“You’re stepping on my shadow, please back off,” she said.

Sun Yisheng / Nicky Harman

China's Thinkingdom Media Invests in Editions Philippe Picquier

By Bruce Humes, published

According to a 2016-04-28 report (战略投资) in The Paper (澎湃讯), Thinkingdom Media Group Ltd (新经典文化) has made a “strategic investment” in France’s Editions Philippe Picquier. The report does not specify the $ amount or portion of the French publisher that is now in Chinese hands. Picquier is already a major French-language publisher of Chinese fiction writing including titles by Yu Hua, Wang Anyi, Alai, Su Tong, Han Shaogong, Bi feiyu, Chi Zijian, Ge Fei, Liang Hong and Li Er.

Some 15,000 copies of Wang Anyi’s 《长恨歌》(Le Chant des regrets éternels) have sold in French, according to the news item. Picquier's first venture into the world of translated Chinese popular fiction publishing was apparently Wei Hui's naughty Shanghai Baby, back in the early 2000s.

It will be interesting to see if and how Thinkingdom uses Picquier as a platform for the campaign to bring more contemporary Chinese literature in translation to the Francophone world.

Comments

# 1.   

It might not be such a bad thing, if the Chinese group brings the much needed cash flow to develop publications of Chinese texts in translation. It is part of a general drive to promote Chinese literature abroad. I notice that writers like Wang Anyi and even Yan Lianke officially support the initiative. http://www.chinese-shortstories.com/Actualites_132.htm

Brigitte Duzan, May 1, 2016, 2:18p.m.

# 2.   

Well, anything writers do/say officially in the People's Republic of Amnesia needs to be taken with a grain or two of salt.

But I agree that this investment sounds like good news for Chinese literature in translation.

First of all, it will obviously lead to an increase in the number of titles of translated Chinese lit available on the market.

On a less obvious level, given the proudly independent French literary tradition, I'd expect it to result in the publication of some uncensored, even controversial fiction that could not be published inside China and might therefore not have found a publisher outside either. This is a particularly good thing, because the current Pathlight "formula" (路灯季刊模式”) — only politically correct authors and topics, please — shouldn't be allowed to dominate.

Bruce Humes, May 1, 2016, 8:28p.m.

# 3.   

Hey this is a way better arrangement than the other prevalent model, where a Chinese publishing group establishes a shell company overseas, sells itself the foreign rights, eats the government subsidy, then buries the books.

In this situation, it's still a French publishing house marketing books to French readers – it's still real publishing.

I'd be pretty surprised if this resulted in more publication of controversial fiction. But I'd be very curious to know the size of Thinkingdom's stake. In my experience, Chinese companies have a near-mania for 控股...

 Eric Abrahamsen, May 1, 2016, 11:36p.m.

# 4.   

51% is what I've heard, but I could be wrong.

Anna Gustafsson Chen, May 2, 2016, 10:36a.m.

# 5.   

Eerie. Talk about a "low key" acquisition.

Input "thinkingdom + picquier" into Google. I got just two pages of results.

Which makes me think Anna's guestimate might be spot on.

Bruce Humes, May 2, 2016, 6:57p.m.

# 6.   

51% would be both unsurprising, and depressing. In the corporate mentality here (such as I've encountered it), buying 49% is throwing your money away on someone else's project, while 51% is ownership and control, which are good things.

I can't see a Chinese company (and these publishing companies are all, ultimately, owned by the government) entering into a partnership with a foreign entity without a controlling stake. Subjecting itself to the whims of foreigners is one thing the Chinese government absolutely does not do. Paying Editions Philippe Picquier millions of dollars so that they can publish politically controversial books would be an abject failure for Thinkingdom. (I've even had Chinese publishers breezily mention that some day they might like to acquire a controlling stake in Paper Republic!)

I'm not saying that Philippe Picquier is now a pawn of the government, or that no good will come of having Chinese novels published in France by a publishing house that knows what it's doing. But if the stake is 51%, the company is ultimately answerable to the Chinese political structure.

 Eric Abrahamsen, May 2, 2016, 9:10p.m.

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