CULTURE Plowing a very, very difficult furrow


Plowing a very, very difficult furrow

China Daily

19:26, September 11, 2022

David Ferguson works at the Foreign Languages Press in Beijing. Photo provided to China Daily

That's what an English editor who has polished translations of many of Xi Jinping books and government white papers, feels about countering the west's hostile presentation of China.

David Ferguson, an English editor at the Foreign Languages Press, said he felt very honored when he read President Xi Jinping's reply to a letter he and his four colleagues had written.

In the letter, the five foreign experts wrote how they felt living in and working in China. They also wrote that they felt a great sense of responsibility while working on the translation of Xi Jinping: The Governance of China. Ferguson edited the English translation of Volume I, II, III and IV of Xi Jinping: The Governance of China.

President Xi wrote in his reply on Aug 25 that correct translation is important for promoting exchanges between civilizations and helping more foreign readers understand China.

"As you delve deeper into Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, you realize that it is, in fact, a single structure where all the pieces fit together like a jigsaw, covering all of the areas of importance to the people," he said.

Ferguson also edited the English translation of other works by Xi, including The Belt and Road Initiative and Zhejiang, China: A New Vision for Development, as well as a number of white papers brought out by the Chinese government.

The greatest challenge he faced while translating these important works lay in the difference between Chinese and Western cultures, as well as between China's political discourse and that of the West.

"China's system is about cooperation, coordination and consultation, whereas the Western system is about competition, conflict and confrontation," Ferguson said, adding that there are a lot of things an English editor can do to make the text, originally written in Chinese and for a Chinese audience, make sense to a native English speaker.

Besides editing, Ferguson has written several books about different provinces and cities in China, sharing with international readers things he saw and people he met in the different regions.

The most recent province he has written about is Gansu in Northwest China, which he visited in December last year. He was impressed by poverty-alleviation efforts undertaken there. One thing that struck him was the infrastructure at Longnan in Southeastern Gansu. There are highways and fast rail links across the mountainous city, which was once inaccessible, and "about a third of the network is tunnels and bridges", he said.

"That's a massive investment in terms of money and effort," said the 66-year-old from Edinburgh in Scotland.

Ferguson, who had worked as a business management consultant for a long time and used to run a media company back in his hometown, has lived in about 30 countries. China, however, wasn't on his travel list until 2004, when he visited the country for the first time to meet his future in-laws. In 2006, he decided to settle down in China with his wife, who is from Jilin province.

After making China his home, he went back to being a management consultant and also worked as a soccer agent, but things didn't work out.

In April 2008, he accepted an offer to work as a journalist and editor for A month before that he had seen how the Western media reported the riots in Lhasa in the Tibet autonomous region. He said the Western reports, full of photographs, were passing off "things that were happening in Nepal or India as 'Chinese atrocities in Tibet'".

"That's why I decided to take the job. Because, I said to myself, somebody should do a more honest and accurate job of presenting China to the world."

After working for the website for more than a year, he was employed by the Foreign Languages Press at the end of 2009.

For someone looking for new challenges, China was nothing more than a land of opportunity when Ferguson first arrived. It was also a time when people in the West were becoming conscious that China was on the move.

He had imagined China to be "a huge, poor country with a couple of outposts of modernity in Beijing and Shanghai, and all rice paddy fields and peasants in grey suits in the rest," which was "a pretty commonly held view" in the West at that time. His views were formed from the little coverage China received in the Western media back then.

But he found the country to be very different from what he had imagined. By now, he has visited a number of Chinese provinces and cities.

Among the places he has visited, the coastal cities of Weihai, Yantai and Qingdao in Shandong province stand out because they remind him of his hometown, though he finds the climate better here.

Another of his favorite cities is Suzhou in Jiangsu province, which, he said, "is not a blend, but a juxtaposition of the very old and the very modern".

In the past decade, China has featured more often in the Western media. But in Ferguson's opinion, many people in the West still have an outdated perception of the country. "The only perception they have of China is what they have been given by politicians and the media, and it's essentially a relentlessly negative portrayal," he said.

The "deliberately created" agenda has injected hostility in the minds of many in the West, who have never been to, and probably will never come to, China, leading to an even worse erosion of feelings toward the country, Ferguson said.

He suggested that China engage more with the Western audience, especially the young, because it's not enough to counter hostility by simply providing accurate facts and information.

The West's ongoing hostile presentation of China has also made Ferguson's work like "plowing a very, very difficult furrow".

"But it's all the more reason why people like me who know and understand China are now trying to present China in a positive light," he said.

In 2021, Ferguson was given the Friendship Award and the Special Book Award of China by the Chinese government for his contribution to cultural exchanges.

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