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Britain’s Cultural Kowtow

LONDON – You would think that the British, having practically invented appeasement, and paid a heavy price for it, would know better. But appeasement of China for commercial gain apparently is not considered morally repellent. How else could Liu Binjie, China’s censor-in-chief and the point man for silencing the Nobel laureate writer and human-rights activist Liu Xiaobo, be invited to lead a delegation of 21 officially sanctioned writers and dozens of ministerial minions to London to celebrate Chinese literature at the London Book Fair?

Indeed, Liu is the British Council’s guest of honor for the event. The Council says that it invited officially approved Chinese writers because it wanted to create greater understanding of Chinese literature and promote cultural exchange between the two countries. But is it really true that the world can or should learn about China only by reading works that are sanctioned by the Chinese Communist Party? After all, didn’t Boris Pasternak, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Milan Kundera, and Václav Havel teach the world as much about the repressive societies in which they lived than anything turned out by the Soviet bloc’s official publishers?