Export of books set for bright new page

By Zhao Huanxin (China Daily)
Updated: 2011-03-09 08:59
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Chinese volumes headed overseas will be equal to imports flooding in

Export of books set for bright new page

Liu Binjie is head of the General Administration of Press and Publication

BEIJING - Once upon a time, Chinese books only trickled into foreign markets but the flow during the coming five years will swell to a stream, thanks to a sharp rise in interest among international bookworms.

Liu Binjie, head of the General Administration of Press and Publication, said he is confident the country will strike a balance between imports and exports of books and publications during the 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-2015) period.

If that happens, it will be in stark contrast to the situation 10 years ago when, one book was exported for every 17 that were imported.

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He said from the sidelines of the annual session of the National People's Congress that the ratio now stands at 3.3 imports for every export.

The rise in interest in Chinese books is due to growing curiosity about China's development mode and its economic achievements, along with the country's efforts to promote itself, Liu said.

In the past, overseas readers favored Chinese cultural classics, volumes about Chinese kungfu, books on traditional medicine and insights into Chinese cuisine. Now, they have shifted their focus to explorations of China's modernization and studies of social issues, he said.

Zhang Fuhai, director of the international exchange and cooperation department within the General Administration of Press and Publication, was also optimistic about the future, although not quite as positive as Liu.

Instead of parity between imports and exports, he said in Outlook Weekly magazine on Tuesday that he expects the ratio of imports to exports to be two-to-one by 2015.

Liu, meanwhile, said he has noticed from the large number of imported books in China that coverage is not always fair and objective. Many foreign books and reports, for example, exaggerate some aspects of China and draw conclusions that do not always match reality.

He noted that some books speak of a threat from China while other authors conclude that wealth is rapidly growing in China and call on the country to assume more responsibility in the world arena.

In fact, he said, China ranks well below 100 in the list of nations sorted by per capita GDP, even though it is the world's second-largest economy.

Liu said he is hoping to see more imported books portraying China as it really is.

He noted that Chinese books being exported will describe the country in an objective way.

Liu also revealed that 17,000 overseas newspapers and magazines, including Playboy, are available to Chinese subscribers and can be picked up in places where foreign people may congregate, such as hotels and airports.

"In fact, Playboy magazine was available in China 10 years ago at certain locations," he said, adding that at least 6 million copies of international newspapers and magazines are sold in China each year.

The official said the time is not yet right for Playboy and other foreign newspapers and magazines to be retailed in newsstands everywhere but, he said, the country's publication market will be more open to foreign competitors.

Chinese periodicals and books are now accessible in more than 3,100 bookstores and national libraries in 193 countries, with newspapers circulating to nearly 90 countries, according to statistics from the General Administration of Press and Publication.