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Translations of Chinese books sell like hot cakes in Arab world

By Cheng Yingqun | China Daily | Updated: 2017-06-01 08:04

If a Chinese book becomes a bestseller in the domestic market, it's likely that its Arabic version will be published in Arab countries in just eight months.

That's because people from Arabian countries have become increasingly interested in China after the Belt and Road Initiative was proposed by President Xi Jinping in 2013, said Ahmed Al-Saeed, co-founder and chairman of Wisdom House Cultural Investment, a book publishing firm.

Established in 2011, Wisdom House focuses on Chinese-to-Arabic translated works. It is based in Yinchuan, the capital of Ningxia Hui autonomous region in Northwest China.

Citizens of Arab countries are keen to understand China better by reading books about the country, said Al-Saeed, an Egyptian national.

"Books about the Belt and Road Initiative sell well, because many people in Arab countries want to understand more about the initiative and what it could bring to them. They want to learn more about China's policies, so as to better cooperate with China.

"So, we've invited 51 Sinologists and scholars to translate books. They understand Chinese culture very well and could use their native language to make the translations better accepted by readers in Arab countries."

Chinese books about China's experiences in successful economic development, traditional cultures and Chinese companies are most popular in Arab countries.

"Chinese entrepreneurs such as Jack Ma (founder of Alibaba Group) and Ren Zhengfei (founder of Huawei) are also well-known in Arab countries, and people are very interested in how they developed and run their companies," he said.

Zhang Shirong, co-founder of Wisdom House, said when the firm was set up, its office was no bigger than 40 square meters. Business was hard to come by. But ever since the Belt and Road Initiative was launched in 2013, business has rushed toward them.

"Previously, our business was very small. In 2013, our revenue was only about 3 million yuan ($441,000)," he said. "But in 2014, it soared to 10 million yuan. Later, the annual growth has been about 150 percent."

Wisdom House has published, translated and exported more than 700 Chinese books to Arab countries since its establishment. Its translated books account for more than 90 percent of the Chinese-Arabic translation market, Zhang said.

"Currently, there is about one book being brought to Arab countries every week. Our translation and publishing plans have been fully scheduled till 2021."

Zhang said the translation and publishing business now accounts for only 50 percent of the company's whole business. Readers in Arab countries are also interested in e-books, Chinese movies and animation works. Wisdom House is working on translating some Chinese movies into Arabic.

Such demand for all things Chinese is coming also from economies related to the Belt and Road Initiative. Wisdom House has expanded its translation business to include more languages, such as Farsi, Thai, Turkish and Kazakh.

"Our next step is to set up subsidiaries in markets including Iran, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia, to better deal with the demand for translated books about China," Zhang said.

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