Criticism of cooperation: Thalia advertises Chinese propaganda works

Bookseller Thalia offers special shelves with Chinese literature in three major city branches. What customers cannot see: the works on display come from a Chinese state-owned company. Propaganda pamphlets are also found among the books.

The book retail chain Thalia has drawn criticism for its cooperation with a Chinese state-owned company. Books placed by the Chinese company CNPIEC are offered for sale in three branches in Hamburg, Berlin and Vienna – in consultation with Thalia. On the shelves provided are also two propaganda publications by Chinese President Xi Jingping.

The chairman of the German-Chinese parliamentary group in the Bundestag, Dagmar Schmidt, criticized the cooperation – it had "a taste". The Social Democrat criticized the fact that Thalia customers were not being conveyed transparently that it was a book presentation by the Communist Party of China. "It must be clear whose interests are represented there." The former CDU general secretary Ruprecht Polenz also spoke. "Thalia leaves the Chinese government to stock the shelves with Chinese literature?" Tweeted the politician. "I can hardly believe it."

From Schmidt's point of view, the presence at Thalia is part of a strategy. "China is currently looking at how far it can go. They want a monopoly on their own external image." You would not have entered into the cooperation, said Schmidt. One has to talk about whether "we can regard as equal opinions that come from a dictatorship".

From the perspective of the book market expert Karla Paul, such marketing strategies are not uncommon in large retail chains. Publishers would pay for their products to be highlighted on certain sales areas, tweeted the communications director of the online bookstore Mojoreads. "This is usually booked by publishers." As a political influence, it is new to them.

A spokeswoman for Thalia said the collaboration with CNPIEC is a "service for the growing Chinese community in Germany, or those interested in China". The test is limited in time, in addition to two books on politics, the range also includes children's books, travel literature, poetry and fiction. Critical books about China can also be found in Thalia bookstores. Thalia did not provide any information on the financial scope of the cooperation.