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Literary Translation and Soft Power: African Literature in Chinese Translation
Journal Article (submitted): In the context of competing and conflicting discourses about the intensification of relations between China and Africa in the 21st century, this article explores the potential for gaining insight into China-Africa relations through a study of literary translation activities. The article presents the results of a survey of African literature translated into Chinese between 2000 and 2015 and argues that the majority of the translations can be linked with commercial motivations. However, the article also identifies a number of exceptions to this pattern and investigates these on a case by case basis, taking into account the political connections of the authors and drawing on interviews with the Chinese publishing houses. The article argues that literary translation can be connected with the cultivation of good political relations at the highest levels, as well as with the promotion of Sino-African friendship and of a positive view of China. The article asks whether such translation projects can be, or should be, classified as tools of ‘soft power’ (Nye 2004), and reflects more generally on the usefulness of the soft power concept for translation studies.
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