Chinese Censorship’s Many Faces

Censorship in China conjures the image of rigid, unsmiling authority, but that disapproving scowl can give way to a different expression — and not always a consistent one. A film, for example, might be banned for 20 years, while the novel on which it is based sells briskly throughout that same period.This might seem puzzling, but the reason is simple. China has more than 500 publishing houses, each with its own editor in chief (and de facto censor); if a book is rejected by one publisher there’s still a chance another will take it. In contrast, films are not released until officials in the state cinema bureau in Beijing are satisfied, and once a film is banned it has no hope of being screened.

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