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Chinese Market Turns Difficult for Taiwanese Books

In this photo taken on March 23, 2021, Taiwanese author Iris Chiang holds her book "Play with Art" at an event featuring Taiwanese artist YUYU Yang's work in Taipei, Taiwan. (AP Photo/Chiang Ying-ying)
In this photo taken on March 23, 2021, Taiwanese author Iris Chiang holds her book "Play with Art" at an event featuring Taiwanese artist YUYU Yang's work in Taipei, Taiwan. (AP Photo/Chiang Ying-ying)
Chinese Market Turns Difficult for Taiwanese Books
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Rising political tensions between China and Taiwan have made it difficult for Taiwanese authors to get their books published in China.

One of those authors is Iris Chiang. Her book does not deal with political or sensitive subjects that in the past would get writers banned from China.

Chiang sold her book about teaching children how to enjoy art to a Chinese publisher four years ago. But the book has yet to be published.

Chiang told The Associated Press she wanted to market the book, called Play with Art, to financially successful Chinese parents. She thought it would be well received because the Chinese government had begun urging citizens to have more children.

At first, Chiang said the process went well with the Chinese publisher. At their request, she agreed to change one part of the book that used examples from art museums in Taiwan. A Chinese writer was chosen to replace that part with information about museums in China.

But then the other side went silent, Chiang said. When she reached out more than a year later, she was told the process was slower than normal. She told the AP she thinks the Chinese publishers were affected by the changing relationship between China and Taiwan.

Mainland China considers Taiwan a rebel province and has threatened to reclaim the territory by force if necessary.

After the election of independent-minded President Tsai Ing-wen in 2016, relations between China and Taiwan began to worsen. China has reacted to Tsai’s policies by taking measures to pressure Taiwan militarily and isolate it diplomatically.

China’s ruling Communist Party has long banned books on sensitive subjects. Such issues can go from religion to the lives of Chinese political leaders. Taiwanese publishers in the past sold many kinds of books to the mainland.

During the 1980s and 1990s, Chinese readers enjoyed Taiwanese writers such as Lung Ying-tai. Her works added to debates about the process of Taiwan moving from one-party rule to democracy. Sanmao, a Taiwanese writer who wrote stories about her life in the Sahara desert, captured the hearts of a generation of Chinese women.

There was also curiosity on both sides about the most basic things after the sides were cut off following their split in 1949 after the Chinese Civil War.

“Back then, relations were good and it seemed like there was a mood in China that they really wanted to understand Taiwan,” Chiang said. “What kind of fruit do you guys eat? What’s your art like? What’s your life like? How do you celebrate New Year’s? These small things in life.”

Linden Lin is the head of Taiwan’s Linking Publishing Company. He told the AP that “exchanges in publishing (are) really the exchange of ideas.” He added: “It’s only through publishing that you can have this type of exchange.”

Now, editors, publishers and authors say any Taiwanese book has become harder to publish in China. It is not a blanket ban. But publishers blame self-censorship by mainland companies rather than any official order.

There are many examples of works that have been frozen out of the Chinese market. They include a Taiwanese-Japanese cookbook, a self-help book and a book about a Taiwanese artist’s travels in Beijing that deals with cats living in the city’s traditional neighborhoods.

I’m Bryan Lynn.

The Associated Press reported on this story. Bryan Lynn adapted the report for VOA Learning English. Mario Ritter, Jr. was the editor.

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Words in This Story

authorn. someone who writes a book, article, etc.

isolate – v. to put or keep (someone or something) in a place or situation that is separate from others

curiosity – n. a desire to learn or know more about something or someone

mood – n. the way someone feels at a particular time

type –n. a particular kind of thing

blanket – adj. including or affecting everything

censorship – n. the system or practice of censoring books, movies, letters, etc.