Why I’m Giving Away My Book in China

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Media Outlet: The ChinaFile

Mei Fong wrote for ChinaFile about the release of her book "One Child: The Story of China’s Most Radical Experiment":

After a decade covering Asia for The Wall Street Journal, I devoted three years of my life to researching and writing a book about China’s one-child policy, One Child: The Story of China’s Most Radical Experiment.
This month, I’m giving away the Chinese-language edition of my book for free.
Anyone from Shanghai to Shenzhen can download the electronic file I made available, print copies, sell them, and I won’t see a penny.
I decided to take this step because tightening censorship would have made it almost impossible for my book to see the light of day in China otherwise. In the past, writers in similar predicaments have had to either submit to censorship or not be published in China at all. But given today’s advances in digital publishing, I felt I could surmount this problem with some ingenuity—though no little difficulty. As I embarked on my likely problematic publishing odyssey, I was strengthened by the growing belief that writers must think outside the box if they want to reach key audiences, even as traditional publishing methods die and authoritarian regimes strengthen.
Four years ago, after selling the English-language rights of my book to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, my agent told me I’d received a good offer for the Chinese-language rights from CITIC Publishing, a division of CITIC Group, one of the biggest state-owned companies in China. The offer came with strings attached: CITIC wanted the right to alter any “sensitive” content.

Author:

Mei Fong was a Class of 2016 & 2017 New America Fellow. She is the author of One Child: The Story of China’s Most Radical Experiment.