China Bans Its Own History

Even China’s own history isn’t safe from censorship. A collection of essays entitled The Realm of History by late historian Gao Hua, which offers a historical and cultural analysis of mainland China’s contemporary history and the Communist Party, has been named “forbidden” and denied distribution in the country.

Hua, who died in 2011 and was known for his in-depth analysis of the Chinese government and those vying for power within it, often used personal diaries and letters to paint the picture of a much more intimate and complicated China — an image many contemporary officials would rather the Chinese public not see. For Jiang Danwen, an independent scholar from Shaghai, “Gao Hua was a careful and conscientious scholar, and his book is full of unrevealed truths about our history. [It] could help us understand a lot more about what went on behind the scenes of our nation-building than we did before.”

Despite the historical and cultural value of Hua’s work, though, The Realm of History won’t be on any Chinese bookstore shelves.

This case, along with a series of other recent book bans, is part of a larger free press issue plaguing the country. Earlier this month, five employees of the Hong Kong publisher and bookseller Mighty Current disappeared. The publisher, which is known for printing banned books that mainland Chinese citizens can’t get back home, has become a target of the Chinese government, and many suspect the government has a role in the employees’ disappearance. “I think that the recent crackdown by the government on freedom of expression and on the publishing industry stems from the fact that they don’t want there to be a wider understanding of history, of the truth, among their citizens,” notes Danwen, adding:

At a time when more and more banned books are finding their way [into China], we can only say that the publishing industry and freedom of expression are going through some very hard times right now.

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Contributing Editor Caitlin McCabe is an independent comics scholar who loves a good pre-code horror comic and the opportunity to spread her knowledge of the industry to those looking for a great story!