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In this essay, Yan Lianke reflects on the regime of literary censorship in contemporary China. He notes that this regime has not only affected what he is able to publish in China, but has also helped shape the way that he is perceived, particularly by foreign readers. He emphasizes that although the status of being “banned in China” is often viewed as a selling point in foreign markets, there is no necessary correlation between whether a work is banned and its underlying literary quality. He discusses the relationship between state censorship and processes of self-censorship, noting that he himself has engaged in processes of self-censorship in a (frequently unsuccessful) attempt to ensure that his works will be publishable in China. He concludes that one shouldn't focus on whether specific books have been banned or not, but rather on whether an author strives to write “with some basic rectitude and independence.”

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