Russia-China: A Cohesion Strategy Against the Difficulties of Translation
List of speakers

Valdai Club’s Russian-Chinese conference in Shanghai is over, but the dialogue between the two countries continues. Many participants in the Shanghai event said that the Club is a great platform to cooperate and communicate directly. While speaking at the closing ceremony of the conference, Chairman of the Board of the Foundation for Development and Support of the Club Andrey Bystritskiy pointed out that the presentations and discussions demonstrated sincerity of the experts and their ability to openly discuss the most important issues of bilateral relations along with those of world development. Which means that the dialogue is ongoing.

On April 26, two sessions of the conference were held. The first one, open to the media, was dedicated to the problem of mutual perception of the elites, media and society of China and Russia. In particular, it was stressed that the modern media space is dominated by the Anglo-Saxons discourse.

“The difficulties of translation”, i.e. the lack of specialists able to translate from Russian to Chinese (and vice versa), have led to the fact that Chinese media cannot receive information about its neighbour from independent sources, being forced to shape the view of its “strategic partner” via the Western media. Which, according to the apt expression of Sheng Shiliang, Senior Research Fellow at Xinhua News Agency’s Global Challenges Studies Center, “do not lie, but make up the truth”.

In his exclusive interview with Sheng Shiliang said that although Russia and China are strategic partners, one has to admit that the two peoples are very different. “The Chinese like even numbers, the Russians like odd ones, the Chinese like red, the Russians prefer blue, the Chinese are deductive, and the Russians are inductive. But since we are neighbors, strategic partners, we need to get to know each other better”. The expert suggested thinking about creating a kind of “cohesion strategy” for non-Western countries, which would help overcome the language barrier.

In a more optimistic way, some participants in the session outlined that the influence of the West on the Russian media is declining. Alexey Volin, Deputy Minister of Telecom and Mass Communications of the Russian Federation, called it the result of the Western awkward policy that rejects the principles and the very foundations of journalism.

Andrei Bystritsky stressed that the dominance of the Western media in Russia and China is no longer in question, and the two nations even launched an offensive in the information space.

However, both “optimists” and “pessimists” ended with the conclusion that while the relations with the West are becoming more complicated, Russia and China must update the information exchange system. So far, it only works at the state level, and not very efficiently. The ordinary people are left to interpret information in their own way in the situation of the “Western hegemony” in the media.

The conference’s sixth session was held under the Chatham House Rule. Speakers discussed the role of traditional culture in the modern world and relations between Russia and China. In modern China, culture is not a residual thing, it plays a certain role in politics and in international relations, being important not only for cultural studies, but also for understanding modern politics and China’s role in world affairs.

Here again we face “the difficulties of translation”, but in a broader sense. As was noted by experts, in order to understand the Chinese politics one has to understand not only Confucius, but also Marx and Mao Zedong. Such richness and diversity of its culture even makes it difficult to understand. At the same time, as some speakers suggested, China knows and understands Russia better than Russia knows and understands China.

However, it is important that cultural differences do not cause hostility. Mediators are needed to help the societies of China and Russia to understand each other. In addition, it is necessary to develop a common political and information language. As some participants in the conference noted, the Valdai Club, which conducts “direct, open talks, not constraining anyone, as it usually happens in politics” (as was said on the sidelines of the event by Fu Yanjie, Secretary General of the Union of Chinese Entrepreneurs in Russia), can make a valuable contribution.

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