By Wang Hairong
Although still about a month away from the onset of the coldest spell in Beijing’s winter, late November mornings are fairly chilly. Yet the prospect of low temperatures did not dampen Diana Olenja’s enthusiasm and excitement about visiting Beijing.
Shortly after daybreak on November 27, she arrived at the Diaoyutai State Guest House. As the Kenya Literature Bureau’s public relations manager, she came to sign an agreement on co-publishing Xi Jinping: The Governance of China (Volume II).
“We are going to translate the book into Kiswahili and publish it in Kenya,” she told Beijing Review. Kiswahili is one of the most widely used languages in Africa, spoken by more than 50 million people in countries such as Kenya, Tanzania and Zambia.
On that day, Foreign Languages Press, a publishing house under the China International Publishing Group (CIPG), signed agreements on co-publishing the book with 16 publishing organizations from 16 countries: Italy, Poland, Ukraine, Albania, Romania, Kenya, Tajikistan, Viet Nam, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Laos, Mongolia, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan.
All the publishers are influential and well-known in their home countries, and all took part in translating and publishing the first volume of the book, said Zhang Fuhai, President of CIPG.
The first volume, published in September 2014, is now available in 24 languages and 27 editions and has sold more than 6.6 million copies worldwide.
“CIPG is ready to work closely with our overseas partners in introducing this great work to the world,” Zhang said at the agreement-signing ceremony.
A seminal book
The book, published in Chinese and English on November 7, is hailed as an authoritative work on Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era. The Thought was established as a new component of the guide for action of the Communist Party of China (CPC)at the 19th CPC National Congress, which concluded in Beijing in late October.
The book collects 99 of Xi’s spoken and written works from August 2014 to September of this year, arranged into 17 sections by topic.
“It is a vivid account of the great endeavor of the CPC Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at the core in leading the Party and the Chinese people to uphold and develop socialism with Chinese characteristics,” Zhang said.
“It also provides an insight into Xi’s charisma and personality, opening a new window for Chinese and foreign readers to better understand Xi’s beliefs and the Party,” he added.
“Within the book, you can see the historical development of Xi’s ideas,” Robert Lawrence Kuhn, a U.S. expert on China studies and Chairman of the Kuhn Foundation, told Xinhua News Agency. “You can see it inducing itself as these ideas come together, building up to what has been crystallized as Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era.”
The publication of the book “is a major event in the political life of the Party and the state,” said Wang Xiaohui, Executive Deputy Director of the Policy Research Office of the CPC Central Committee and deputy head of the Publicity Department of the CPC Central Committee. It will help the general public learn about the Party’s innovation theories and the international community understand China’s development path and development concepts comprehensively and objectively, he added.
In particular, Wang said the book embodies the Party’s people-oriented governance philosophy. Guided by such philosophy, a large number of measures have been taken since 2012, through which more than 60 million people have been lifted out of poverty, 13 million-plus new urban jobs have been created, and the growth rates of the incomes of urban and rural residents have outpaced the speed of economic expansion. A social security system covering both urban and rural residents has been basically established, and people can enjoy significantly better health and medical services than before, according to Wang.
In the book, readers can find decoded frequently cited concepts in China’s political discourses such as the Four-Pronged Comprehensive Strategy, the Five-Sphere Integrated Plan and the Two Centenary Goals.
Not only was the text of the book carefully chosen, but also the 29 photos in it. The pictures, selected to capture various facets of Xi’s official functions, are grouped into two clusters, one on domestic affairs and the other on diplomatic activities.
Several pictures exhibit Xi’s concern for people’s livelihoods. For instance, one photo portrays Xi with villagers of Liangjiahe in Yanchuan County, northwest China’s Shaanxi Province, while reviewing poverty alleviation efforts on February 13, 2015. Xi used to live and work in the village decades ago, when he was sent to the countryside as an educated youth.
Some photos feature him in multilateral meetings hosted by China, including the 22nd APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting in Beijing in November 2014, the inauguration ceremony of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank in Beijing in January 2016, the 11th G20 Summit in Hangzhou in September 2016, the Leaders’ Roundtable Summit of the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing this May, and the Ninth BRICS Summit in Xiamen this September. These pictures demonstrate that China is playing an increasingly important role in international affairs.
Not lost in translation
Xi’s book not only reveals his governance thoughts, but also his personality and linguistic style.
“He is good at expressing his views and understanding of major issues in light of China’s history and culture as well as his personal experiences,” said Sun Yeli, Deputy Director of the Party Literature Research Office of the CPC Central Committee, “He is also good at telling stories about China and the Party, quoting classical allusions, in an insightful and penetrating way, and with vivid and colloquial language.”
While such a language style has strong appeal, it also poses a challenge for the translators. The 29-member translation team of the English version, coordinated by Foreign Languages Press, comprises top-notch national talent.
“We have formed a high-caliber, dedicated, very responsible and efficient translation and publishing team,” Feng Xin, head of the English Department of Foreign Languages Press, told Beijing Review.
The whole team consists of senior language consultants from China, foreign copyeditors who have lived in China for years, and translators who love their job and pursue excellence, he said.
The task is also time-pressing. “We were racing against time,” Feng said. To save time while not compromising quality, they established an efficient, streamlined work procedure. “Every morning, senior consultants met to discuss problems they identified and offered their solutions afterward,” he said. Meetings were also held to address technical issues such as how to make headlines eye-catching, footnotes accurate and style consistent throughout the book.
“This work procedure enabled us to complete the translation of about 100,000 Chinese characters and revise and finalize another 200,000 Chinese characters in a little over a month,” Feng said.
“In the translation process, we put ourselves in the shoes of foreign readers as much as possible, always thinking about how to convey the meaning of the original text accurately and at the same time, make it easier for readers to understand,” said Liu Kuijuan, deputy head of the English Department of Foreign Languages Press. “This requires us to be faithful to the original and be flexible at the same time,” she explained.
“Translation is not mechanical rendering of one language into another; it is a creative process,” Liu said. She said the book includes Xi’s remarks at a meeting with secretaries of county-level Party committees, which mentioned many historical figures and poems and contained metaphors and political concepts, making them difficult to translate. “This requires a translator to comprehend the original text, convert it into another language and make adjustments,” she said.
Literal translation of some metaphors might cause confusion, so in such cases, it is better to put them in plain and understandable language, said Wang Qin, a senior translator.
Now, Chinese and English versions of the book are available in bookstores.