Publishing in Communist China

BEIJING–Book City. Five floors, government owned. Population, 230,000 titles. Mike Meyer reports:

Book City is overwhelming. The din, the eager customers, the slippery stacks of oversized paperbacks — hardcovers are less common — whose covers call out: “I Was an American Police Officer,” “I’m Only Raising You for 18 Years” and “Chinese-Style Divorce.”

After a decade in China, I thought I’d seen it all: murder, jail, aliens, rodeo. But nothing prepared me for its publishing industry, in puberty.

Meyer says the printing and distribution of books is open to private industry in China, but the publishing part of it is solely state-run. That is, the Chinese communists try to reign in all publishing, but are currently tolerating private publishers who operate in something like organized crime rings in order to gain ISBNs for publishing a title.