Move could promote Chinese culture and cut out inefficiency, the deputy says in one of 506 motions submitted to National People’s Congress this year

But the deputy, a city mayor, claims foreign ministry has already stopped foreign language translation, which is not the case

A Chinese legislator has raised a proposal at the

to end foreign translations at press conferences and major events to “safeguard the dignity of the Chinese language”, at a time of surging nationalist rhetoric openly stoked by Beijing.

The motion raised by Yang Weiguo – the mayor and deputy Communist Party secretary of Zhuzhou, a city in central China’s Hunan province – at the national legislature would showcase China’s cultural confidence and improve efficiency at major diplomatic events and press briefings, he told the party mouthpiece

“Language is a medium for civilisation, and to a large extent carries our national culture and spirit,” he was quoted as saying. “By cancelling foreign language translation at official press briefings and conferences, this would help effectively promote the spread of Chinese culture across the world, elevating the appeal and influence of the Chinese language, as well as increasing China’s initiative and right to speak in international discourse, further showing our confidence in Chinese culture.”

The proposal by Yang comes at a time when Beijing has sought to “tell China’s story well” internationally, including by pouring billions into its global foreign-language state media apparatus and having its diplomats join foreign social media platforms in droves.

Under Chinese President Xi Jinping, Beijing has taken aggressive steps to shape its image abroad while urging “cultural confidence” domestically, with state-run media taking the lead in encouraging and at times weaponising nationalistic sentiment for the party’s geopolitical and political aims.

Proposals submitted by NPC deputies and screened by the congress’s leadership become legally binding if they are voted through by a simple majority of the body. A total of 506 proposals were submitted this year, with about a quarter dedicated to public health given the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Chinese state media said.

In his proposal, Yang said that foreign reporters needed to “follow the local customs” by mastering Chinese, and that eliminating foreign language translation would “uphold the principle of reciprocity” since press events abroad did not provide Chinese language translation.

“At press conferences and reporter meetings, every person has their words translated into English, which doubles the time required and decreases efficiency,” he said.

Yang also erroneously told

that Chinese foreign ministry briefings had long eliminated foreign language translation and used only Chinese. In fact, the ministry’s press conferences continue to include English-language translations of the spokesperson’s comments, and transcripts of the briefings are published on the ministry’s website in Chinese, English, French, Spanish, Russian and Arabic.

Yang said a decision to end foreign translations would be “fully legal”, citing the fact that Chinese is one of the United Nations’ six official languages.

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