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Spotlight Falls on China's Publishing Industry

A popular Chinese fable, originated from Buddhist scriptures, tells the tale of five blind men were trying to get a sense of what an elephant was like by touch.

Each had a different perception after touching the animal's skin. A pole, a wall, a rope, a dustpan and a bamboo shoot were given as answers.

To Xin Guangwei, who has been working with China's General Administration of Press and Publication (GAPP) since 1991, the fable serves as an analogy showing the difficulties people from different cultures and speaking different languages encounter when trying to understand each other.

As China opens its publishing industry to the outside world, as requested by the World Trade Organization (WTO), Xin is determined to help international publishers overcome the complexities and avoid making similar errors as the blind men.

His assistance comes in the form of the English language book, Publishing in China -- An Essential Guide, which was published by Thomson Learning, a leading publisher of textbooks among other information businesses.

In his book, Xin is trying to offer an extensive but objective overview of the contemporary publishing industry in China.

He provides comprehensive coverage on book publishing, periodicals, audio/visual, electronic and online publishing.

With his rich publishing experience, he gives an insight into the current situation and trends of the Chinese publishing industry as it steers operations towards World Trade Organization standards.

Among several pertinent issues, he also addresses the integration process of the publishing market across the Chinese mainland, Taiwan and Hong Kong, and the entry of foreign investment.

All told, he is trying to answer the many questions raised by the international publishing community as it seeks Sino ventures.

What rules does the Chinese publishing industry play by, do book sales in China increase every year, who are the successful publishers in China, and what are the basic policies a foreign company should observe while operating in China these are some of the questions Xin tries to answer.

"The book is the most comprehensive work on the publishing industry in China to date," said Liu Binjie, deputy director of GAPP, during the book-launch ceremony held last week in Beijing.

"Overseas publishers may have a lot of bias about publishing industry in China and the book offers a good opportunity to clear the bias," Liu said.

Paul Richardson, director of Oxford International Center for Publishing Studies, said for people who do not read Chinese, a sense of frustration exists, especially when they want to know about the structure, the workings and the laws of the Chinese publishing industry.

But they need not be frustrated any longer as Xin's book answers many of their queries, said Richardson.

He especially cited the chapters in the book that discuss copyright trade after China joined the Berne Convention. Chapters on current copyright trade between Chinese and international publishers, foreign investment in China's publishing industry and market entry and survival strategies for the international publishers are also praised.

The book helps "build a bridge between Chinese publishing industry and the rest of the world," Richardson added.

"The author has helped us, not only in language but in the information given to understand the differences, respect the differences and work beyond the differences," Professor Robert Baensch, director of the center for publishing of New York University, said during the book-launch ceremony.

Baensch also says Xin's book opens the door for two-way communication.

It not only helps international publishing businesses know more about China but also helps the Chinese publishing industry in its "outward bound" development, Baensch said.

(China Daily September 9, 2004)

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