Publishers Under Pressure as Censors Reach for Red Pen
While Xi Jinping has made stating his appreciation for literature—both foreign and domestic—a hallmark of his international diplomacy, he has simultaneously overseen a tightening of censorship, a campaign against the promotion of “Western values” in higher education, and the resurrection of a Mao-era call for artists and writers to promote Party ideology in their work. Reporting on the tightening ideological climate facing writers and intellectuals in Xi’s China, Tom Phillips uses Sheng Keyi’s 2004 novel Northern Girls as an example—in 2004, the book was published uncensored in China:
But last month, as editors prepared to launch a third edition of the book, the author was informed that parts of her text were no longer publishable.
“It is ridiculous,” Sheng complained, pointing to an editors’ manuscript on which a red ballpoint pen had been used to highlight sections that now needed excising. “It doesn’t feel like something that could happen in real life and it makes me quite angry.”
Sheng, 42, is clear about why parts of her once-celebrated novel have suddenly become taboo. The blame, she believes, lies with the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, whose reign, which completes three years on Sunday, has brought a political chill of the kind not felt in decades.
[…] “You’d have thought that since he constantly talks about literature and how much he loves it, some new windows in [ideological] control would open to allow some fresh air in. It turns out that’s not the case. In reality it feels like all the windows have been closed,” she said.
“The environment for expressing opinion and writing has become harsher and harsher in recent years.” […] [Source]