Eye on the Party

Updated: 2012-04-18 09:51

By Mei Jia in London (China Daily)

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A slew of books written by senior Chinese government officials were unveiled at the 2012 London International Book Fair. Supposed to shed light on hitherto unknown facets of government servants' lives, these books have been translated into English and other languages.

The fair, one of the world's largest in terms of rights sales and cultural exchanges, is seeing a coming together of some of China's most heavyweight government officials who are here to present their books to a global audience.

Among them, both Li Ruihuan and Zhao Qizheng have already been exposed to readers of English. Li is a former member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC), Central Committee and chairman of the 8th and 9th National Committees of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), while Zhao is chairman of the CPPCC Foreign Affairs Committee, .

Renmin University Press and Pearson Education Group co-published the English version of Li Ruihuan's Philosophy: An Art of Living in 2011.

"The publication brought in profits and prestige to Pearson," Liu Guangyu, editor in charge of the project at Renmin University Press, tells China Daily.

Works by former leaders Jiang Zemin and Li Lanqing - which enjoyed a successful run in Chinese - have proved to be immensely popular in English translation.

Western readers are keen to find out more about the Party and books written by its leaders promise a ring-side view.

"As China' influence rises, the world is increasingly keen on understanding China," Isa Wong, president of Great China, Pearson, and coordinator of projects with Renmin University, says.

"Those books explain how China became what it is now," Wong says, "and how the policies were arrived at and the thoughts that went into their making."

"The CPC is a difficult organization for many outsiders of China to understand," says Kerry Brown, Head of Asia Program, Chatham House.

"The challenges of maintaining stability over such a complex political entity as it undergoes some of the fastest and largest changes a society has ever experienced are often underestimated outside of China."

Brown believes a better understanding of the CPC's role by the outside world would help it play a more meaningful role in supporting China's reform process.

The collaboration between Pearson and Renmin University was fraught with difficulties at the initial stage because of cultural differences, Liu says. It got easier with Li Ruihuan's The Pragmatic Route to Truth.

The book is an excellent work containing rich philosophical thoughts, theoretical guidance and recollections of experience, and comes with 170 speeches and articles.

"It's a well-written book in Chinese, and talks about an official's personal thoughts, which is totally different from what the news depicts," Wong says.

Translating the book was a tricky issue. "We're not trying to change things to fit Western readers' tastes, but we do like to ensure that the book is understood by readers with relatively less knowledge of the background," Wong says.

Zhao Qizheng was in London to launch his new book, entitled East-West Dialogue on Public Diplomacy, on April 17.

"I wrote the books on public diplomacy to explain and promote Chinese thoughts on those subjects," Zhao says. "I'm trying to present a picture of the real situation in China, to reduce misunderstanding and eliminate the foreign reader's sense of unfamiliarity with the country."

More books trying to demystify the Party are on display. These include a pictorial book, China - the New Long March by Weldon Publishing Group, and 90th Anniversary of the Communist Party of China by UK's New Classic Press.