China Clamps Down On Another Serious Threat To The Middle Kingdom: Western Animal Cartoon Books For Children

from the who's-afraid-of-peppa-pig? dept

Here’s the latest instalment in the long-running Techdirt series “just when you thought there was nothing left to control, China comes up with something else it wants to throttle”, as reported by the South China Morning Post:

An order from Beijing will drastically cut the number of foreign picture books for children published in mainland China this year, four publishing sources told the South China Morning Post.

The order opens a new front in a broad campaign to reduce the influence of foreign ideas and enhance ideological control, applying restrictions to animal cartoons and fairy tales written for toddlers and older children that have few political implications. Chinese universities were previously ordered to limit the use of Western textbooks and promote communist dogma.

According to the article, China’s state publishing administration has imposed a quota system on domestic publishers, limiting the number of foreign picture books that can be published in any one year. Apparently, the aim is two-fold: to promote children’s books created by domestic authors and illustrators; and to stop innocent young Chinese minds being seduced by the subtle charms of Western propaganda in the form of cartoon stories about animals.

But it’s not just children that the Chinese authorities want to shield from harmful ideas. Quartz has a related story about a more general clampdown on Western publications that has been imposed on vendors using the leading online shopping site Taobao, part of the Chinese Internet giant Alibaba:

Taobao has ordered all vendors to stop selling foreign media starting today — even if authorities have approved the media for circulation in China. The online shopping platform, owned by Alibaba, has been one of the few places to browse overseas publications free from censors, largely because the site’s business model allows individual vendors to do business directly with customers. It’s also helped that the daigou, or overseas agents, can evade import duties by carrying or shipping goods into China.

As the Quartz article notes, the new rule cites an obscure 1991 law; its unexpected invocation now seems related to a general clampdown around the highly-sensitive two-week National People’s Congress, currently under way in Beijing. Perhaps Western cartoon animals have fallen victim to the same paranoia.

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Comments on “China Clamps Down On Another Serious Threat To The Middle Kingdom: Western Animal Cartoon Books For Children”

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That One Guy (profile) says:

On the one hand, the fact that they’re freaking out over cartoon animals would seem to demonstrate that even the ones in charge over there realize how pathetically weak their arguments about how awesome the country and government is, and how easy it is for people to see through them with even the slightest bit of effort.

On the other hand, the fact that they can make those sorts of demands and expect to be obeyed is all sorts of horrifying as far as freedoms in china are concerned. ‘That book doesn’t spend nearly as much time as it should gushing about how amazing the chinese government is, and as a result you’re not allowed to read it’ is the sort of thing that should only be found in dystopian, ‘Big Brother Is Watching You’ novels, not a real, major government.

Châu says:

Eastern Animal Books

Chinese news confuse me, it say in one sentence FOREIGN (外国) book, than another sentence WESTERN (西方) but FOREIGN ≠ WESTERN. I assume no allow cool communist propaganda from Soviet Union (СССР) or Việt nam, Cuba, or North Korea. I forget Cuba is communist but Western country. Maybe they really mean cartoon version for Animal Farm?

Young people in China can read local 西游记 about how stupid people in heavens govern Earth, not very different than current governments on Earth today.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Eastern Animal Books

North Korea is hardly communistic, but more a cult of personality around the great paranoid leader. Vietnam and Laos are the only true remaining communistic countries. Lets be real here: China is not a truely communistic country, but rather an empire having problems keeping the states on a common path without resorting to outside enemies.

Wendy Cockcroft (user link) says:

Re: Re: Eastern Animal Books

Even Vietnam and Laos are liberalising these days. True communism requires a closed economic and cultural system. These countries aren’t closed. I don’t think true communism is actually possible. It either gets warped out of recognition and becomes a never-ending nightmare whose repercussions continue for decades after it has finally ended or gets so watered down, all you get is the attempts to fend off “counter-revolutionary” activities such as slagging off the Glorious Leader du jour.

There is nothing in communism that provides a check on the powers of the ruling administration. That is one of the ways in which it fails. The other is its refusal to accept that market forces exist.

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