With this meticulously researched and highly readable new book, Fei-Hsien Wang has produced an impressive sequel to her 2004 Chinese-language monograph on magazine publishing and the dissemination of “new culture” in Republican China.1 In Pirates and Publishers, she takes on a thorny topic: the ideas and practices surrounding the notion of copyright (banquan) in China from the late nineteenth century to the 1950s. There is a widespread general perception, even among specialists, that copyright and related intellectual property rights have always been an awkward alien import in China and enjoy no genuine social recognition or support. Pirates and Publishers makes a strong and convincing case for revising the latter notion.

Chapter 1 shows that the modern concept of copyright, as borrowed from the West by Japan and then by China, was from its inception intertwined with the Ming/Qing notion of ownership of printing blocks (the ban...

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