The retranslation of Chinese political texts: Ideology, norms, and evolution

Feng Pan and Tao Li
Huazhong University of Science and Technology | Shanghai Ocean University

Abstract

The past three decades have witnessed an increase in research on retranslation. Drawing on Critical Discourse Analysis, this study examines the retranslation of political texts – specifically Work Reports by the Communist Party of China – as a special genre in its own right. By concentrating on the retranslation of a recurring set of Chinese political concepts, culture-specific items, and preferred usages into English from the early 1990s to the late 2010s, this study shows how and why the retranslations have been carried out, as motivated by the evolving ideologies of the original author – the Communist Party of China. The retranslations are shown to be influenced by the broader social, economic, and political dynamics within China, rather than by prevailing factors within the receiving culture or variables associated with the individual translators, as is commonly suggested in the literature. Our findings add to the existing body of research into retranslation by extending the genres and contexts of retranslation research.

Keywords
Publication history
Table of contents

Since 1978, China has launched a series of significant political and economic reforms with the aspiration of better integrating into the global community. Along with increasing international exchanges, China has realized the urgency of introducing itself to the global community and conveying its own voice in order to discursively build a positive self-image internationally. The translation of Chinese political texts has been adopted as an important means to accomplish this goal. Since the early 1990s, an array of prominent political texts has been selected for translation into English and other languages. Aside from their similar textual structures and some overlapping content, a multiplicity of political concepts and culture- and language-specific items are repeated across these texts. Between the early 1990s and the late 2010s, a number of these recurrent items have been retranslated since their initial translations into English. Retranslation is understood here as the “subsequent translations of a text, or part of a text, carried out after the initial translation which had introduced this text to the same target language” (Susam-Sarajeva 2006, 135; emphasis added). Acknowledging that retranslation “occurs at all textual levels” (Brownlie 2006, 152; see also Baker and Jones 2020), the ‘part of a text’ considered in our study are those recurrent items across texts that have political or cultural connotations. The reasons behind these retranslations are of interest since political texts, which carry ideological and political connotations, are not typically included among genres prone to being retranslated (Tahir Gürçağlar 2009, 233). Drawing on Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA), this study aims to investigate how and why the same items in Chinese political texts were retranslated between the early 1990s and late 2010s.

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References

Work reports

Jiang, Zemin
1992a加快改革开放和现代化建设步伐,夺取有中国特色社会主义事业的更大胜利 [Accelerate Reform, Opening up and Modernization and Achieve Greater Success in Building Socialism with Chinese Characteristics]. Accessed July 12 2019 http://​ebook​.theorychina​.org​/ebook​/upload​/1c2f8205​-d9a3​-4c78​-aef7​-775b65bc83ee/
1992bAccelerate Reform, Opening up and Modernization and Achieve Greater Success in Building Socialism with Chinese Characteristics. Accessed July 12 2019 http://​www​.bjreview​.com​.cn​/document​/txt​/2011​-03​/29​/content​_363504​_11​.htm
1997a高举邓小平理论伟大旗帜,把建设有中国特色社会主义事业全面推向二十一世纪 [Hold High the Great Banner of Deng Xiaoping Theory for an All-round Advancement of the Cause of Building Socialism With Chinese Characteristics into the 21st Century]. Accessed July 12 2019 http://​ebook​.theorychina​.org​/ebook​/upload​/202c4e6b​-7bba​-4b8d​-a520​-0f6e02df6b2d/
1997bHold High the Great Banner of Deng Xiaoping Theory for an All-round Advancement of the Cause of Building Socialism With Chinese Characteristics into the 21st Century. Accessed July 12 2019 http://​www​.bjreview​.com​.cn​/document​/txt​/2011​-03​/25​/content​_363499​.htm
2002a全面建设小康社会,开创中国特色社会主义事业新局面 [Build a Well-off Society in an All-round Way and Create a New Situation in Building Socialism with Chinese Characteristics]. Accessed July 12 2019 http://​ebook​.theorychina​.org​/ebook​/upload​/f70e3666​-9f70​-4db4​-b5e1​-3b487d1cf91c/
2002bBuild a Well-off Society in an All-round Way and Create a New Situation in Building Socialism with Chinese Characteristics. Accessed July 12 2019 http://​ebook​.theorychina​.org​/ebook​/upload​/9b5f418a​-4ed3​-447e​-837e​-faee6c1a8122/
Hu, Jintao
2007a高举中国特色社会主义伟大旗帜, 为夺取全面建设小康社会新胜利而奋斗 [Hold High the Great Banner of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics and Strive for New Victories in Building a Moderately Prosperous Society in All Respects]. Accessed July 12 2019 http://​ebook​.theorychina​.org​/ebook​/upload​/723bb570​-6aa5​-4b83​-bd9b​-0bae851551ce/
2007bHold High the Great Banner of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics and Strive for New Victories in Building a Moderately Prosperous Society in All Respects. Accessed July 12 2019 http://​ebook​.theorychina​.org​/ebook​/upload​/5a1a33a4​-84d3​-441e​-8516​-0502d2cb3929/
2012a坚定不移沿着中国特色社会主义道路前进,为全面建成小康社会而奋斗 [Firmly March on the Path of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics and Strive to Complete the Building of a Moderately Prosperous Society in All Respects]. Accessed July 12 2019 http://​ebook​.theorychina​.org​/ebook​/upload​/594f6640​-3515​-4df8​-8025​-b8ef9d683d4e/
2012bFirmly March on the Path of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics and Strive to Complete the Building of a Moderately Prosperous Society in All Respects. Accessed July 12 2019 http://​ebook​.theorychina​.org​/ebook​/upload​/ddccb7e6​-3c38​-49de​-ba84​-c408d3f88d10/
Xi, Jinping
2017a决胜全面建成小康社会,夺取新时代中国特色社会主义伟大胜利 [Secure a Decisive Victory in Building a Moderately Prosperous Society in All Respects and Strive for the Great Success of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era]. Accessed July 12 2019 http://​ebook​.theorychina​.org​/ebook​/upload​/2017​-CH​-19​-1/
2017bSecure a Decisive Victory in Building a Moderately Prosperous Society in All Respects and Strive for the Great Success of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era. Accessed July 12 2019 http://​ebook​.theorychina​.org​/ebook​/upload​/2017​-19D​-EN​-1/

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