Piracy and China’s Poor: How Much Is Needed for China’s Development?

 Late last week, the New York Times ran an op-ed piece “Stealing Books for the Poor” by Yu Hua, the acclaimed author of China in Ten Words, To Live and many others.  

In the piece, translated by Allan Barr, Yu Hua laments China’s piracy problem and the challenge it poses to him as an author. He begins with an overview of the depth and breadth of the problem including the reality that IP infringement can be a major source of revenue for Chinese localities. He goes on to suggest that the most basic reason for the piracy is the limited access to cultural goods China’s impoverished farmers and workers have due to their low income. Given their quality of living, escape through books and other cultural goods could be seen as a necessity. Within the context of a population earning $1 a day in a country where the cost of basic goods like food is rising everyday, the consumption of pirated goods would almost seem like a forgivable offense. Continue reading