Proposed Ban on Foreign Translation at Government Press Conferences Could Promote Chinese Culture

04th Sep 2020

A Chinese legislator brought a proposal at the yearly (NPC) meetings to put an end to foreign translations at major events and press conferences in order to protect the Chinese language’s dignity. 

The motion that Yang Weiguo (deputy Communist Party secretary and mayor of Zhuzhou) raised at the national legislature would highlight the cultural confidence of China and better efficiency at important press briefings and diplomatic events.

He said, “Language is a medium for civilization, and to a large extent, carries our national culture and spirit. Furthermore, he also added, “By canceling foreign language translation at official press briefings and conferences, this would help effectively promote the spread of Chinese culture across the world, elevating the appeal and influence of the Chinese language, as well as increasing China’s initiative and right to speak in international discourse, further showing our confidence in Chinese culture.”

This Yang proposal comes at a time when the city of Beijing has striven to “tell China’s story well” abroad, including by injecting a lot of money (billions) into its state media apparatus (foreign-language) and having its diplomats unite with international social media platforms in large numbers. 

Under Xi Jinping, the Chinese President, Beijing has worked hard to transform its image internationally while promoting “cultural confidence” in China, with the media (state-run) taking the lead and at times leveraging nationalistic sentiment for the political and geopolitical objectives of the party. 

Proposals that NPC deputies submitted and the congress’s leadership screened become lawfully binding if they are voted by the body’s majority. According to the Chinese State Media, 506 proposals were submitted in 2020, and around 25 percent of those were devoted to public health, given the prevailing COVID 19 pandemic.

Yang said in his proposal that foreign reporters should adhere to local customs by gaining proficiency in Mandarin. He also said that it is only fair that they stop foreign language translation as international press events did not provide translation in the Chinese language.

He added that at reporter meetings and press conferences, every individual has their set of words translated into English and that increases the time needed and lowers efficiency. 

Yang, by mistake, also told the Daily that the briefings of Chinese foreign ministry had canceled foreign language translation a long time back and used just Mandarin. The truth is that the press conferences of the ministry continue to include English-language translations of the comments of the spokesperson, and the briefing’s transcripts are published on the ministry’s official website in English, Mandarin, Spanish, Arabic, and French. 

As Mandarin is one of the six official languages of the United Nations, Yang said that the decision to eliminate foreign translations would be 100 percent legal.