CIPG president: Translation key to development in Asia-Pacific, June 18, 2016

Zhou Mingwei, president of China International Publishing Group (CIPG), sits in an interview in Beijing on Tuesday. [Photo by Chen Boyuan/]


By He Shan and Zhang Lulu

The development of the translation industry is key to smooth communication in the diverse Asia-Pacific region, which will in turn facilitate global growth, said Zhou Mingwei, president of China International Publishing Group (CIPG), in an interview with in Beijing on Tuesday.

Zhou, who is also president of the Translators Association of China, one of the organizers of the Eighth Asia-Pacific Translation and Interpretation Forum, argued that the forum is not only an industry-oriented meeting, but one that aspires to facilitate smooth and effective communication in the multi-cultural Asia-Pacific region.

Translation key to communication in Asia-Pacific

The forum, which used to focus solely on Asia, began including Oceania last year. Zhou explained that the Asia-Pacific region has seen many regional organizations, and now an organization of translators and interpreters based in the region is necessary to enhance intra-regional communication and build soft power for further cooperation. As the world still grapples with a number of problems and challenges, the Asia-Pacific region’s economy is the world’s most dynamic and most important driving force, Zhou said. Despite being rooted in and sharing certain aspects of Eastern culture, countries in the region are numerous and have different languages and cultures, and communication within the region is still far from perfect. How the region can further develop itself and drive the world economy is largely dependent on communication, which in turn relies on a common language. “Thus the forum is not only an industry-specific one, but one that has more strategic significance.” Zhou said.

This year’s forum, which is the largest in the Asia-Pacific region, has so far attracted more than 400 translators and industry insiders from 32 countries and regions, according to the organizers.

Speaking a common tongue

As China has increasingly closer ties with the international community, the country also aims at building a common language system that integrates China and the world, said Zhou.

China is the largest trading partner with over 120 countries and thus the country must strengthen cultural understanding, communication and appreciation, which often underlie trade and economy. Specifically, as China carries out the “Belt and Road” initiative, it is vital to enhance the country’s ties with its neighbors, most of which are included in the initiative. A key to communication is building a linguistic environment where countries can interact freely.

But it is not only for the benefit of China, but the region as a whole, Zhou continued. Due to historical reasons, countries in the region were once isolated from each other, thus closer ties within the region will benefit their own development.

New technology: Opportunities outweigh challenges

With the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) and big data, many are concerned whether human work will be replaced by new technology. One recent example was the competition between Google’s AlphaGo and South Korean Go champion Lee Sedol in which the computer program beat the Go master. The translation industry, where human intelligence dominates, also wonders whether translators and interpreters will one day find themselves unable to compete with their robotic or computerized counterparts.

Zhou believes that AI may go far beyond human intelligence. “We should not underestimate AI, but I believe it will not replace mankind; instead it will assist translators and interpreters.”

New technologies provide the translation industry with a huge potential for development, he said. Whereas translations used to be individual effort and often carried out “behind closed doors,” it has now become a process where communication is indispensable. With the presence of the internet, social media and new technologies such as AI, the work of translation can be perfected, Zhou said.

To what extent AI can translate depends on how much it understands the culture behind a language and the different methods of expressions shaped by history, religion and social-economic factors, Zhou continued.

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