top of page

48 is the New 50, But Who’s Counting? My Encounter with Chinese Censorship

My latest book just got published in China.  With the subject of investing and entrepreneurship so huge in China, I hope the book sells well.  I wrote the book with Brian Cohen. It’s called What Every Angel Investor Wants You to Know.

The Chinese edition of my speechwriting book.

The Chinese edition of my speechwriting book.

I’m glad it’s available to readers in China.  I just wonder if anything’s been censored.

I speak from experience.  In 2004, I wrote a book on speechwriting.

Published by McGraw-Hill, it’s called 50 High-Impact Speeches & Remarks: Proven Words You Can Adapt for Any Business Occasion. The book has an introduction by former Chrysler CEO Lee Iacocca, a master story teller.

By analyzing 50 speeches in a two-column format (speech text on the left, my analysis on the right), I hoped to show readers how an effective speech could be deliberately constructed. The book had some good notices and sold a few copies.

I was somewhat surprised that the rights for a Chinese edition were acquired. It was duly translated and published. McGraw-Hill duly sent me a handsome volume of my book in Chinese.

It’s always a pleasure for an author to hold for the first time one of his editions in any language.

In thumbing through the book, however, I saw something odd. The table of contents, like in the American edition, listed the speeches by number. But while the American edition listed 50 speeches, the Chinese edition listed only 48.

At first I didn’t think too much of it. Publishers routinely tinker with what an author submits. It’s called editing.

What Was Missing?

But then I decided to determine which particular two speeches were missing in the Chinese edition.

My latest book translated into Chinese.

My latest book translated into Chinese.

Once I did, it became clear that we were not talking about editing, but censorship

Censorship is the suppression of speech or other public communication which may be considered objectionable, harmful, sensitive, politically incorrect or inconvenient as determined by a government, media outlet or other controlling body.

Please, Not “Human Rights”

One of the speeches mentioned human rights. I knew that “human rights” was one of the phrases that Chinese censors routinely blocked.  So that one I understood.

But the reason why Chinese censors rejected the second speech perplexed me.

It’s a speech by Bob Wright, the former chairman of NBC. It’s called “The Work of America: A Catholic Perspective on Rebuilding Trust.”  What can be objectionable about that?

Please, Not the Pope

I soon learned why the speech was flagged: it mentioned the Pope.

I did a little research and learned that the Communist Party has an issue with the Catholic Church in China over who has the authority to appoint Bishops. So because the speech mentioned the Pope, it was out.

It saddens me to think of the tens of thousands of censors secretly and mindlessly sitting at desks in Beijing denying their fellow citizens free expression. 

Angel book final Jan 28 2013

I don’t think the U.S. economy has much to fear from China so long as the regime squanders so much human capital limiting its citizens the free exchange of information.


bottom of page