What’s the Story behind the Publication of the Second Volume of Xi’s Book on Governance?
An exclusive interview with the translators
The second volume of Xi Jinping: The Governance of China was published by Foreign Languages Press on November 6. The book was published in both Chinese and English.
We interviewed four members of the English translation team of this book – Wang Mingjie, former vice president of CIPG, and finalizer; David Ferguson, foreign expert of the English Department, Foreign Languages Press; Liu Kuijuan, deputy director and senior translator of the FLP English Department; and Li Yang, senior translator of the FLP English Department.
Do you want to know how translators of the book discussed the right English words to express the policies put forward by Xi? What experiences did they go through during the translation? What are the highlights of this book? Let’s see what they have got to say…
What do they think is the significance of the publication of the second volume?
As of today, 6.6 million copies of the first volume of Xi Jinping: The Governance of China in 24 languages had been sold in more than 160 countries and regions.
When asked why the second volume was published at this time, Li Yang gave us an explanation. She said that the first volume was published in 2014, providing the world with an important window on China’s national governance, becoming a bestseller in many countries around the world.
“Three years have passed since 2014. During these three years, President Xi Jinping has continued to explore the governance of China in the new era, putting forward a series of new concepts, strategies and ideas in his speeches. The second volume has incorporated all the new initiatives, such as the Four-pronged Strategy and the Five-point Strategy. It is expected to help the international community better understand the path, concept and model of China’s development,” Li said.
The second volume of Xi Jinping: The Governance of China contains 99 of Xi’s speeches, conversations, instructions and letters, as well as 29 photos of the Chinese leader, from the period between August 2014 and September 2017.
How did they finish the work against such a tight schedule?
“We were able to complete the task because we have a very strong team of finalizers, including both our own finalizers who have worked decades on promoting China, and experts from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Central Compilation and Translation Bureau,” Wang Mingjie told us. “The workload and its difficulty were both tremendous, but all of our group members were confident about it.”
He said that all their members are specialized in translation of major Party and government documents, State Council white papers and works and speeches of Party and government leaders from Chinese into English.
Liu Kuijuan introduced the working process. “We follow very strict and comprehensive translation procedures,” she said. “The standard process involves translation from Chinese into English by translators, proofreading by foreign experts who polish the work to make it more reader-friendly, and finalizing by senior Chinese experts who compare the original text and the translation, to make sure there are no misunderstandings or political errors. This will be followed by reviews and proofreading – three more times each. We invested a lot of time and effort due to the importance of this book. In addition to the above-mentioned procedures, we read and proofread the translation more than a dozen times – maybe even 20.”
Wang Mingjie added that they set up a special finalizers’ group which included 7 people. Every morning they met to discuss and resolve problems including words that are difficult to translate, consistency of editing style, and the translation of some important expressions. This routine was followed until the task was fully complete.
What did they find the most difficult in the work of translation?
All of the translators agreed that it is very challenging to translate Chinese political discourse into readable English.
David Ferguson, who was in charge of the revision work of the book, told us: “One (problem) is that Chinese political discourse is very different on a cultural level – it’s different stylistically – and the other is that it’s very different in terms of content. A Chinese political speech tends to be very abstract and very conceptual… One of the principal difficulties actually working with Xi Jinping’s speeches is that he’s a very down-to-earth man and he likes to use down-to-earth language. He likes to use figures of speech, and that creates a problem for us because figures of speech do not always translate well from one language into another.”
Liu Kuijuan, an experienced translator, gave us an example to explain the difference between the two languages. “A Chinese word can have several meanings because of the concise and profound nature of the Chinese language. For instance, the Chinese words “Pi Shi” can be used both in oral and writing forms, but we need to choose a precise word like “instruction”, “comments” or “directive” to express it in English because the Chinese can have several slightly different connotations. So to convey accurate information we did a lot of work, or to be exact, we worked at the book with great care.”
The translation work made a deep impression on Li Yang, a young member of the team.
“We should have a better understanding of the source text than anyone else,” she said. “I think it is true in that a thorough understanding is a prerequisite for effective translation into the target language.”
Which parts did the foreign expert see as the highlights of the book?
David Ferguson highlighted some topics he thought would be of particular interest.
He said, “First of all, the fight against poverty. China has done more than any other country in terms of the fight against poverty, and this is really an area where the rest of the world can learn from China.”
He put anti-corruption campaign in the second place: “The battle against corruption is a genuine fight against corruption and it’s having an impact on the lives of ordinary people. It’s winning a lot of support for that reason. We need to continue to send that message to a foreign readership – it’s happening, and it’s working.”
“The third aspect is the Belt and Road. This is a joint initiative that is intended to help developing and partly developed countries to progress together. If it works, and I believe it will work,” he emphasized, “that will transform the prospects and the future for a lot of poor and developing countries.”
Interviewer: Li Juhui, Cai Hairuo
Wang Mingjie, former vice president of CIPG, and finalizer
David Ferguson, foreign expert of the English Department, Foreign Languages Press
Liu Kuijuan, deputy director and senior translator of the FLP English Department
Li Yang, senior translator of the FLP English Department
Editor: Cai Hairuo
Photo: Xie Wen
Video: Zhang Liang, Hua Xuan, Hannes Knutsson-Hall