Release of American books in China at ‘virtual standstill’

On June 19, 2018, just a few days after the first Trump tariffs were announced, the Chinese Ministry of Commerce announced (in Chinese, in English) one possible form of retaliation: “qualitative measures” (质量型的措施 zhìliàng xíng de cuòshī).

Despite the vague nature of the threat, its implication was clear to anyone who has done business in China (so clear that we made a T-shirt about it — purchase here). Such measures could mean anything from import holdups at customs to suddenly strict safety inspections, slowed-down approvals to general interference from local authorities and regulators.

Today brings a classic example of “qualitative measures.” The New York Times reports (porous paywall):

China has taken aim at major American businesses as it looks for ways to retaliate against President Trump’s mounting tariffs. So far it has targeted cars, beef and soybeans — and, apparently, Bob Woodward’s latest tale of Washington dysfunction and intrigue.

“Fear: Trump in the White House,” which Mr. Woodward wrote in 2018, is one of hundreds of American books held up by Chinese publishing regulators since the trade war intensified this year. Publishers inside and outside China say the release of American books has come to a virtual standstill, cutting them off from a big market of voracious readers.