Just three weeks have passed since the Lhаsa riots on 14 March, but the first book on the subject has already been published.
Lies and the Truth (谎言与真相), published on 4 March by SDX Joint Publishing (aka Sanlian Bookstore), is a book with a mission: it attempts to reveal the hand of the “Dаlai clique” behind unrest in Tıbet as well as the extent of the western media’s bias in its reporting on the riots and their aftermath.
From the jacket copy:
For a long while, certain western media organizations have harbored prejudice and have made many distorted reports about China. After the 14 March Lhаsa riots, they spread lies through the news media and smeared China. This book collects reports and makes use of many convincing photographs and reference materials to clarify the facts and refute the western media’s misleading reporting. The publication of this book will help the general public to understand the true nature of “press freedom” in the west.
The book’s publication was accompanied by a media blitz, including a mention on the 7 o’clock news and a recent interview in the GAPP newspaper China Press and Publishing Journal with Sanlian’s Zhang Weimin:
China Press and Publishing Journal: On 4 April, CCTV’s Network News reported that Sanlian Bookstore, a unit of the China Publishing Group, had just published Lies and the Truth. What was your motivation in publishing this book?
Zhang Weimin: Fundamentally, this book was a direct outcome of Sanlian and the China Publishing Group putting into practice the requirements of the party and the country in respect to publishing: encompass the overall situation, serve the people, and uphold the “three closenesses” [close to reality, close to the masses, and close to real life]. At the instigation of the “Dаlai clique,” a small number of people engaged in burning, looting, and destruction in Lhаsa, bringing down upon the local people massive loss of life and property, and inflaming their righteous indignation. Some western media entities engaged in fabricated reporting that violated basic facts, and their slanderous attacks on China generated strong dissatisfaction and anger in the general public. Under such circumstances, which involve the image of the country and its overall interests, the publishing industry could not be silent; we had to frame a response to demonstrate our position. We worked to show the true state of things to those unaware of the truth, and to rebut the axe-grinding, misleading reports of the western media. This was what the circumstances required, and it was also part of our responsibility to address the overall situation and serve the people.
Ever since Zou Taofen founded Sanlian Bookstore, we have had a tradition of championing the health of the country and the people, and of paying close attention to social problems. In recent years, Sanlian has published a number of significant books; therefore, when the leadership of China Publishing Group suggested that we edit a book responding to the western media’s distorted reporting on the Lhаsa riots, there was immediate agreement, and we went straight to work.
CPPJ: Could you tell us a little bit about what’s inside the book?
ZW: This book is made up of previously-published articles, reference materials, and photographs, divided into four sections: Three articles in the first section cite irrefutable facts revealing that the Dаlai clique architected the 14 March Lhаsa riots and secretly planned a “Tıbetan Uprising” to split the people. The second section contains 12 articles and a number of photographs primarily aimed at clarifying and rebutting distortions of fact, misidentifications, unfounded accusations, fabrications, and fabricated reports in the western media, exposing their lies. The third section contains ten articles that analyze the heterodoxy of the Dаlai clique and its plotting for Tıbetan independence and splintering the motherland, and also describes the major achievements in economic, cultural, and social development that have occurred in Tıbet recently. The fourth section contains six background articles and a glossary of eight major terms. In sum, this book is a rich source of information and data, in-depth analysis, and powerful argumentation that uses substantial facts and photographs to expose the lies of the Dаlai Clique and certain western media organizations. It is an excellent reference book on the truth of the 14 March Lhаsa riots.
CPPJ: Reportedly, Lies and the Truth was edited and published in very short time frame. Could you tell us a bit about that process?
ZW: The manuscript was commissioned on 27 March and final publication took place eight days later. For Sanlian, this set a record for the fastest publication ever. The leadership of China Publishing Group was greatly interested in this project starting from the topic selection, and provided effective guidance. President Nie Zhenning suggested clear ideas for the editing work. Vice President Liu Bogen came to Sanlian Bookstore four times to discuss the structure of the content and the article listing. The leadership group of Sanlian Bookstore treated the book’s publication as an important political mission, and Li Xin, deputy general manager and deputy general editor, was in charge organizing the project. The editorial, design, production, and general editor’s offices, as well as various publication departments, were all highly aware of the importance and urgency of the book’s publication, and threw themselves entirely into the work. From 29 March, when most of the manuscripts were in-hand, Li Xin led the copy-editors and layout editors through five days and nights at the office where they worked closely together through repeated changes of content at the greatest possibly speed until the book was formally published on 3 April. During this time, the people involved in the work slept just two or three hours a day, but they remained highly alert and worked willingly, exhibiting Sanlian’s fine spirit of professionalism, responsibility, and drive. I would also like to emphasize the support and direction we received throughout the preparation and publication of this book from the leadership, agencies, and other publishers. Without their help, this book could not have been published so quickly.
CPPJ: What has the market reaction been to this book’s publication? What sort of plans does Sanlian have for publicity and marketing?
ZW: The launch of Lies and the Truth on 4 April at Beijing’s major bookstores was closely followed by bookstore leadership and industry professionals. Previously, the distribution department had given the table of contents and a summary to local retailers and province-level distribution companies, which reacted positively; orders have been enthusiastic. Yunnan, for example, ordered 3,000 copies; Jiangsu, Sichuan, Shandong, and Guangdong each ordered more than 1,000. Orders through Internet channels have been relatively high; Amazon China alone ordered 2,000 copies. On the first day, 10,000 copies were sold out. After CCTV’s Network News reported on the publication of this book, orders came in from all over. In light of the book’s importance, the China Publishing Group leadership instructed us to strike while the iron is hot and increase our publicity and marketing efforts to seize greater social and economic profits. Over the three-day Qingming Holiday, employees of relevant Sanlian Bookstore departments worked overtime. Distribution and shipping personnel worked fulfillment at the same time they were taking expanding orders from bookstores all over the country. Manufacturing personnel planned additional printings. The marketing department contacted the media to increase promotion. We hope that bookstores and the media can cooperate in promoting this book, and we hope that this book will be noticed by social groups and the general public so that it can prove even more useful.
Question 1: What’s the point?
The articles reproduced in Lies and the Truth come from the People’s Daily, Guangming Daily, China News, and Xinhuanet, all of which are available online, and the glossary is taken verbatim from the Encyclopedia of China (中国大百科全书). Many of these, the Xinhua articles in particular, were republished in local newspapers across the country. The “substantial photographic evidence” originated online where it was viewed by millions of people.
The first print run of the book is 10,000 copies, more or less. Even allowing for the additional printings that Zhang mentions in the interview, there’s no way that the book can compete with the Internet in providing exposure to this topic. The newspaper articles shouldn’t be any more authoritative now that they’re in book form, although there is indeed a permanence to books that the Internet still lacks. That wouldn’t explain the need for such a quick turnaround—is the China Publishing Group simply cashing in on a wave of public opinion?
This task used to belong to the bootleggers, whose quick-to-press, shoddily printed and bound collections of news reports flooded the streets in the wake of major events such as the Chen Liangyu scandal, 9-11, and the death of Princess Di. Lies and the Truth falls into the same category, except that it comes on nicely-bound, quality paper inside a serious, scholarly cover bearing the imprimatur of Sanlian Bookstore. It’s essentially prettied-up pamphleteering. But who reads pamphlets anymore?
Question 2: How does CNN come off?
CNN was accused of having an anti-China bias when Chinese netizens discovered that it had used a cropped photo of a Lhаsa street scene that left out rioters on the right-hand side who were throwing rocks at military vehicles.
As online shorthand to represent anger at western media bias, “Anti-CNN” signatures and websites are understandable, particularly when you realize that netizens adapted the current catch-phrase “Don’t behave like CNN!” (做人不能太CNN) from an earlier slogan lambasting CCTV for its underhanded tactics in an early-2007 poll (the slogan was revived for the recent “yellow violence” affair). But what started as an online meme has become an axiom in the discussion of the Lhаsa riots: CNN’s reports can’t be trusted.
Unfortunately, this book’s analysis is just as superficial. Page 39 (shown at right) reproduces two photos of a street scene in Lhаsa. The top one, in which the rock-throwers on the right-hand side have been cropped out, is captioned
The photo at left is from the illustrious Agence France Press and is emblazoned with its logo just in case you didn’t know. CNN also used this AFP image. They both cropped it to obscure the truth. After it was cropped, the original scene of rioters attacking a military vehicle now misleads readers into thinking that the army is repressing the people.
The photo was not taken directly from CNN but rather from a forum post complaining about the cropping (see the watermark in the lower left). And the text, with its gratuitous jab at the AFP’s own watermark, is obviously inspired by the commentary in the original post, though the book’s editors wisely chose not to reproduce the references to “human scum” in the cropped portion of the picture. Ironically, the “original photo” on the bottom of the page bleeds off the right-hand margin of the book—it ends up as a cropped photo that omits the AFP citation.
Nowhere in the text is CNN’s original caption to the cropped photo: “Tıbetans throw stones at army vehicles as a car burns on a street in the capital of Lhаsa” (screengrab via ESWN).
Question 3: Anything special about the title?
“Truth” (真相) is often used in the title of books that purport to pull back the curtain on conspiracies—Mirror Books’ famous 真相 series, for example, includes June Fοurth: The True Stοry, The Last Days of Zhou Enlаi, and Sky Buriаl. The term was once on a list of sensitive words, probably because of this series.
On the other hand, Sanlian’s book is not the first one to use the title Lies and the Truth. A compendium of hoaxes bearing the subtitle “Great Hoaxes and Mysteries Revealed” was published by Enterprise Management Publishing House in 2003. So this pamphlet’s in good company.
Lies and the Truth can be found on displays by the front entrances of major Beijing bookstores, and ought to be available online before long.
- China Press and Publishing Journal (Chinese): Let lies dissolve in the light of the sun: the inescapable responsibility of a publisher
- ESWN: Chinese netizens versus western media
- ESWN: Photos in question
- Other cover image: Dangdang