Chinese market chills Taiwanese books amid heightened tensions


Taipei, Taiwan — Taiwanese writer Iris Chen doesn’t seem to be the type whose work is banned from publication in China. However, four years after being sold to a Chinese publisher, her book, which teaches children how to appreciate art, has not yet been published, and tensions between China and Taiwan are spreading to the cultural sphere. A victim of rising.

Not only will it lose access to the huge Chinese market, authors and publishers say. It also means losing the opportunity to exchange and connect after 30 years of contact between the two. In recent years, China has blocked the flow of Chinese tourists and students to Taiwan, blocking the participation of artists in Taiwan’s Golden Horse and Golden Melody Awards, which are considered Oscars and Grammy Awards for Chinese films and music. did.

“I feel that the exchange process has diverged in the last few years. Taiwan is moving further in one direction and China is moving further in one direction,” said one of Taiwan’s largest publishers. James Chao, head of a China Times Publishing Group, said. “It keeps moving away.”

The Chinese administration claims that Taiwan is its territory and is an autonomous island about 160 kilometers (100 miles) from the east coast of China. Tsai Ing-wen’s election in support of the current de facto independence as Taiwan’s president in 2016 has entered a period of worsening relations. The Chinese Communist Party government sought to diplomatically isolate the island and put military pressure on it.

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has long banned books on delicate issues, from religion to the lives of Chinese political leaders, but Taiwanese publishers have previously used a common language and cultural history to take advantage of them. He sold a variety of other books to the mainland.

“The exchange in publishing is actually an exchange of ideas,” said Linking Publishing Co in Taiwan. Linden Lin, who is responsible for this, said. “This kind of exchange can only be done through publication.”

According to editors, scholars, publishers and authors, Taiwanese books are currently difficult to publish in China. This is not a total ban, and publishers blame self-censorship by mainland responders, not official orders.

Frozen titles include a Taiwanese-Japanese fusion cookbook, a self-help book, and a travel sketch book from a Taiwanese artist’s trip in Beijing, where cats explore the city’s traditional “Hutong” district. I’m walking around.

One commitment is content that suggests the identity of another Taiwanese. Especially young Taiwanese have developed a clear identity. A 2020 poll found that two-thirds of respondents did not consider themselves Chinese.

“In the past, they censored books on religion … but if, for example, the topic of the book is Taiwanese food, that’s okay,” said two cookbooks previously written by Taiwanese writers. Said Rosine Liu, editor of Taiwan’s Business Weekly, which sold the book to China. “But now, even if you call it’Taiwanese food’, it’s a little stressful.”

Read a Chinese book
On July 14, 2021, a woman and a child read a book at a bookstore in Beijing. (Wang Zhao / AFP via Getty Images)

Oral-friendly Chen thought she would market her book “Play with Art” to prosperous parents in China.

Initially, Chinese publishers were on track. She agreed to change one chapter using the example of a museum in Taiwan at their request. Chinese writers substitute chapters based on Chinese museums.

Then the other side was silent, she said. When she contacted me more than a year later, she was told that the review process was slower than usual.

“After welcoming the new president, the reaction from the other side, the harshness and unkindness of the situation, has created a lot of boring things that make the exchange inconvenient,” said Chen.

This is in stark contrast to the 1980s and 1990s, when Chinese readers were attracted to Taiwanese writers such as Lung Ying Tai, whose essays contributed to the discussion of Taiwan’s shift from one-party rule to democracy. .. Mitsuge, a Taiwanese writer who wrote a story about life in the Sahara Desert, captured the hearts of Chinese women of all ages.

I was also curious about the most basic things after the two were cut off for decades after splitting during the civil war in China in 1949.

“At that time, the relationship was good and it seemed that China really wanted to understand Taiwan,” said Chen. “What kind of fruit do you eat? What does your art look like? How is your life? How do you celebrate the New Year? These little things in life.”

Today, Taiwanese are also sensitive to rising tensions, which was highlighted in the debate over Chinese children’s books last year. “Waiting for Dad to Return” about a boy whose father left town during a Chinese New Year holiday to treat a COVID-19 patient is a rosy picture of CCP’s efforts to fight a pandemic. Is drawn.

Some Taiwanese argued that the Chinese Communist Party was taking advantage of the island’s open environment to spread its publicity. However, the government’s proposal to scrutinize books from the mainland has sparked criticism that the island will rely on authoritarian customs.

“If people are worried about seeing fake news, I’ll help them filter the information … So how can we call this democracy?” National Lai Shanwai, a professor of press freedom at the Taiwan University of the Arts, said.

The government withdrew the proposal, saying it would only censor books published by the Chinese Communist Party or its army, the PLA.

Editor Liu said it was not a purely commercial exchange for her. She enjoyed meeting mainland counterparts at the book fair and learning how to do it. In the current political situation, these very basic moments of human interaction that have helped people build connections with each other have disappeared.

“For me, in this harsh environment, that kind of cooperation is interrelated, so you too will shrink yourself,” Liu said. “After all, we are all still carrying the burden of this country and the burden of history.”

Associated Press