By Steve Kelman

Blog archive

The Lectern: Banned in China

A long time ago (I think I'm dating myself here), people used the phrase "banned in Boston" to call people's attention to material, presumably somewhat salacious, that had been banned in Boston -- as a way of getting people in other parts of the country interested in getting it. I thought at the time that banning something in Boston seemed sort of senseless, since it was easy for Bostonians to go elsewhere to get access to it.

I thought about this recently in the context of discussions with some Chinese students about movies and books that are banned in China. I learned (actually through a series of links posted on Facebook by Taiwanese Facebook friends) about an extremely popular Taiwanese movie called Cape 7 that the Chinese government recently announced it was banning in China, on the grounds that it portrayed Taiwans' Japanese colonial masters (Taiwan was a Japanese colony between 1895 and 1945) too positively, a no-no in China with its memories of the Japanese invasion in the 1930's. However, a number of Chinese students with whom I have discussed this, in person or on Facebook, have told me that pretty much any movie banned in China is available through Internet downloading to anyone interested in watching it.

Similarly, I mentioned a 1999 novel I had read in English called Shanghai Baby, about a young Westernized and materialistic woman, that had originally been published in China but then banned. Anybody who wanted to could find it, I was told. (Incidentally, the Chinese title of the novel is "Shanghai Bao Bei," just a transliteration into Chinese characters of "baby.")

I think that when Americans hear that something is "banned" in China, they assume this means Chinese don't have access to it. Not true, apparently, especially in the Internet Age.

Any Chinese (or Taiwanese) readers of this blog want to react?

P.S. During a recent trip to Washington, a number of people asked me about media reports of various jobs I am said to be being considered for in the new administration. I should say that I am flattered by these reports, but I'm not looking to go back into the government at this point.

P.P.S. I will not blog on Christmas but want to wish blog readers a peaceful and joyous holiday season.

Posted by Steve Kelman on Dec 24, 2008 at 12:10 PM


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