The inclusion of the translation industry in the controversial cross-strait service trade agreement could allow China to dominate Taiwan’s linguistic development and pave the way for its cultural assimilation, Taiwan Democracy Watch secretary-general Chen Kuan-yu (陳冠宇) said yesterday.
Chen issued the warning following the conclusion of the Ninth Cross-Strait Economic, Trade and Culture Forum on Oct. 27, during which representatives from the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the Chinese Communist Party called for the pact’s speedy passage and implementation.
The agreement, which, if ratified, will see Taiwan open up 64 service sectors to China, is still pending legislative approval, as lawmakers are under pressure from industry representatives who are wary of its potentially adverse impact on businesses and the nation’s economy.
“Translation is a culture-oriented job, because it is closely linked to the translators’ cultural background, national identity and linguistic habits,” Chen said.
“China is notorious for its stringent censorship of the cultural industry, and Taiwan’s vibrant cultural development could be severely hindered if the government opens the door to Chinese translators,” Chen said.
Chen cited as an example the Chinese translation of Irish political scientist Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism by Academia Sinica associate research fellow Wu Rwei-ren (吳叡人).
“The Chinese translation was published in Taiwan and China by two different publishing houses,” Chen said.
“Readers on both sides of the Taiwan Strait should have gotten the same content, but everything relating to the history of Taiwan’s independence movement and Taiwanese nationalism in the original work was edited out of the version available in China,” Chen said.
The disappearance of sensitive content from China’s published version exemplifies Beijing’s firm grip on free expression and spells trouble for Taiwan’s linguistic and cultural subjectivity should lower-cost Chinese workers squeeze out Taiwanese linguistic professionals, Chen said.
It has become a common practice for Taiwanese publishers to buy directly from their Chinese counterparts the copyrights of their translated editions of foreign publications to reduce costs, Chen added.
“Chinese simplified translations can be found everywhere, whether in a brick-and-mortar shop or an online bookstore,” he said.
“The number of translated glossaries of academic terminology by Chinese translators in the local market is also gradually increasing,” he added.
Given that the majority of Taiwanese translators are freelance workers and are not covered by the labor insurance program, they could be left out in the cold without any help from the government if they are driven out of business by Chinese translators, Chen said.