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.
The CCTV director had combed hotel magazine racks across town last week in search of the magazine. He needed it in order to tape the year-end episode of News Weekly (新闻周刊), a half-hour news analysis show hosted by ace presenter Bai Yansong. The apparent distribution ban did not stop the program from showcasing the cover package by its U.S. namesake in its latest broadcast this past weekend. Bai led on Zakaria’s piece and focused on it and another commentary in the package by Michael Bloomberg. Granted, those two pieces were among the softer and less damningly detailed of the batch. Others went unmentioned.
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.