The political, economic and social changes experienced by China over the past decade have been mirrored by transformations in the literary realm. Writers, editors, critics and readers have contended with the acceleration of commercialisation, the rise of the Internet, and the Communist Party's subtly changing attitude to creative freedom. This essay examines the creative responses of three critically acclaimed generations of novelists – born between the 1950s and 1980s – to this new climate. It considers the way in which writers have become entrepreneurs, managing their own personality cults over the Internet and through media spin. It discusses widespread corruption in literary reviewing; the weaknesses in editorial standards that affect the work of even the most mature voices writing today; and the fluid way in which novelists often abandon fiction for other professions or expressive forms, such as film. Finally, it considers the limits of literary freedom in China's one-party cultural system.
Julia Lovell ([email protected]) is Senior Lecturer in Chinese History at Birkbeck College, University of London.