What have we learned from this episode? (Background, about the difficulty of tracking down a book with possibly "sensitive" anti-Chinese content, here and here.)

1. I argued earlier that the disappearance of a copy of this book in the Chinese mail was more likely inadvertence or error than anything else. That's my default explanation for most of what happens in life, and most of what happens in China. But I got this contrary testimony from an official of a large international manufacturing firm, who is based in Shenzhen:

As for the book Typhoon, I am almost positive it was the customs people who took it.  I used to order books online from Hong Kong and shipped to me in Shenzhen.  Sometimes the shipment never arrived even though the store assured me it was shipped.  A few times they made another shipment that also never made it to me.  The coincidence is the shipments were 'lost' any time a book with some type of negative China history or thought was being discussed (i.e a book written in the west about the Boxer Rebellion).

I think what happens is the customs people open the box, have basic English so understand a little about the book's topic, then decide it might be controversial and seize the shipment.  Since they don't want any arguments they don't bother to notify anyone.  Just <poof> and it's gone.

Could be! As with other kinds of Chinese control mechanisms, the uncertainty about what's happening makes the controls weirdly all the more effective. (For how this works with the Internet, here.)

2. Why this book, from this author? From Kevin Chambers, of the West Peavine blog, a hypothesis that it has to do with this article, by the book's author in the Guardian last year, about Chinese-Uighur tensions. I say: Maybe. Both this hypothesis and the previous one assume that Chinese customs officials are busily reading the English-language press and matching "sensitive" views to incoming shipments. But, again, it's possible.

3. About why some used books are on the market for prices from $75 to $247.87, this hypothesis from Tim Rossiter:

I've been listing used CDs on Amazon recently. I've found that there are some CDs that Amazon doesn't have in stock, yet are not rare by any means. If Amazon doesn't stock it and no one has listed a used one, someone will come along and list a used one for a ridiculous price to see if anyone bites. I think some of the larger used CD dealers may even have this kind of pricing automated.

My guess is that you're seeing the same type of thing with your book.

I've learned time and again over these last two and a half years in China not to rule out any explanation. Any or all of these theories could be true.

As advertised, these will be the penultimate words on the topic from me. For-real final words after I've actually read the book.

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