Chinese authorities ask booksellers to ban Japanese works

The government is also pressuring Chinese publishers to stop translating and publishing Japanese content as tension increases between the two countries.

Japanese books – including the bestselling '1Q84' by Haruki Murakami – have been removed from Beijing bookstores.

A territorial dispute between China and Japan has escalated into a contentious trade war of sorts in which an unlikely armament – books – have become the weapon of choice.

Chinese authorities are asking booksellers in Beijing to ban books by Japanese authors and titles about Japanese topics as well as pressuring Chinese publishers not to translate and publish Japanese content in response to a tense territorial row between the countries.

Tensions between Japan and China escalated last week after the Japanese government nationalized the Senkaku Islands, known as Diaoyu in China. The countries have been embroiled in a bitter dispute over the ownership of this string of small islands off China’s eastern coast, and Tokyo’s decision to nationalize the islands further heightened tensions. The move sparked protests in China, directed toward Japanese citizens living there, Japanese businesses, even Japanese diplomatic offices. Anti-Japan protestors damaged Japanese plants and dealerships including Panasonic Corp., Toyota Motor Corp., Nissan Motor Corp., and Honda Motor Corp., according to the Japan Times.

Now, the dispute has taken a new turn, and the target is books. According to the Japan Times, Chinese publishers in Beijing were told by authorities to “halt the planned publication of books written by Japanese or protected by Japanese copyrights, and books related to Japan that are being written by Chinese authors.”

“The ban will also affect cultural exchange events, copyright trading with Japan and the promotion of Japan-related books in the country...”

The Bookseller reported that Japanese titles like Haruki Murakami’s “1Q84,” a bestseller in China, have already been removed from Beijing bookstores, including Wangfujing Bookstore, one of the city’s biggest bookshops. “We don’t sell Japanese books,” a shop clerk told the UK’s Guardian. “I don’t know much about the reason, but perhaps it is because China-Japan relations are not good.” Another added, “It’s because of the deteriorating ties between China and Japan.”

A source told the Guardian it is not uncommon for the Chinese government to restrict retailers business during times of political tension. “There are instructions from time to time, especially at moments of internal instability, such as this,” said the unnamed source, “but they will be short-lived.”

While we hate to see books entangled in this territorial dispute, it does remind us – in a time when bookstores are disappearing and the publishing industry is embattled – that books hold an innate power and authority so compelling nations ban books instead of trading bullets.

After all, as English author Edward Bulwer-Lytton, in his play “Richelieu; Or the Conspiracy,” wrote:

True, This! –

Beneath the rule of men entirely great,

The pen is mightier than the sword.

Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to

QR Code to Chinese authorities ask booksellers to ban Japanese works
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today