By Xu Hao, Yuan Yanan
China International Publishing Group (CIPG) served as one of the first windows for the outside world to get to know China.
Its predecessor, the International News Division of the National Press Administration of the Central Government, was founded the same day as the People’s Republic of China (PRC) on October 1, 1949. Qiao Guanhua, who later became Minister of Foreign Affairs, first headed the division. New China’s foreign language publishing and distribution efforts began as quickly as anything else.
Remaining committed to its founding mission of “presenting China to the world” across the 70 years since its establishment, CIPG has produced about 80,000 different types of publications with a total volume of nearly 1.9 billion issues in 40-plus languages, which have been distributed around the world.
In a congratulatory letter on September 4, 2019 to honor the 70th anniversary of CIPG, Chinese President Xi Jinping encouraged the institution to seize the trends of the times, maintain its fine traditions and constantly improve its international communication capacity to enhance its ability to introduce China to the world in the new era.
Telling China’s Stories
CIPG has grown alongside New China.
On January 1, 1950, People’s China (English language), the first foreign language periodical of the PRC, was launched by the institution. In July 1950, the Chinese language monthly magazine People’s Pictorial was launched. To handwrite the masthead of its inaugural issue, Chairman Mao Zedong penned six versions and marked his favorite with two circles, which has been used ever since. Premier Zhou Enlai personally reviewed articles printed in the magazine for more than three years.
The same year, support from Premier Zhou Enlai, Vice Premier Chen Yi and other leaders of the Party and the state helped propel the launch of the Esperanto magazine China Report by CIPG. The magazine immediately gained a particularly strong following among Esperantists in Iceland, arousing enough interest in China in the island country to prompt a 1952 visit to China by Iceland’s first delegation of cultural celebrities.
China Reconstructs , another periodical of CIPG and later renamed China Today , was founded by Dr. Sun Yat-sen’s wife Soong Ching-ling, who was revered as the “mother of modern China” by the Chinese people. Alongside personally authoring more than 30 articles for the magazine, Soong carefully perused every issue and often contributed advice to the editorial board.
In 1954, Premier Zhou Enlai led a Chinese delegation to the Geneva Conference, marking New China’s debut on the global stage. At the conference, Zhou stressed the importance of enhancing mutual understanding between China and the rest of the world, suggesting China needed a national news weekly in English to provide timely information on China’s domestic and foreign policies and newest developments on all fronts. The premier personally named the weekly Beijing Review , which began publication in 1958.
Since China began economic reform and opened its doors to the outside world, Party and state leaders have increased support for CIPG’s international communication efforts. President Xi Jinping has given instructions on the work of CIPG on many occasions and written reply letters to authors and readers of CIPG publications. His congratulatory message to CIPG in honor of its 70th anniversary this September greatly fueled enthusiasm among the institution’s Chinese and foreign employees alike and reinforced their commitment to international communication.
A great number of prestigious and talented figures have contributed to the growth of CIPG.
Hu Yuzhi, New China’s first head of General Administration of Press and Publications and a celebrated publisher, founded China Repor t. Qiao Guanhua, the first director of the International News Division, served as the first editor-in-chief of People’s China . Renowned writer and translator Xiao Qian once served as deputy editor-in-chief of People’s China . Israel Epstein, a famous writer and journalist from Poland, served as editor-in-chief of China Reconstructs for a long time. Prestigious cartoonist and illustrator Ding Cong once served as deputy editor-in-chief of People’s Pictorial . When Chinese Literature was founded, the periodical invited Shen Yanbing (better known by pen name Mao Dun), Chinese essayist, novelist and Minister of Culture, to serve as editor-in-chief and Ye Junjian, translator of Andersen’s Fairy Tales , to be deputy editor-in-chief.
In 1949, poet Dai Wangshu returned to the mainland from Hong Kong and joined the newly established French unit of the International News Division. Despite suffering from severe asthma, Dai became dedicated to translating Chairman Mao’s article “On the People’s Democratic Dictatorship,” which was considered the most pressing task at the time. Soon, the French edition of “On the People’s Democratic Dictatorship” was published simultaneously with the English and Indonesian editions, followed by the publication of English, French and Russian editions of Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) documents.
In 1952, Yang Xianyi, a noted Chinese translator, and his wife, Gladys Yang from the United Kingdom, moved from Nanjing to Beijing and began working for CIPG. For the next half century, the couple cotranslated more than a hundredChinese literary classics ranging from pre-Qin period (before 221 BC) to the 20th Century, including Selected Elegies of the State of Chu , Selected Plays of Guan Hanqing, Dream of the Red Chamber and Lu Xun Selected Works .
In the 1980s, global distribution of “Panda Books” was launched. The series of foreign language translations of Chinese literary works published by Chinese Literature Press under CIPG was named after the image of a panda highlighting each copy’s cover as it emerged as an icon of China. Works by celebrated modern Chinese writers began appearing on bookshelves around the world.
A White Page
On October 8, 2014, Xi Jinping: The Governance of China was released in languages including Chinese, English, French, Russian, Arabic, Spanish, Portuguese, German and Japanese at the Frankfurt Book Fair after publication by Foreign LanguagesPress under CIPG. By July 2019, a total of 32 editions of the book in 28 languages had been published and distributed in some 160 countries and regions. It has become the authoritative text for the international audience to better understand China.
A pioneer and trendsetter of international communication of the PRC, CIPG now operates 26 overseas bureaus in 14 countries and regions. It publishes nearly 5,000 book titles in 40-plus languages and 34 periodicals in 13 languages annually, which are distributed in more than 180 countries and regions around the world.
At the same time, CIPG has constantly improved its business structure for international communication.In 2000, it launched China.org.cn, which has grown into a major portal website for China providing the latest news and information 24-hours-a-day in 10 languages and 11 editions. Since 2011, all periodicals under CIPG have published and reposted their content on mobile terminals serving readers using mobile phones and tablets, gradually forming comprehensive media platforms involving major international social media channels.
In 2016, CIPG launched periodicals China Report ASEAN (English), Silk Road Review (Russian) and China-India Dialogue (Hindi) to serve the implementation of the Belt and Road Initiative. Targeting readers in Southeast Asian countries, China Report ASEAN focuses on China-ASEAN exchange and cooperation in various fields and aims to forge a new platform for two-way exchange between China and ASEAN countries.
CIPG has also actively organized exchange activities in China and around the world. The ASEAN-China Media Cooperation Forum, the Chinese Enterprise Global Image Summit and other events have highlighted the role of media in building a closer China-ASEAN community and provided valuable reference for the globalization of Chinese companies.
The 70th anniversary is a moment for reflection, but as a new starting point demands foresight. CIPG has embarked on a new journey of commitment to the presentation of an accurate, multidimensional and panoramic view of China.