In volumes, quality and quantity China’s book industry might have exploded, but Chinese are no longer reading books, concludes The Atlantic, quoting the author Zhang Lijia on how a changing China changed book-reading habits.
Why are the Chinese turning away from reading books? The question has prompted soul-searching among the country’s intellectuals, many of whom, like Yu Hua, lament how things have changed since the relatively liberal 1980s. Zhang Lijia, a freelance writer based in Beijing, who wrote a memoir of coming of age during the initial years of the reform period, reminisced fondly about people’s passion for reading: “I often had get-togethers with friends where we talked about politics and discussed the books we were reading ,” she recalled. “There was such a strong spirit of inquiry.” That spirit was decimataed, Zhang says, by China’s single-minded pursuit for economic prosperity, which has left its people with little regard for anything else. “People are too restless, too utilitarian,” she reflected. “You need some peace in mind in order to be able to sit down with a book.”
Zhang’s opinion is echoed by a number of longtime professionals in the book industry, who, since the early days of the industry’s market-driven reform, have kept close watch of the public’s changing preference in books. Some of them point out that in addition to turning away from books, Chinese people have also abandoned more serious and intellectually enriching stories in favor of easy reads.
China’s labor force is on of those aspects in the country that have changed beyond recognition, the China Weekly Hangout concluded on May 24. Dee Lee, of the NGO Inno in Guangzhou, is running a workers’ hotline, mainly funded by big brands who want to keep an eye on working conditions. Economist Heleen Mees, in New York, Sam Xu and Fons Tuinstra, of the China Speakers Bureau, ask him questions.