Demand grows for book translators
2017-09-18, ZHANG KUN

China will export more publications to other countries, both in print and digital formats, to further expand its visibility, officials said on Sept 13. This will increase the demand for translators.

According to figures released at the 13th Chinese Books Overseas Promotion Project conference in Shanghai, China sold more than 50,000 publication copyrights from 2012 to 2016.

Wu Shangzhi, deputy head of the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television, said at the Sept 13 meeting that China’s copyright exports for books grew by 30 percent over that same period. Books about contemporary China are making a great impact overseas, he said. 

For example, 6.4 million copies of Xi Jinping: The Governance of China have been distributed worldwide and appear in 22 languages.

Cui Yuying, deputy head of the Publicity Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and vice-minister of the State Council Information Office, said despite all the efforts and achievements in introducing Chinese books abroad, few have made a significant international impact.

One of the problems, Cui said, is a lack of qualified translators. She suggested the government should make a bigger effort to cultivate competent translators and bring talented translators to China.

“We could increase compensation for outstanding translators, and provide bigger subsidies for books translated from Chinese,” she said. “We encourage foreign students in China, as well as those who live and work in China for long periods, to be passionate about Chinese culture, and to take up the translation of Chinese books.”

Amazon’s China book section has more than 673,000 titles available. Exclusive shelves for Chinese books have been set up in mainstream bookstores in Egypt and the United Arab Emirates; and 27 Nishan House bookshops, a Chinese franchise, have opened in North and South America, Oceania and Africa.

A growing number of Chinese books are being sold on mainstream digital book sales sites. At the same time, digital platforms are being developed to provide information and an index of Chinese books in foreign languages.

At the conference, Shanghai Century Publishing Group shared its experience of selling school textbooks to the United Kingdom. In March, the company signed a deal with Collins Learning at the London Book Fair to publish English translations of mathematics textbooks used by Shanghai’s primary schools.

“This is the first time China’s primary and middle school textbooks — systematically and on a large scale — have entered the national educational system of a developed country,” said Wang Lan, president of Century Publishing.

Century Publishing has also successfully published a book series on Chinese culture. So far, 360 titles have been released and sold at major international airports, railway stations and other transportation hubs in 40 countries.

The group also plans to launch a new series of picture books featuring Chinese folklore in Europe and the United States.

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