• Fri
  • Dec 26, 2014
  • Updated: 8:57pm

Taiwan bookstore chain Eslite's Shanghai plans in doubt after censors order blackout

PUBLISHED : Friday, 21 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 21 June, 2013, 7:41am

A well-publicised plan by Taiwan bookstore chain Eslite to open a branch in what is to become Shanghai's tallest building may have hit a snag as the mainland's propaganda department suddenly ordered a news blackout on the project.

On Wednesday, Eslite and the Shanghai Tower made a joint announcement that the chain, founded in Taiwan about two decades ago, planned to lease 6,500 square metres of space in the record-breaking 632-metre skyscraper in Shanghai, which is still under construction. Then, yesterday, the mainland's propaganda department suddenly ordered local media not to report the news.

"The matter about Taiwan Eslite Bookstore [intending] to open a branch in Shanghai should not be reported any more," said a short message sent by the Shanghai office of the propaganda department to senior editors in charge of the city's major media outlets around lunch time yesterday.

The message, seen by the South China Morning Post, did not give any reason why news about Eslite's Shanghai bookstore plan was being forbidden.

Eslite's announced plan to open a branch bookstore in Shanghai and then the news blackout came just a few days after Wu Poh-hsiung, an honorary chairman of Taiwan's Kuomintang, held a political summit with President Xi Jinping in Beijing.

Wu told Xi last week that Taiwan's president, Ma Ying-jeou, was open to cross-strait political dialogue through non-official channels, in what was seen as a goodwill gesture from Taipei.

One Shanghai editor said the propaganda authority's U-turn on the case "is completely a surprise to the media and culture industry in Shanghai, as now everybody is trying to figure out what the motivation behind the message is."

Another veteran newspaper editor, who declined to be named, said he learned from government sources that Beijing was concerned about the kind of books Eslite may bring to its new Shanghai branch.

There was also some speculation about the political background of some Eslite executives.

Eslite already has a branch in Hong Kong where books can be bought by political dissidents, including Wang Dan , the student leader who was on Beijing's most-wanted list after the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown, and the Dalai Lama, Tibet's exiled spiritual leader.

According to a press release issued by the state-owned developer of Shanghai Tower on Wednesday, Eslite signed "a letter of intent" with Shanghai Tower to take the 52nd and 53rd and B1 floors for the proposed Shanghai branch of Eslite Bookstore.



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Shanghai: modern, cosmopolitan and sophisticated center of the universe that'll soon surpass ALL other Asian cities as an open and freewheeling financial center.
Oh wait...CCP bureaucracy, opaqueness, no freedom of information, draconian censorship, no rule of law, weak protection of intellectual property, arbitrary and unchecked police abuses. And Eslite actually wants to wade into that cesspool???
"Eslite already has a branch in Hong Kong where books can be bought by political dissidents, including Wang Dan" and the Dalai Lama.
Is it only political dissidents that can buy them!!!??? haha proofreading needs improving... getting like the grauniad....
I believe throughout the tale of The Lord of The Rings there was no bookstore in Mordor either....
Viewed from my own perspective in San Francisco, I see Hong Kong as offering the best glimpse into the future of China as a whole. Maybe, this is wishful thinking? Throughout my own life, I have been very curious, and interested in what happens in China, and the story of China's rapid economic progress has been dramatic to say the least. Perhaps, I tend to view China with a too optimistic view, but so far, it has surpassed anything that I could have imagined. As America seems to be getting less democratic, and intellectually free by the minute, it becomes tempting to imagine that China might be moving in the opposite direction toward becoming a nation with more intellectual freedoms. I certainly hope that this becomes the case. Thinking about the future of China is tremendously challenging. How will China absorb all of the economic and social changes and remain stable? How will China deal with the regional disparities of income? The growing gap between the rich and poor? How will it deal with the long term health of its population, endangered by the waste products of its rapid economic growth? I see all of this happening at an even faster rate than has occurred in the United States. Looking at China today is like looking at the last hundred and fifty years of the United States condensed into fifty. I do hope that a partnership can be forged between China and the United States in the future.
Shanghai still has a long way to go before reclaiming its past glory. I am hopeful though.


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