Piketty Stands Up to Chinese Communist Censorship

(p. A11) PARIS — With his in-depth critique of Western capitalism, detailed in a 700-page book that enjoyed record sales in 2014, France’s rock-star economist Thomas Piketty was well regarded by Chinese leaders.

That was until he turned his attention to China.

Mr. Piketty said Monday that his follow-up book, “Capital and Ideology,” which broadens his study of the rise of economic inequality to non-Western countries such as China and India, is unlikely to be published in mainland China because he refused requests from Chinese publishers to cut parts of it.

“For the time being, there will be no book in China,” said Mr. Piketty, one of the most high-profile academics to stand up to China, calling the requests “ridiculous” and equating them with censorship.

“They shouldn’t be afraid of a book like that, it’s a sign of weakness,” Mr. Piketty said in a phone interview.

. . .

The requested cuts include parts that point out the “extremely rapid rise of inequality” in China, to levels comparable to those seen in the United States. Others highlight issues like China’s lack of an inheritance tax, which Mr. Piketty says results in a significant concentration of wealth.

“It is truly paradoxical that a country led by a Communist Party, which proclaims its adherence to ‘socialism with Chinese characteristics,’ could make such a choice,” Mr. Piketty wrote in a paragraph that he said Citic Press asked to be cut.

. . .

Among the requested cuts were sections critical of the Chinese government, which Mr. Piketty wrote, “has yet to demonstrate its superiority over Western electoral democracy.”

The appearance of Mr. Piketty’s book comes as China has been confronted with an unprecedented economic slowdown. A trade war with the United States and the effects of the coronavirus crisis have brought China’s nearly half-century-long run of growth to an end.

Mr. Piketty said that censoring his book “seems to illustrate the growing nervousness of the Chinese regime and their refusal of an open debate on the different economic and political systems.”

. . .

“If they’re afraid of a book like this, what are they going to do with the demonstrators in Hong Kong or one day in Beijing or Shanghai, as it will eventually happen?” Mr. Piketty asked.

For the full story, see:

Constant Méheut. “Rejecting Censorship of His Book, French Economist Stands Up to China.” The New York Times (Tuesday, September 1, 2020): A11.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date August 31, 2020, and has the title “Rejecting Censorship of His Book, a French Star Economist Stands Up to China.”)

The book Thomas Piketty is defending against communist Chinese censorship is:

Piketty, Thomas. Capital and Ideology. Translated by Arthur Goldhammer. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press, 2020.

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