“Taiwan, China”: the nationality of a possible Booker Prize winner is controversial

The prestigious Man Booker International Prize, which rewards novels translated into English, had indicated on its site that the author Wu Ming-Yi is from “Taiwan, China”. A wording that has revived tensions around the status of the island. The organizers of the prize ended up backtracking.

“Wu Ming-Yi (Taiwan, China)”. For those who are not interested in relations between China and Taiwan, the title of the nationality of the novelist Wu Ming-Yi, thus presented at the end of March among the thirteen authors selected for the Man Booker International Prize, could go unnoticed. But in the political context of the region, the wording used on the site of the prestigious literary prize turned out to be highly controversial.

As reminded The Guardian :

For most of the nearly 70 years since the Chinese Nationalist government fled to Taiwan in 1949, the island governed itself with its own democratically elected government, currency, military and ties. diplomatic with several countries. Its independence was never officially proclaimed.”

A last minute change

In 1992, representatives of the People’s Republic of China and Taiwan met in Hong Kong and achieved recognition of the principle “one China, many interpretations”. A principle known as the “1992 consensus”, but which is a permanent subject of contention and which fuels tensions in the region (the separatists in power in Taipei since 2016 contest it).

There were therefore many reactions when “just over two weeks” after the announcement of the thirteen novels in the running for the next Man Booker International Prize, the nationality of Wu Ming-Yi “has been modified [en y ajoutant le mot “Chine”] to fit with Beijing’s position that this island […] is part of China”reports the daily.

The organizers have taken the advice of the British Foreign Office

Recognized author, Wu Ming-Yi (whose two books have been translated into French, by Stock and at the Asiatheque) had made it known that the new title did not reflect his personal position on the matter [du statut de Taïwan]”.

Faced with the criticism that poured in, especially on the Facebook page of the literary prize, its organizers finally backtracked, as reported in another article by Guardian :

Organizers announced on Wednesday [4 avril] only after consultation with […] the British Foreign Office on the appropriate terminology to adopt’, the authors selected for the prize would in future be marked ‘country/territory’ rather than that of their nationality. Wu will therefore be listed as ‘Taiwan’ […] A spokesperson also added: “Country/territory of origin takes precedence over nationality. Taiwan is officially designated as a territory, not a country by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Pressure mounts around Taiwan naming

Sometimes presented as the “Anglophone Goncourt”, the Man Booker Prize is considered the most coveted prize in English literature. Its variation for the foreign novel, the Man Booker International Prize, rewards works translated into English. Wu Ming-Yi’s book in the running for this one this year, The Stolen Bicycle (The stolen bicycle, not translated into French), appeared in Chinese in 2015.

The website Taiwan Sentinel underlined Thursday, March 29 that the controversy “comes as several multinational companies have caved in recent weeks to pressure from Beijing to change information on their websites and display ‘Taiwan, China’ Where ‘Taiwan, Province of China’”. And while, the site added, “the exit [dans les cinémas chinois] of ‘Missing Johnny’by Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao-hsien, was canceled after Chinese netizens accused one of its lead actors, Lawrence Ko, of being a ‘Taiwan independence promoter’.”

the South China Morning Post reported as for him that:

The Taiwanese ministries of foreign affairs and culture also intervened, expressing their dismay […] and urging the organizers of the award to ensure that this does not happen again. They have also asked their representatives in the UK to investigate what happened.

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“Taiwan, China”: the nationality of a possible Booker Prize winner is controversial