Publishing in China dates from the invention of woodblock printing around the eighth century A.D. and was greatly expanded with the invention of movable clay type in the eleventh century. From the tenth to the twelfth century, Kaifeng, Meishan, Hangzhou, and Jianyang were major printing centers. In the nineteenth century, China acquired movable lead type and photogravure printing plates and entered the age of modern book and magazine printing. The largest of the early publishing houses were the Commercial Press (Shangwu Yinshuguan), established in 1897, and the China Publishing House (Zhonghua Shuju), established in 1912, both of which were still operating in 1987. Following the May Fourth Movement of 1919, publishers, especially those associated with various groups of intellectuals, proliferated. During the Chinese civil war, New China Booksellers (Xinhua Shudian) published a large amount of Marxist literature and educational materials in the communist-controlled areas. On the eve of the establishment of the People's Republic in 1949, there were over 700 New China Booksellers offices.
Between 1949 and 1952, the New China Booksellers offices scattered throughout the country were nationalized and given responsibility publishing, printing, and distribution. Also, several small private publishers were brought under joint stateprivate ownership, and by 1956 all private publishers had been nationalized. After a brief flourishing during the Hundred Flowers Campaign of 1956-57, the publishing industry came under strong political pressure in the Anti-Rightist Campaign of 1957. The industry had not fully recovered from this campaign when it was plunged into the Cultural Revolution, a period in which publishing was severely curtailed and limited mainly to political tracts supporting various campaigns. Following the Cultural Revolution, publishing again flourished in unprecedented ways. In 1982 the China National Publishing Administration, the umbrella organization of Chinese publishers, was placed under the Ministry of Culture, but actual management of the industry was directed through four systems of administration: direct state administration; administration by committees or organizations of the State Council or the party Central Committee; armed forces administration; and administration by provinces, autonomous regions, or special municipalities.
In 1984 statistics showed that 17 of the country's 418 publishing establishments were in Shanghai, whereas Beijing was home to 160 publishers. In 1985 plans were announced to foster the growth of the publishing industry in Chongqing, Xi'an, Wuhan, and Shenyang to take some of the workload from Beijing and Shanghai.
Different publishers were assigned to specific kinds of publications. For example, the People's Publishing House was responsible for publishing works on politics, philosophy, and the social sciences; the People's Literature Publishing House produced ancient and modern Chinese and foreign literature and literary history and theory; the China Publishing House had the principal responsibility for collating and publishing Chinese classical literary, historical, and philosophical works; and the Commercial Press was the principal publisher of Chinese-to-foreign-language reference works and translations of foreign works in the social sciences. Other publishers dealt with works in specialized fields of science.
In addition to the routine method of distributing books to bookstores in major cities, other methods of distribution were devised to meet the special needs of readers in urban and rural areas throughout the country. Mobile bookshops made regular visits to factories, mines, rural villages, and People's Liberation Army units, and service was provided in those locations through which individuals could request books. Arrangements were made with the libraries of educational institutions and enterprises to supply them with the books that they required, and books specifically applicable to certain industries were systematically recommended and provided to the departments concerned. Also, book fairs and exhibits frequently were provided at meetings and in public parks on holidays and other special occasions.
In 1987 China had two news agencies, the Xinhua (New China) News Agency and the China News Service (Zhongguo Xinwenshe). Xinhua was the major source of news and photographs for central and local newspapers. The party's newspapers Renmin Ribao (People's Daily) and Guangming Ribao (Enlightenment Daily), and the People's Liberation Army's Jiefangjun Bao (Liberation Army Daily) continued to have the largest circulation. In addition to these major party and army organs, most professional and scientific organizations published newspapers or journals containing specialized information in fields as varied as astronomy and entomology. Local morning and evening newspapers concentrating on news and feature stories about local people and events were extremely popular, selling out each day shortly after they arrived at the newsstands. In June 1981 the English-language China Daily began publication. This newspaper, which was provided for foreigners living or traveling in China but which also was read by a large number of Chinese literate in English, offered international news and sports from the major foreign wire services as well as interesting domestic news and feature articles. Cankao Xiaoxi (Reference News), an official news organ that carried foreign news items in Chinese translation, was available to cadres and their families. In 1980 it enjoyed a circulation of 11 million, but, with the subsequent proliferation of other news sources, its circulation dropped to 4 million in 1985, causing the subscription policy to be changed to make it available to all Chinese. Another source of foreign reporting was Cankao Ziliao (Reference Information), a more restricted Chinese reprint of foreign reportage available only to middle- and upper-level cadres. Both of these publications often included foreign reports critical of China.
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