China vs. Bob Dylan

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*Update: Is Dylan's Promoter Lying? (See Below)

At 68, Bob Dylan doesn't quite cut the figure of a young radical like he did in the 1960s. Unless, that is, you're talking to the Chinese government. The nasally singer-songwriter has canceled his East Asia tour after Chinese officials prohibited him from performing in the country, his promoters said. While fans in Beijing and Shanghai rue their luck, blogs are trying to divine why China banned him, and whether this "bad news" will revive Dylan's radical reputation.
  • Did China Just Do Dylan a Favor? wonders The Guardian Staff: "Don't the Chinese know that these days the 68-year-old former protest singer is a respectable golfer who released a Christmas album last year and has even allowed Blowin' in the Wind to be used as the soundtrack of a TV commercial? But maybe the Chinese ban will do him some good. Could it help to restore his credibility as the prophet from Desolation Row?"
The Ministry of Culture was likely... influenced by Björk’s controversial actions during a performance in Shanghai in 2008, where she chanted 'Tibet! Tibet!” during “Declare Independence.” Since the Björk concert, the Ministry of Culture has become more cautious when considering Western acts, ruling in the aftermath, “Those who used to take part in activities that harm our nation’s sovereignty are firmly not allowed to perform in China.” “What Björk did definitely made life very difficult for other performers. They are very wary of what will be said by performers on stage now,” promoter Jeffrey Wu, whose company set up Dylan’s China dates, told the South China Morning Post.
  • What a Bizarre Decision, writes PopEater: "It seems China has mistaken today's essentially harmless Bob Dylan with the counterculture hero of the 1960s." Chris at America Blog sighs, "Do they realize how silly they appear to the rest of the world when they make decisions like this?"
*Censorship Has Nothing to Do with This  The Atlantic's James Fallows hears from Zachary Mexico, a musician and author of a book on China. He says the tour was actually canceled because of Taiwanese promoters involved in the East Asian leg of the tour:
I have it on good authority that the Chinese government did not deny Bob Dylan permission to play in China. It was the Taiwanese promoter's outlandish financial requests that made the tour unrealistic.
Fallows says the claim, if true, would show the predicament of the Chinese government: "Once you get a bad reputation, you get blamed even for things you didn't do."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.