All last week there was a spate of articles in the British media in the lead-up to the London Book Fair, April 16-18, where China is the country of market focus this year.
While it was lovely to see the world of Chinese literature getting so much coverage in the pages of some of the UK's leading papers, it was disconcerting that the focus was on who got, or rather, did not get, invited.
In another manifestation of the Western media's predilection for China bashing the writers who did not make the list were heralded as the only true independent voices of Chinese literature while those who did were dismissed as being affiliated to the Chinese government and having agreed to be part of a State-sponsored junket.
The British Council in the UK, having drawn up the list of attendees in consultation with the General Administration of Press and Publications in China, was criticized for inviting only State-approved writers.
The English chapter of PEN, which proclaims it celebrates literature and promotes freedom of expression, will even be hosting its own event - running parallel with the LBF - featuring the London-based Chinese writer Ma Jian, who has been making a case for writers, like himself, who failed to make the LBF's list of attendees.
To my mind, what's getting lost in all this noise is the distinctive and multi-hued range of literary voices from China that has been put together for an international audience. While every writer having anything to do with China is expected to have a political view, that may not, necessarily, define his or her writing. A writer can be engaged with themes other than those in the realm of politics and still be as valid as one making a political statement.
For instance, Tie Ning's being the chairperson of the Chinese Writers' Association does not take away from her convincing portrayals of contemporary Chinese women - be it in materialistic cosmopolitan set-ups or remote and rural, almost pre-lapsarian, China, as in Pregnant Woman with Cow.
Han Dong, once associated with an underground poetry movement, astounds with his ability to come up with fresh takes on the much-explored but still inexhaustible theme of the "cultural revolution" (1966-76). His poems cover an entire gamut of emotions and stylistic experiments, be it his re-workings of Chinese myths or his musings on the role of a poet trying to find his feet in a culture forging ahead at breakneck speed.
And Li Er, who explores the status of the Confucian scholar-academic in an entrepreneurial China on the highway to fast-track development, is, by his own admission, "more political" than a lot of the writers commentating on China's present political situation.
Having had the privilege to meet some of these authors and having read some of their works in English translation, my humble submission to those visiting the LBF this week is that by all means go ahead and ask the 21 selected authors about issues such as censorship and the so-called government endorsement of writers and the nuances of living and writing in present-day China but also check out their work, which should be available in translation.
Are the select 21 a representative list of contemporary Chinese writing? No, of course they are not. In a culture that puts out around 300,000 titles a year and has close to a million writers publishing in print and on the Internet, 21, by any reckoning, is only a small sample of the wide variety of voices heard in China today.
It denies the diversity of these voices if discussions about Chinese writing are restricted to the select few championed by the West.
The author is a writer with China Daily. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org