Apartheid online at Beijing’s Int’l Book Fair?

By Bruce Humes, published

Nice to see that the BIBF (Aug 26-29) has fairly attractive Chinese and English sections to its new-look web site, both of which – congrats! – are already up and functioning here.

But as I glanced through it, it reminded me of my first trip to the New China in 1981. When my father and I went for breakfast with our tour group at Shanghai’s Old Jinjiang Hotel, we were immediately forced to choose: Chinese cuisine at this table, Western at the other. Naturally, I dragged him along with me to the Chinese table — after all, it was my first meal in China! But when I tried to order a cup of coffee for my father, the waiter snapped: “If you want coffee, sit at the Western table!”

Accordingly, this year’s web site offers “targeted” news. When Chinese speakers click on graphic 5 on the Chinese Home Page, they learn that there is a “literary salon” (here) during Aug 22-30 to which more than 30 writers, domestic and foreign, have been invited, and bios of each writer are available with a further click on the writer’s image; when English speakers click on the similar graphic 6 on their Home Page, they don’t get any information at all about Chinese writers here, nor do they learn about a “literary salon.” Does the BIBF honestly believe int’l literary scouts and publishers fly from New York or Paris to see . . . European writers in Beijing?

But one thing is true for all visitors, regardless of your language: nowhere on the site is there a schedule showing where or when those authors will appear, or what they will be talking about . . .


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