Only Some Stones Rolling In China

Not long after the inaugural issue of the Chinese edition of Rolling Stone magazine went on sale, authorities shut down the publication, at least for the time being.

The first issue of the rock and pop culture journal was launched in March to the tune of 125,000 copies and free Rolling Stone hats.

Though it is likely the content might have led to the crackdown – the issue contained articles about Chinese rocker Cui Jian, who is associated with the 1989 Tiananmen Square protest, and a blogger who writes about sex – the ostensible reason seems to have more to do with bureaucratic regulations.

The publishers of the magazine didn’t follow the proper procedures, according to the Los Angeles Times. Since Beijing has pretty much stopped issuing licenses to foreign magazines, many such publications make deals with local magazines that then include foreign content.

The government still has to approve this content, but over time the magazine can strengthen its international profile. Conde Nast has released Vogue through China Pictorial and Hearst has put out Chinese versions of Cosmopolitan and Harper’s Bazaar through Trends Group.

Rolling Stone used Audio Visual World, but according to the Times it was too much too soon: a 144-page first issue and a big Rolling Stone logo that made it seem like it was an American publication and not a Chinese one. Also, more than half the content consisted of translated articles from the American magazine that were not approved by the government.

Though the authorities have indicated that the magazine is finished, its chief editor, Hao Fang, told the Times that this is not true. He pledged to have the second issue on newsstands by the end of April.

In nominally related news, The Rolling Stones themselves seemed to be in store for a warmer welcome prior to their arrival in Shanghai, where they will finally make their China concert debut on April 8th.

According to The Wall Street Journal, just the fact that the Stones are allowed to perform is an indication of how comparatively permissive the cultural authorities have become over the years.

Though certain songs in the band’s catalogue are still forbidden, the government seems interested in showing the world that it isn’t as stiff-minded as people think it is.

Mick Jagger, after all, is only one year younger than Chinese President Hu Jintao. More importantly, the Communist Party wants to project a more international image prior to Beijing’s hosting of the Olympics in 2008.

– Philip Brasor