How Will He Change China: A Biography of Hu Jintao

Remember that several months ago, there was a biography of former Chinese president Jiang Zemin titled The Main Who Changed China.  The author was the American Robert Lawrence Kuhn.  At the time, there were some well-publicized complaints (in Yazhou Zhoukan) from the Chinese author Ye Yonglie (葉永烈) about not being listed as co-author or even acknowledged anywhere for his contribution to the book.

The following account from Ye Yonglie appeared in the October 23, 2005 issue of Yazhou Zhoukan (see ChineseNewsNet) and is deliciously wicked.  

Ye Yonglie is the author of a popular science book titled Ten Thousand Why's, which must have been read by hundreds of millions of Chinese schoolchildren over many generations.  In the 1980's, he wrote The Biography of Jiang Qing and The Biography of Chen Bada, as well as a "Red Series" about the early revolutionary history of the Chinese Communist Party.  Since the name Ye Yonglie is well-recognized and well-received, there have been many books published illegally under his name even though he had nothing to them.  Over the years, Ye has found more than forty different books in the black-market under his name.  Most of the time, someone takes a politically-themed book published in Hong Kong or Taiwan and prints it under Ye's name for sale in China.  That is a very simple process.  

But recently, Ye Yonglie has just come across another book which is more elaborate and refined.  The story began at the start of the long October 1 holidays.  Ye had just returned from Beijing to Shanghai.  He was walking around in the Xujiahui district when he saw a woman in her 50's selling books from the back of a small van.  This is one of those mobile book vendors who will take off at the sight of a police patrol.  There were all manners of books there.  For example, Ye saw The Final Years of Zhou Enlai, which is a banned book on mainland China.  That book can be had for only 20 RMB (note: the standard rate is 10 RMB per book, irregardless of the marked price; "The Final Years of Zhou Enlai" comes in two volumes and that is why the cost is 20 RMB).

As Ye scanned through the offerings, he suddenly saw a book with the English title How Will He Change China.  The Chinese translation of the title also adds a sub-title to explain that this is a biography of Hu Jintao.  There is a picture of the man who is the president of China.  The authors were listed as Ye Yonglie and Robert Lawrence Kuhn (US).  Visually, there is an obvious correspondence to Kuhn's book on Jiang Zemin.  Ye promptly  invested 10 RMB and bought a copy.

Here is Ye Yonglie's detailed analysis of the contents of the book.  There are 416 pages in this book and 450,000 words in total.  At the bottom of the front cover of the book, the publisher is identified as "Century Publishing Group."  As a pirated book, this obviously means nothing.

The back cover has the information on the authors.  Unfortunately (or fortunately, as the case may be) for Robert Lawrence Kuhn, there was no mention of this American co-author.  There was only the photograph of Ye Yonglie, his signature and a brief biography.  That biography was obviously copied from some Internet website.  Ye thought it was hilarious that the publisher had dared to claim: "The author of this book, Mr. Ye Yonglie, worked alongside of Hu Jintao."  And then the publisher had the gall to add: "The biographies of Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao are important works that Ye worked with the American writer to produce."  So finally, an illegal pirate has given Ye Yonglie the credit that he said was his!

The author's foreword from Ye Yonglie was mainly copied from the essay that Ye Yonglie wrote for Yazhou Zhoukan about his work on the Jiang biography, including what he thought was the agreed-upon plan (which was subsequently reneged upon by the other parties).  The Central Propaganda Department had designated the Jiang biography as Project 001.  But the publisher of this new book had changed Project 001 to designate both the biographies of Jiang and Hu!  Ye thought that it was ironic that some black-market publisher outflanked the Central Propaganda Department!

On the publisher's information page, it was noted that this was the first printing of the first edition, dated September 2005.  So this book was literally hot off the presses.

In terms of the content of the book, Ye Yonglie flipped through it quickly and realized that this was mixed together from several books published overseas on Hu Jintao.  Much of it came right from the  book The New Leaders of Zhongnanhai published in May 2003, also falsely under the name of Ye Yonglie.

On October 10, Ye Yonglie found the latest edition of this biography of Hu Jintao in the Shanghai streets.  There are now 37 more photographs and the book has gone from 416 pages to 509 pages.  The paper quality is also better.  Currently, this book commands a premium price of 15 RMB in the black market.

Here are Ye Yonglie's reflections:

Mainland China is a strange and contradictory place.  On one hand, the Central Propaganda Department and the General Administration of Press and Publication exercise very strict controls.  On the other hand, pirated banned books proliferate all over the country and completely enjoy freedom of publication as well as freedom of speech.  On one hand, the Customs Service will punish travelers who bring in banned books like The Final Years of Zhou Enlai.  On the other hand, banned books like The Final Years of Zhou Enlai are distributed in large numbers everywhere.

Ye Yonglie noted that Shanghai's Dongfang Television had made a program about how Ye Yonglie's books were pirated and faked, but it was never shown to the public.  Supposedly, this was because it "hurt the image of Shanghai" because it will show that those pirated banned books are everywhere on the streets of Shanghai.

Related posts: The Underground Publishing Industry in China; The 'Malignant Tumor' in Chinese Book Publishing