However, Lee’s triumph again highlighted the political strains that exist between the two, with China considering Taiwan a renegade province.
It also prompted a bout of soul-searching as to why China, with a population more than 50 times bigger than Taiwan’s, cannot produce an Oscar winner.
Many postings on Weibo, the local version of the banned Twitter service, hailed Lee’s win as a triumph for the Chinese people.
But Taiwan has been self-ruled since Chiang Kai-shek’s Kuomintang Nationalists lost the civil war with Chairman Mao Tse-tung’s Communists and fled across the Straits to Taiwan in 1949.
While language and culture are similar, the two territories remain far apart politically. Beijing still considers Taiwan an inviolable part of its turf.
State news agency Xinhua feted Lee’s triumph but stressed that the helmer comes from “China’s Taiwan.”
Lee also won an Oscar for foreign language film in 2001 for “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” and a director award in 2006 for “Brokeback Mountain.”
However, censorship means that many of Lee’s pics are banned in China, including gay-themed “Brokeback Mountain.” A heavily cut version of his erotic thriller “Lust, Caution” was shown in 2009, but star Tang Wei was banned retrospectively from filmmaking for a year for excess nudity.
“Life of Pi” was the only film nominated in one of the major Oscar categories this year that was released in China.
The reaction in Taiwan was borderline delirium. President Ma Ying-jeou thanked Lee for boosting Taiwan’s world profile.
Jason Hu, mayor of the city of Taichung where a large part of the movie was shot, said he would confer honorary citizenship on Lee. The helmer thanked the city in his acceptance speech, although this was cut for mainland TV.
Lee’s acceptance speech for “Brokeback” in 2005 was also censored in China, when he referenced Hong Kong and Taiwan.