BIBF 2024 to build global cultural bridges with Chinese books
Published: Feb 04, 2024 08:38 PM
A visitor takes a look at the books at the 29th Beijing International Book Fair on June 16, 2023. Photos: VCG

A visitor takes a look at the books at the 29th Beijing International Book Fair on June 16, 2023. Photos: VCG

A reception was recently held in Beijing with an aim to promote the 30th Beijing International Book Fair (BIBF) scheduled to be held from June 19 to 23, 2024. Known as the most international book gala in Asia, this event has continuously enhanced cultural exchanges between China and the world through "books" since it was first launched in 1986.

Can "books" still help foster global dialogue at the age of digital advancement and Artificial Intelligence? The 2024 BIBF will try to give an answer by not only showing the spirit of exchanges between Chinese and foreign publishers, but also the international market' s growing wonders of Chinese stories covering both historical themes like traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and also trending ones like Chinese sci-fi. 

Growing overseas interest

Although the exact number of overseas exhibitors has yet to be revealed, there will be around "20 overseas publishers" from "mainly the member countries of the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)," who will parcipate in the 2024 book fair for the first time, Lei Jianhua, director of the international business department of China National Publications Import and Export (Group) Corporation (CNPIEC), co-organizer of the BIBF ever since it was established, told the Global Times. 

Prior to the upcoming fair, the 2023 BIBF showed remarkable diversity. It embraced a total of 2,500 publishers, among whom around 900 came from countries such as Germany, the UK, Greece, and Italy. They were often seen as the powerhouses in the global publishing industries. 

Aside from prestigious "regular guests" like the Oxford University Press, China's biggest international book fair has made great progress to attract exhibitors from the US and Japan over years of development. US exhibitors, in particular, contributed 15 percent to the number of total overseas participants in 2023.

Publishing industry expert Jin Hong told the Global Times that he foresees the China-US exchanges in the book industry will continue in 2024 and such exchanges can enhance in sectors of "education and academics as well as humanities and social sciences." 

Engaging international visitors is not the only goal of the BIBF as it is more dedicated to introducing the diversity and depth of Chinese culture to readers overseas.

An expert surnamed Lei told the Global Times that at the BIBF books with the themes of the TCM, Chinese sci-fi, and classic novels written by writers like Yu Hua were blockbusters intriguing IP buyers from France, the US, Japan and South Korea. 

Taking the subject of the TCM as an example, it was particularly favored by the French market. To better spread this culture to French readers, Chinese publisher the People's Medical Publishing House Co, Ltd (PMPH) has consecutively offered an array of books related to this theme like Chinese acupuncture and Chinese medical recipes ever since 2017. Both Chinese and the French translations can be seen on each page of such publications. 

"Books are not only papers to be read about, but also a window open for intercultural exchanges," said Lei. She also added that the newly added "BRI exhibitors" mark a new promotional strategy of the BRI in 2024. 

Powerful inter-translation

At the BIBF promotional event on Saturday, a video titled My Impression of Beijing was released as a "teaser" to the June fair. The video features speeches by ambassadors and other diplomats from countries like Mongolia, Cyprus and Greece to Beijing. Aside from sending warm wishes to the 2024 BIBF, they also shared their unique experiences in Beijing, a representative city of China's history and culture. 

Evgenios Kalpyris, Ambassador of Greece to China said in the video that he is fond of the Beijing dialect due to its "unique sense of humor." The Greek Ambassador is not the only foreigner who sees the charm of the Chinese language. 

Timofey Bakhvalov is a Russian expert at the Foreign Languages Press (FLP) who has toiled in the field of China-Russia inter-translation for many years. He is one of the foreign experts at the FLP who have jointly translated the book series Xi Jinping: The Governance of China into Russian. 

Bakhvalov told the Global Times that those translated works can help Russian readers understand the "logic behind Chinese culture," which is a significant factor that can boost friendship and trust between the two countries. 

Thanks to international platforms like the BIBF, the mutual translation programs have been launched between many countries including Russia and China in recent years.

In 2022, China and Mongolia signed a memorandum to jointly translate and publish 50 classic books from both countries in the coming five years. At the 2023 BIBF, a book collection that features China-Pakistan mutually translated publications like the Tales of Hulan River also debuted at the event. 

Jin told the Global Times that such mutually translated cultural classic reveals an "emerging collaborative pattern" between the Chinese and international markets. It is obvious to see that the overseas markets are becoming more "convinced by the Chinese book industry."

Having continually attended the BIBF for 15 years, Philippe Werck, founder of Belgian children's book publisher Clavis, told the Global Times at the 2023 BIBF that he has seen the Chinese publishing industry maturing year after year with its "outreaching mentality" and "inner growth."

"Decades ago, Chinese buyers would buy everything we sold and see 'European' as a sign of the best quality. But now, Chinese buyers are more selective and have a collaborative mindset," the exhibitor told the Global Times.