On my recent trip to Beijing, I talked to Liu Jing for the podcast. I had hoped to also speak with China Daily editorial cartoonist Luo Jie, but unfortunately he was out of town when I was there. As it happened, his preference was to do the interview in written form, anyway, so here’s my conversation with him:
—Did you grow up reading comics? Making comics?
Like the vast majority of Chinese children, my growth process was accompanied by reading comics. I was born in 1978; in that era, there were few decent comic book publications. It was very common that many children would have to share one comic book. Relative to the shortage of comic books, I preferred watching cartoons on television. There were a lot of animated cartoons, whether Chinese or foreign. I was very willing to copy some favorite cartoon characters in “Saint Seiya” and “Transformers”. That was the greatest pleasure of my childhood.
—What were/are your favorites?
US editorial cartoons are my favorite. I like funny comics too, especially nonsensical comics, just like those drawn by Japanese cartoonist Rumiko Takahashi.
—How did you get into doing editorial cartoons?
When I first got into computer painting, I found that my painting skills improved quickly. I liked to share my cartoons with net friends. Chen Changjiang, one of my friends online, who became my boss later, asked me whether I would go to the company he was planning to set up, to draw cartoons. So I quickly agreed to quit my job in a computer room in Nanjing, and came to Beijing in December 2000. Drawing editorial cartoons was just part of my new job then; I also did other work such as layout, animation, and four-frame comic strips in his company. Gradually, I realized that drawing editorial cartoons is best for me. In 2002, I quit and came to China Daily, and became a full-time editorial cartoonist.
—Is drawing editorial cartoons really your full-time job? Do you have any other responsibilities at China Daily besides drawing? Do you ever do any reporting?
In addition to drawing political cartoons, I am also responsible for some management work in the Art Department of China Daily. And I don’t do reporting.
—Does the paper have a specific editorial point of view that you have to stick to?
I think it should be in accordance with the Chinese official view.
—What kinds of things do you comment on in your cartoons?
International political and economic events, Sino-Japanese relations, some of China’s livelihood issues.
—Of course a Westerner is going to wonder about censorship — especially if you’re doing editorial cartoons! What kinds of topics are off-limits?
Issues about North Korea, Pakistan, religion…and of course, we can not draw Chinese leaders.
—I’m surprised that Pakistan is off-limits. I’m not familiar with the situation between China and Pakistan. Why is that to be avoided?
Because every time we drew cartoons about Pakistan, the Embassy of Pakistan called to protest. As a result, we gave up trying.
—Obviously Tibet is off-limits, right?
—Have you done any other kinds of comics/cartoons besides editorial? Have any of them been published?
—What’s your hope for your career direction in the future?
I wish I could draw more four-frame comic strips, but my screenwriter capacity is not very good, and I am lacking a good script-writing collaborator, so the large production plan can’t get started. I hope I’ll be able to publish my own four-frame comic books in the future, as well as political cartoons books.
(Thanks to MandMX.com for helping me get in touch with Luo Jie.)