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Popular Rock Magazine Off to Rough Start in China

A popular U.S. rock and roll magazine, Rolling Stone, has yet to reappear on the stands in China after its debut last month. Apparently the delay in getting out the new issue is the result of government officials challenging the magazine's publishing agreement.

A newsstand clerk in Beijing's trendy San Li Tun district dials a phone, calling a stand in another part of town asking him to save copies of the first - and so far only - mainland Chinese edition of Rolling Stone.

The magazine sold out within weeks after it made its debut in China with more than 100,000 copies. The publisher declines to comment on the matter, but there has been plenty of speculation among media analysts as to why the April edition has yet to emerge.

Some foreign media have quoted sources at the government's Shanghai Press and Publication Bureau as saying that there were unspecified problems in the process of approving the magazine's partnership with a local publisher.

Others have speculated that the content of the magazine is the problem. The cover of the first edition features the face of Chinese rock star Cui Jian, known as the grandfather of Chinese rock. Cui is best remembered for his song "Nothing to My Name" that served as an anthem of young demonstrators in the 1989 pro-democracy rallies that ended when the Chinese army used guns and tanks to scatter the demonstrators.

The Communist authorities ban any public discussion of the crackdown, known as the June 4 incident.

Rolling Stone originated in the United States in the 1960s and is famous for its stylish, edgy coverage of pop culture and the entertainment industry.

Politics aside, people polled on the streets of Beijing say they saw the magazine as a breath of fresh air in a country where the government owns and controls most Chinese media. This man owns a record company in Beijing and happened to be stopping by a Beijing newsstand.

"Why do we need this kind of magazine? Because we do not have it," he explained. " I do not think China has its own [of this kind.] It presents all the music of the world, all kinds of famous, big name bands, the kind with character. There are not many of those in China."

Advertisements for Rolling Stone continue to be up on signposts and at major shopping malls in Beijing, indicating some hope that the magazine will reappear.