Dr Kathryn Batchelor, University of Nottingham
The rapid expansion in Chinese involvement in Africa in the 21st century has been accompanied by conflicting discourses about what that interest means, both for Africa and for the West. While Chinese and African leaders have consistently promoted the idea of a partnership based on mutual benefit, many journalists and the majority of Western leaders have sounded cautionary notes of alarm, some even going so far as to label China a ‘rogue donor’. Academic research has sought to interrogate some of the myths that have sprung up around Sino-African co-operation, and has taken the form primarily of case studies of Chinese trade, development and aid in selected African countries, with some more recent studies also focussing on the expansion of China’s ‘soft power’. Within all these discussions, one essential aspect of Sino-African interaction has gone largely unstudied: issues of translation, both in the narrower sense of how Chinese and African people communicate and in the broader, metaphorical sense of how African culture is ‘translated’ for the Chinese, and vice versa, have received little or no critical attention. Yet such translations form a critical part of all co-operation, and ‘translations’ of culture in the broader sense are becoming increasingly prominent in the agendas of the political leaders: cultural exchanges and ‘cultures-in-focus’ events now feature strongly in official programmes of Sino-African co-operation. This project aims to address this gap, seeking to identify the dominant images of Africa that are being ‘translated’ for the Chinese and vice versa, and to explore questions of agency in the translation process (who decides what is to be translated, for whom, and for what reasons).In light of the incredible size, complexity and diversity of both China and Africa, this project can only provide indicative, rather than comprehensive, responses to these questions, and in this respect it may be viewed as a pilot study which will unearth as many new questions as it will provide answers. The project will consist of two interrelated parts. Firstly, it will involve a global survey of literary translation, identifying all African literature translated for China since 2000 AD, and all Chinese literature made available to African audiences over the same period. It will explore the types of themes that dominate, and identify any that are consistently excluded, and will examine the ways in which the reading matter is framed for its new audiences through covers, prefaces, and blurbs. Secondly, the project will study the translation of other types of cultural and media products, such as films, TV programmes, performances, exhibitions and newspapers across several geographically and temporally limited spaces in both China and Africa, once again paying attention to the types of cultural products and themes that are favoured and exploring the ways in which they are ‘translated’, both literary and metaphorically, for the new audiences. Through this combined approach the project thus aims to identify both the principal translation patterns that hold between China and Africa today and the predominant images that each side is forming of the other. Grounded on the premise, developed and repeatedly confirmed through translation studies research, that translation carries an indicative function, or in other words, that it can reveal as much about cultures and intercultural dynamics as it is itself shaped by them, the study thus aims to enhance academic and popular understanding of the Sino-African relationship. The research will be disseminated through a variety of channels including conference papers, journal articles, policy papers, an international conference and a co-edited volume; its intended audiences include political think-tanks, learned societies and non-profit organisations, publishers, booksellers and the general public, as well as academic audiences across a wide range of disciplines.

Planned Impact

China’s rapidly growing interaction with Africa creates a potentially very wide range of beneficiaries from this research. The China-Africa relationship seems likely to be of long-term significance both for the direct participants and in a global social, economic and geo-political context. The impact of this research is therefore likely to be both substantial and sustained, and will be felt across a range of professions as well as appealing to public interest. Some impression of the scope of the project’s impact is given below; please note, however, that the research and networking activities that form part of the project are also expected to give rise to additional impacts, and these will be explored as they arise.1) Policy institutes, learned societies and other non-profit organisations
Our research will be of particular relevance to think-tanks and non-profit organisations in the UK and abroad, notably the China Policy Institute (University of Nottingham), the Africa Asia Centre of the Royal African Society, the Royal Institute for International Affairs, the European Centre for Research in Asia, Africa and Latin America (ECRAAL) and UNESCO. By foregrounding a relatively under-researched topic that nevertheless underlies many more traditional areas of enquiry, such as development, trade, aid and education, we anticipate that our research will bring an important fresh perspective to the learning and expertise represented by these societies and organizations. Through the impact pathways already in place through these societies, we will also be able to make our research available to governments and companies looking for expert input into their strategies and foreign and cultural policies. Insights into the way the China-Africa dialogues are framed and translated could have an important bearing, for example, on the way in which policy-makers – whether in Africa or in its traditional western counterparts such as France and the UK – view the growing presence of Chinese people, cultural exchanges and investments in Africa and how they interact with or take account of these for the future. It should enrich the evidence-base for the critical evaluation of these interactions. Better linguistic understanding, prompted by a more transparent translation environment, could thus potentially assist cultural dialogue, facilitate better commercial and economic decision-making and help in public discourse and policy-making on a very broad front. We recognize that the limited scope of this research proposal is but a very small step on this path; nevertheless, it illustrates how many more opportunities the project may open up.

2) Publishers and Booksellers
The findings of the literary translation survey will be of particular interest to publishers, publishers’ networks and booksellers in China and Africa, particularly those for whom the publication of Africa-related material, or of translated literature more generally, represents an important part of their business. In China, this includes the Hunan Literature and Art Publishing House and the Hunan Educational Press; in Africa, the African Publishers’ Network and the Pan African Booksellers’ Association are key organisations. Our research is expected to have an impact on the strategic planning in which these organisations, or those represented through the networks, are involved by providing a global overview of existing publishing priorities and highlighting notable gaps in publishing markets.

3) General Public
The intrinsic public appeal of studies of China’s involvement in Africa is evidenced by the regularity and prominence of media reports on the topic, and by the rapid growth in books and documentaries targeting non-academic audiences. Our research will help enable a shift away from what Deborah Brautigam (2009) has termed the ‘myths’ surrounding China’s engagement in Africa, offering an accessible and fascinating perspective on the realities of Chinese-African co-operation