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Red publisher for foreigners

(Global Times)

08:16, April 23, 2013

Huang Yongjun (right) poses with Karin Abarbanel, an author and entrepreneur, at BookExpo America in New York in June 2012. Photo: courtesy of Huang Yongjun

A private bookseller, dubbed as the first in China to go international, has been turning a profit by selling books about the Communist Party of China around the world. Huang Yongjun recognizes the cash cow he is working with though in his words he doesn't care about politics himself. However, he expects a measure of tacit support and recognition from officials.

"I can do nothing without money, and only after making money can I introduce more about the CPC to the world," Huang told the Global Times in a phone interview from the UK, where he is promoting his books.

After years working as a publisher in China, he set up a company in London in 2008 named New Classic Press.

Until 2010, the tomes he put out were not about the CPC but about topics ranging from doing business in China to traditional Chinese medicine.

Those books didn't get any attention from officials, Huang explained. A top official, whose status Huang is unwilling to disclose, visited his stall at the Frankfurt Book Fair in 2010 but left without passing comment.

This scene made Huang quite sad. "Though a private businessman, I need officials' encouragement and support, psychologically," he said.

Tasting a sense of honor

Still feeling puzzled, Huang turned to a friend for help. "You should publish books about the CPC," Huang quoted his friend as saying. This friend said Huang's books were too traditional and advised him that books about the CPC would find more purchase with officials.

Huang turned his eye to a book, Why and How the CPC Works in China, published in 2011, the year marking the 90th anniversary of the Party.

The book, edited by Xie Chuntao, a professor with the Party School of the CPC Central Committee, tells the secrets behind the Party's success while explaining how it builds a new China and why it retains public support despite having made costly mistakes.

Huang had the book translated as China! China!! China!!! What's Behind the Success of the Communist Party of China?

"With this title, I want people to realize immediately this book is about China. The exclamation marks help arouse curiosity and attention from readers," he said.

This book led to Huang feeling a sense of honor and mission, he said.

On December 23, 2011, he was hosted by top officials including Liu Yunshan, then head of the CPC Central Committee's Publicity Department. "For that day, my photo could be seen during Xinwenlianbo, a leading CCTV news program," emphasized Huang.

Huang admits he hasn't even read his best-seller, even though it brought him acclaim. As for how he chooses books, he says he only looks at whether the subject matter concerns the CPC and whether it has a catchy title.

China! China!! China!!! has sold 8,000 copies abroad so far but Huang refuses to reveal how much he earned, only admitting that he had to fork out 10,000 yuan ($1,618) to New World Press, for the rights to publish and sell the book in the UK.

This model is Huang's basic modus operandi, selecting a book, securing its English language rights, hiring translators and native speakers as copy editors, and slapping an eye-catching headline on it before selling it overseas.

When questioned as to whether his limited thematic selection would mean that the subject matters of certain books might overlap, Huang said that there are many books about the CPC and thus he has many from which to choose from. "I hire PhD students to judge which books are of good quality, and which are not," he said.

Understandably, some have poured scorn on Huang's accomplishments, calling him a CPC mouthpiece or stooge. But Huang answers that "all I'm thinking about is selling books, and I don't represent the CPC's political stance. Doesn't the West advocate freedom of speech and press?"

For industry experts, the optimal choice for introducing books about the CPC to the world is to choose a foreign publishing house.

New World Press once tried to sell the book's English copyright to international booksellers, like Penguin Group, but this failed for political reasons, according to Li Shujuan, director of the English language editorial department of New World Press.

"Booksellers like Huang are popular with Chinese book publishers like us, but it is difficult for a foreigner to promote books about the CPC which is still a sensitive topic," said Li to the Global Times.

In China, private booksellers still get little support from the government although it has encouraged the publishing industry to help Chinese culture go abroad.

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