What do you do when you write a book about running a business in China, you get a book deal and then the publisher backs out at the last minute? Well, after shouting several bad words, you get the book published piecemeal until another publisher shows interest. And so Mark Kitto, one of the folks who started the whole That’s Shanghai “magazine empire” back in the late 1990s, only to have it “stolen by the state” six years later, tells his tale in the April issue of Prospect:
I had fought off attacks from jealous rivals and been investigated by every bureau with the slightest connection to publishing, and by many who did not: nine in total. I had paid over 1m yuan in fines, and who knows how much more in administration fees to government “agencies.” I had been accused of being a pimp, a China “splittist,” a [email protected] G0ng supporter, a pornographer and a spy. My staff had been extradited, my office computers confiscated, and my magazines impounded at the printers. I had got them all back. I had been through eight government publishing partners before China Intercontinental Press, and half a dozen advertising agencies.
The three that’s magazines I had built from an investment of $20,000 were turning over $4m a year, with annual profits from Shanghai alone of half a million, ploughed back into the business. Once Beijing broke even, I would be in the money. I was managing 120 staff and four offices, and printing magazines with combined circulations of almost 100,000 a month. But they existed only on their own paper. No one owned them. Not me, not one of the many publishers I worked with, none of the advertising agencies I put my business through, not even government agencies like Yangzhou news, which sheltered us. The publisher, now China Intercontinental Press, held the licences, which I rented from them. I owned the trademark to the that’s name, my trump card, and I controlled the operation of the magazines from a grey zone between official sanction and popular appeal.
Meanwhile, I had married a Chinese woman, had had two children, and had taken a long lease on—and spent a fortune restoring—an old summer house near Shanghai. I was committed to China. I had come here because I loved the place, for the adventure, for the chance to do something no one had ever done. There was no turning back. The schoolmates who used to call me “Chinky” because of my oriental sounding (Cornish) surname could feel vindicated.
The mayor of Shanghai took a collection of that’s Shanghai issues to Paris in 2002 when he presented his successful bid for the 2010 World Expo. I daresay a copy of that’s Beijing came in handy for the capital’s Olympic bid. I had resurrected another magazine for the Shanghai tourism bureau, both to broaden my portfolio and to convince the city leaders of my good intentions. I even wrote the words that greet you on the billboard as you drive into Shanghai from Pudong airport: “Seven Wonders of the World, Seven Days in Shanghai!” Above all, with my three that’s magazines, I had created something the Chinese government valued hugely but had never believed could exist: profitable propaganda. I had even paid them handsomely for it. I had done my bit for China.
Read it all here.
Briton fights for rights to Chinese magazine titles (Telegraph)
The perils of publishing in a legal limbo (Financial Times)
That’s magazines to launch English news biweekly despite trademark dispute (Interfax)
Lots of coverage at Danwei and China Herald
That’s entertainment (Shanghai Star)