Hillary Clinton’s much-publicized memoir, "Hard Choices," will have a very low profile in China, thanks to an “effective ban” imposed by Chinese publishers.
According to executives at Simon & Schuster, Clinton’s publisher, Chinese publishers have declined to buy the book's translation rights. Jonathan Karp, Simon & Schuster president, said Clinton’s book would also not be sold in English in China. Shanghai Book Traders, a distributor Simon & Schuster had been in communication with, said the book was not approved for sale. Soon after, "Hard Choices" was pulled from the Amazon China website.
“It’s outrageous and unfortunate,” Karp told Buzzfeed. “And it’s a pretty clear indication of the low level of intellectual freedom in China right now.”
Karp says Chinese publishers are self-censoring in anticipation of how Beijing might react to the book. “It really is about a Chinese business fearing the wrath of the Chinese government,” he said.
Sixteen other countries have purchased foreign rights to the book. “We have received offers all over the world for this book, we’ve just sold the Mongolian rights. We had an offer from Russia,” Karp said. Taiwan — China’s democratic neighbor and separatist province, in Beijing's eyes — bought rights to the book. “China is the one big exception. The phone isn’t ringing for China.”
The cool reception isn't that surprising. In her book, Clinton frequently criticizes Beijing. She details the country's arbitrary censorship practices, including an address she made at the United Nations Conference on Women in Beijing where she “felt the heavy hand of Chinese censorship when the government blocked the broadcast of my speech.” Clinton also dedicated a full chapter to her efforts to broker a deal for blind activist Chen Guangcheng, a civil rights dissident who sought, and eventually got, asylum in the U.S.
The huge Chinese market would have been helpful financially for Clinton's publishers. American interest in the book, which was released on June 10, has declined sharply. During its second week on the shelves, sales of “Hard Choices” nosedived 43.5 percent to 48,000 copies sold, compared to the 85,000 sold during the book’s release week, the New York Times reported, citing Nielsen BookScan statistics. The memoir now seems unlikely to make back its advance -- which the New York Times estimated was $14 million.