- After the founding of the PRC in 1949, the book-publishing (chuban) sector was economically and institutionally re-organized within the framework of a planned economy and a socialist public administration. The state’s monopoly and the task of the publishing sector to serve as a propaganda medium for CCP authority were ensured by means of a new institutional structure. From the late 1950s through the early 1980s, only state-owned central and regional publishing houses were permitted. These comprised the general People’s Publishing Houses (Renmin chubanshe) and a handful of specialist publishers. The state-owned Xinhua Bookstore (Xinhua shudian) became sole distributor and guaranteed the control of books both in terms of content and quantity. These measures reduced the number of publishing houses from 356 private firms in 1949 to 87 state-owned firms in 1965. However, the economic reforms introduced in the early 1980s have stimulated the transformation from a monopolistic to a competitive book market.Through the reforms of the early 1980s the publishing houses regained decision-making authority over their publishing programme and number of titles and printed copies. Tax reforms gradually brought autonomy in the area of management and with it the responsibility for profit and loss. Further regulations allowed the founding of new publishing houses and strengthened the position of regional publishers. By the late 1980s the publishers had complete autonomy with respect to management, publishing programme, production and distribution, as well as the opportunity to hold shares based on a kind of lease system (chengbao). Although their legal status as state-owned enterprises remained unchanged, the acceptance of ‘cooperative’ (hezuo chuban) and ‘self-funded publishing’ (zifei chuban) projects by associations, but not by private individuals, brought structural diversification and prosperous commercialized publishing programmes and also paved the way for semi-legal and illegal publishing projects. Not only did the number of publishing houses increase from 75 in 1976 to 553 in 1995, but the number of published titles also soared from around 15,000 in 1978 to 140,000 at the turn of the century. China is now the world’s largest book producer. Book prices have increased by 600 per cent since the early 1980s after the lifting of price controls in 1992, the virtual elimination of subsidies, and the enactment of a copyright law in 1999 (zhuzuo quan, see intellectual property).In the book-trade sector (faxing) the changes have been even more profound. The reform of the Xinhua Bookstore (the first channel—diyi qudao) and the gradual development of a collective and private distribution channel (the second channel—di’er qudao) had already been decided by the CCP government in the early 1980s. By the end of the 1980s the decentralization of the Xinhua Book-store, the introduction of the chengbao system in state-owned bookstores, the establishment of wholesale centres (pifa zhongxin) in the cities, and the acceptance of cooperatives between publishers and bookstores, of collective and private bookstores and of book kiosks, made for a pluralistic, sales-oriented book market in China. While the Xinhua Bookstore held a monopoly on book distribution until the 1970s, it has since lost 20 per cent of book sales to the ‘second channel’—even according official statistics. Unofficial statistics put the figure much higher. The Xinhua Bookstore has reacted by improving customer service and management, as well as by setting up big modern book malls in main cities.The book-publishing sector faces more farreaching changes following China’s entry to the World Trade Organization (WTO) in December 2001. While foreign book companies were previously barred from doing business in China except in the framework of cooperation projects with indigenous partners, they are now admitted, albeit to a controlled degree. Some prestigious publishing houses and book traders have merged in an effort to counter foreign competition.
Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. Compiled by EdwART. 2011.
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