Last year an agent for Chinese printing companies—which have the most advanced and cheapest production facilities in the world—handed Australian publishing houses a list of words and topics that could not appear in any books that were to be printed in China. The overwhelming majority of these books are for markets—including Australia—outside China itself, which has become the default printer globally.
Naturally, the names of Chinese dissidents, such as Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, who died excruciatingly while still incarcerated in China in 2017, are high on this list. But it also includes those of the country’s paramount leader Xi Jinping and his muse and propagandist Wang Huning, predecessors Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping, and references to Tiananmen 1989, the Hong Kong protests, or the Xinjiang conflict, as well as to the island groups in the South China Sea.
This is one of the myriad intriguing and concerning anecdotes replete in the new book by Clive Hamilton, co-written with Mareike Ohlberg, Hidden Hand: Exposing How the Chinese Communist Party Is Reshaping the World.
The challenges that are aligned globally against freedom, democracy and the rule of law – public values which 30 years ago appeared, as the Soviet Union disintegrated, to have “won” — are today legion. But the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has emerged in the last few years as by far the most significant, due to its immense economic and military capacity, its unparalleled and unconstrained surveillance and control technologies, its purposefulness… and its great institutional success. This was underlined on July 1 by the publication of the extraordinarily comprehensive and far-reaching “security” legislation effectively bringing Hong Kong fully within the PRC’s direct control – marking another great step forward by Xi, whose progress has persisted, unhindered in its thrust by the occasional burst of Western rhetoric or of temporarily inconvenient trade gestures.