Zondervan Outsources Bible Printing to China

For many years, the publishing firm of Zondervan was known for its anti-Communist crusading. Way back in 1935 there was John and Betty Stam: Martyrs, an account of two missionaries killed by Communists in China. That was followed by The Fifth Column in Our Schools. Most famously, 1970 brought Hal Lindsey’s Late Great Planet Earth, which assured us that Soviet atheism would lead to Armageddon, and in 1976 the firm published Jesse Helms’ When Free men Shall Stand. In Zondervan’s 1981 company history, the authors remark that “the great Chinese leader Chiang Kai-shek” (pass the sick bag: “gangster and fascist” would be nearer the mark) had been buried with a translation of a Zondervan title, Streams in the Desert.

However, after years of growing academic respectability and a move into the mainstream under Rupert Murdoch as a HarperCollins imprint (back in 1992 Doug LeBlanc reported that Zondervan President James Buick had tried to buy the firm out to “return the direction and control of the company into the Christian community.” Instead, Zondervan got the Dirty Digger.), it now transpires that Zondervan is drawing on Chinese labour. Agape Press reports:

(AgapePress) – A major U.S. publisher of Bibles is coming under fire for having some of its Bibles printed in China, where Christians are being tortured and even killed for their faith. The move is being criticized by a human-rights organization that is skeptical of the company’s safeguards against employee abuse…

“The reason we originally went there is obvious: you can get things done at a price that you can’t get things done in the States,” [Al] Kerkstra [senior vice president for support operations at Zondervan] explains. “Now, we believe that doing business in China gives us an opportunity to improve the living conditions and the human-rights conditions for the people and the companies we do business with.”… Tyndale House Publishers has confirmed that it also prints some Bibles in China, but a company representative refused to comment on the inquiry.

The report quotes Steve Mosher, “president of the Population Research Institute” as being especially dismayed at this turn of events. Mosher, a conservative Catholic convert, alleges that he was expelled from a PhD program at Stanford for revealing the truth about Chinese population control methods, although there do not appear to be any sources about this online that have not emanated from him. However, he has an interesting point here:

“It is an absolute travesty to have Bibles printed simply because it’s cheaper than having them printed elsewhere,” Mosher exclaims. “We should be shipping Bibles into China, a country that imprisons and tortures and kills Christians for practicing their faith.”

On the other hand, back in 2000 Christianity Today made the argument that there was little point in restricting business with China:

For example, the [U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom] objects to an “unconditional grant” of normal trade relations because China’s communists will misinterpret improvements in trade relations as “American indifference to religious freedom.” But for years China’s leadership has recognized American protests about human-rights abuses; China spurns those complaints as self-righteous meddling by foreigners…Trade policy may never be the most potent means to stop a sovereign nation’s repression of its people. Normal trade should help that reform by increasing China’s interaction with the rest of the world…Embargoes, trade sanctions, and boycotts usually do not succeed against a small nation such as Iraq, much less for China.

One wonders if any of the Dalai Lama’s Harper Perennial titles are also printed in China…

Paper Refs:

Doug LeBlanc, “Zondervan, Word Look for New Owners”, in Christianity Today, 22 June 1992.

James E. Ruark and Ted W. Engstrom, The House of Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 1981, p. 115.

2 Responses

  1. […] to have control of a religious publishing empire. I’ve already blogged some previous disputes: in 2005 there were Christian complaints about Zondervan’s use of Chinese labour to print Bibles, and in […]

  2. […] about whether Murdoch’s business practices are compatible with evangelical religious values. In 2005 there were Christian complaints about Zondervan’s use of Chinese labour to print Bibles, and in […]

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