October 1, 2012

China’s Foreign Language Press celebrates 60 years


Although every country expects to export its culture in a roundabout way through books, there aren’t many publishers left for whom that is their sole purpose.

The Chinese Foreign Languages Press (FLP), founded to spread information about China to the world and to expand China’s influence, celebrates sixty years of publishing in 2012.

Once a government institution, the publisher recently became a private entity, having published 30,000 titles in 43 foreign languages since its creation. All its titles are intended solely for foreign audiences, and include party and government documents, MarxistLeninist writing, the works of Mao Zedong and more.

According to China Book International, the FLP has since 1978, “shifted its focus to basic information about China and the country’s policy of reform and opening to the outside world … to cover background information about China, traditional Chinese culture, economy, law, history, geography, medical and health care, children’s readers and Chinese language learning textbooks for foreign students.”

Given its unique relationship with the Chinese government, markedly unlike the model of publishers in the United States and elsewhere, party officials lavished praise on the company during the sixty-years celebration.

China.org.cn reports that, Li Changchun, a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, wrote to congratulate the publisher.

“The official praised the publishing house’s latest efforts to turn itself from a government-funded institution into a financially independent enterprise amid the current implementation of a market-led reform of these cultural institutions.

He hopes that the FLP will make use of the opportunity presented by the reform to carry out international cooperation and explore the world market with the support of the government’s “go out” strategy for Chinese culture.”

In China Daily, Wang Chen, minister of the State Council Information Office was equally supportive of the publisher of “the most authoritative and complete collection of Chairman Mao Zedong’s books in multiple languages”.

“The Foreign Language Press has played its leading role well … The publisher contributes a lot to build a positive China image, to promote Chinese culture, and to connect hearts in international exchanges.”

The Chinese government are clearly sensitive to the role of books as being representative of a country’s culture.  As reported by MobyLives last week, after a number of territorial disputes, the Chinese are removing Japanese books from shelves.

Ariel Bogle is a former publicist at Melville House.