For the soon-to-be-defunct Far Eastern Economic Review, Christopher Walker and Sarah Cook write about the Frankfurt Book Fair, the Kaohsiung Film Festival, and other efforts by the Chinese government to impose censorship restrictions on cultural events in other countries:
Economic coercion is a principal line of attack in the transnational suppression of issues deemed sensitive by China’s rulers. The coercion is applied directly and indirectly.
Instances of direct economic coercion and censorship typically occur when an event has already been planned or already begun. Pressure is then applied by Chinese government representatives on the organizers or local authorities to suppress certain activities or appearances deemed undesirable by the CCP. In such instances, explicit or implicit threats of boycotts, trade sanctions, or withdrawal of Chinese government funding have been used to force the hand of those in charge. The CCP’s Frankfurt Book Fair gambit fits this model, given the financial implications of the Chinese government’s $15 million investment in the event.
More insidious has been an indirect form of economic intimidation, whereby publications, event organizers or governments engage in self-censorship on topics deemed sensitive to the mainland, a dynamic some have dubbed “pre-emptive kowtowing.” Given their small size, proximity and relationship to the mainland, Hong Kong and Taiwan are particularly vulnerable to this phenomenon.
Read more about cases of China exporting censorship via CDT.