of the books presented to German publishing houses, the GAPP had 80 books translated into German by themselves, at great financial cost.

“That isn’t smart, as this becomes a showpiece and not really a cultural product,” said Jing Bartz of the Beijing-based German Book Information Centre, a coordination point which helped prepare the 2009 fair.

They could only convince the GAPP to have 25 other Chinese titles promoted by German publishers.

Despite all these censorship efforts, books by critical or exile authors, much loathed by the China’s censors, will still be found at the book fair – away from the official displays.

GAPP could not exercise censorship in Germany, Bartz said. That had been made clear at the beginning of the talks over Chinese participation.

China’s censors in general blacklist topics like the Falun Gong movement, aspirations for Tibetan or Uighur independence as well as the bloody crackdown on the 1989 democracy movement.

Writers who criticize the Communist Party and demand democracy are often persecuted as enemies of the state.

Liu Xiaobo, the chairman of the independent PEN Club in China has been under arrest since December, waiting for his trial on charges of “undermining state power.”

The spread of the internet and the rising popularity of blogs have created new freedoms, which are however not reflected in literature.

There is a spread of different opinions, but those translate more into aspects of daily life, and not politics, said Bartz, a Chinese-born German passport-holder……. (more from

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