It is always salutary to be reminded of China’s continuing cultural controls, but this discussion is, in part, a category error: if the London book fair were to claim to represent the totality of literary exchanges between Britain and China in 2012, its critics would be unassailable. But LBF … is a trade fair, run by Reed Exhibitions, a commercial venture. Its market focus events, which have previously featured the Arab world, India, South Africa and Russia – and this year include three days of professional business and licensing workshops – aim to stimulate deals between publishers.
And I also agree with her bottom line.
The writers in exile, excluded from the fair’s cross-cultural book deals, will not be materially affected. China’s well-known exile writers are, by definition, already translated and published outside China and are likely to continue to be so. While it is true that writers in China may still feel the chill of official disapproval and be excluded from officially sanctioned delegations, a boycott of the London book fair is less likely to change that than engagement and debate.