When we published the ABC Chinese-English Dictionary from Hawaii in 1996, the original American edition had this definition for Lin Biao: "veteran Communist military leader; Mao Zedong's designated successor until his mysterious death".
Imagine our surprise when we discovered in the licensed edition of the dictionary from Shanghai the following definition: "veteran Communist military leader; ringleader of counterrevolutionary group (during Cultural Revolution)".
Without even telling us, the Shanghai publisher had made many other changes of this nature. We were deeply disappointed, but this is what happens when you try to collaborate on such projects in China. What is particularly sad is that the degree of censorship is only intensifying with every passing day, to the point that it has become intolerable for many researchers, scholars, and journalists.
I have often seen dictionaries (and other works) published / printed in the Mainland with portions / items / words / entries blacked / whited out or otherwise obviously altered (different type, taped over, etc.). Sometimes I have been told that I must change things before my works are published in China. Often, if it is a consequential matter, I just won't publish there.
Some authors submit to the demands of the Chinese censors, and then you end up with bowdlerized versions of their works. For example, the mainland Chinese edition of Ezra Vogel's Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China is substantially different from the original English version published by Harvard University Press.
"Author bows to Chinese censorship of his Deng Xiaoping biography: Ezra F Vogel says it was 'better to have 90% of the book available there than zero'", Liz Bury, The Guardian (10/22/13).
That was in 2013, but, as I noted above, censorship on the mainland is becoming increasingly draconian, such that today we read this report:
I bought a dictionary two days ago in Shanghai Foreign Language Bookstore. I’ve noticed that the plastic wrapping on all the copies had been removed and the shop assistant told me, ‘There are some problem, and we removed the wrapping to deal with them.’ I bought the books and carefully examined it, only to find that two pages have been torn out. I wonder what could be the words that irritate the authorities.
2014 meeting of the European Association for Chinese Studies in Portugal when the head of the Confucius Institutes, Xu Lin, tore out pages of the conference programs in a rage because they mentioned Taiwan, a sponsor of the meeting.
"Censorship at China Studies Meeting", Elizabeth Redden, Inside Higher Ed (8/6/14).
A sprawling brick-and-mortar bookstore may seem like a risky investment in one of the world's most tightly censored nations. And yet in November 2015, the hugely popular Taiwanese bookstore chain Eslite opened its first flagship store in mainland China.
What happens with these fancy Taiwan and Hong Kong bookstores on the mainland is that the books are largely pablum, while the excitement comes from the decor, the cafes, the controlled lectures, etc., in other words, everything but books with truly thought-provoking contents.
[h.t. Arif Dirlik]