Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

Time to ascribe Silk Road plans a real meaning

By Fu Jing (China Daily) Updated: 2015-02-17 08:20

Time to ascribe Silk Road plans a real meaning

More than 500 delegates and entrepreneurs from countries along the Silk Road Economic Belt attended the China-EU Rail Logistics Forum Multi-communication, in Zhengzhou, capital of Central China's Henan province, Friday. [Photo by Xiang Mingchao/provided to]

How the world sees or understands China depends partly on the quality, rather accuracy, of the translation of complicated Chinese terms and sentences into foreign languages. The latest examples of such terms are President Xi Jinping's initiatives of the Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st Century Maritime Silk Road to connect Asia and Europe and beyond. The president's two initiatives have come to be known as the "The Belt and Road Initiatives" (literally yi dai yi lu in Chinese).

Xi proposed the setting up of the Silk Road Economic Belt shortly after the G20 summit in St Petersburg, Russia, in 2013, offering the world a way out of the mess caused by the global financial crisis and showing that China is ready to shoulder greater international responsibilities. And Xi's proposal to develop a 21st Century Maritime Silk Road reflects the Chinese leadership's pro-active and strategic thinking to resolve global economic issues.

But it will be almost impossible to express such subtle and delicate thoughts in a language other than Chinese. Even former Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd says China would meet "communications challenge" while explaining its strategic proposals to the world. Rudd, however, says China's concept is very clear; it wants to expand connectivity, which is an extension of ASEAN's idea.

Supporting the setting up of a modern "Silk Road fund" to facilitate investment in infrastructure construction, Rudd says the challenge China faces is not about the content of the proposal but how to properly communicate it. If you translate yi dai yi lu into "normal" English, it won't make much economic sense. Only when you use "belt" in English in the economic sense will people realize that you are talking about connectivity (and not about keeping your pants on). Perhaps the initiatives should be called the "pan-Asian connectivity agenda", says Rudd.

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