1. Hello, Mr. Yu. By the end of 2008, there were already over 80 Chinese publishers offering Chinese learning publications and other products targeted at the overseas market. In recent years, FLTRP has been making tremendous efforts in exploring the overseas market, with 70 to 80 relevant titles published every year. My question is, how do you plan and develop publications that meet the needs of the overseas readers? And how do you enter the mainstream distribution channel of the targeted foreign market? Can you give some specific examples?
As early as the beginning of this century, FLTRP made it clear that “going global” and developing the overseas market would be one of our important strategies for the future. In the past 30 years, FLTRP has mainly focused on helping Chinese learn foreign languages, which are like a window to the outside world, so that they could understand other cultures better. This is in line with our mission of “recording human civilization and bridging different cultures.” “Going global” is the other side of the same coin of copyright trade. We have many years of experience in introducing other cultures into China and are now exploiting that experience in “going global”.
There are two key points for going global: one is content, and the other is distribution channel. In terms of content, we believe we should aim at helping foreigners learn Chinese language and culture. Chinese has always been regarded as a difficult language to learn and Chinese culture hard to appreciate. One important reason for this is we haven’t done enough in choosing the appropriate contents and finding the right ways to present them. What shall we present, how to suit the learners’ needs and learning/reading habits, are the issues that must be addressed first. In recent years, we have been following the guidelines of the Publicity Department of CPC Central Committee, the GAPP, MOE, and in particular, Hanban. We published a variety of coursebooks and readers for learning Chinese language and culture, which have been well received by learners of Chinese in other countries, including Everyday Chinese, Essential Chinese Dictionary, Me and China, Discover China, 5000 Years of Chinese Characters, Insights into Chinese Culture, etc. All these products share a few common features, i.e. written in a reader-friendly style, with fun elements, designed with lots of photos and images, and easy to use.
The second key point is distribution channel. For this issue, we are taking the strategy of “going out to the sea by borrowing a ship”. We collaborate with international publishers in contracting authors, co-planning, co-writing, and co-publishing. Most importantly we get a leverage of their distribution channels to deliver our products to the overseas mainstream sales channels. The results are very good. Cooperation of this kind is expanding. Our partners are becoming more and more confident on publications of Chinese language and culture. We have entered a positive cycle.
2. FLTRP established its Chinese publishing department in 2003, marking the beginning of your entry into the Chinese publishing market. In 2005 FLTRP jointly announced with Macmillan Education and Pearson Education that you would join hands in implementing the “CLT Publishing Programme” in order to promote Chinese language and culture to the rest of the world. Could you please update us on the progress of FLTRP’s “CLT Publishing Programme”?
During Frankfurt Book Fair 2005, our press and the two international educational publishing groups drew extensive attention by jointly announcing our determination to promote the “CLT Publishing Programme”. The Frankfurt Book Fair newsletter reported this event as headline news with the title “China on the World Stage”. The objective of the programme is to publish 1,500 titles in 15 series in 10 years, with an annual investment of 10 million yuan by FLTRP, which meant a total investment of 100 million yuan. Through co-publishing with international partners, these titles will enter the mainstream sales channels of the overseas market. The programme includes both traditional publishing and digital publishing components. Publishing is at the core of this comprehensive multi-dimensional programme, with training and online learning as supporting lines. The range of publishing covers CLT reference books, CLT coursebooks in various foreign languages, CLT coursebooks for foreign students in China, multimedia courses, curriculum standards and test-related titles, titles on Chinese culture, etc. Over the past four years, we have conducted fruitful cooperation with our international partners. In particular, we have published a series of products with Macmillan Education, including the Discover China series, multiple language editions of Learners’ Dictionary of Chinese Language, FLTRP Graded Readers: Reading China, etc. All these products will make their first appearance at the Frankfurt Book Fair.
3. In order for Chinese publications to go global, human resources, especially talents with foreign language skills, are a key. Could you share with us what is FLTRP’s strategy on recruiting and training talents for the purpose of going global?
Publishing is a knowledge-intensive business. Outstanding human resources are the source of our core competence. Retaining and training talents has always been a top priority for FLTRP. The strategy we adopt in this respect can be called “elitism”. This means a whole process in which recruitment is strictly administered, training is systematically provided, and performance reviews are scientifically conducted. Goal-orientation is stressed. “Core talents training schemes” are deployed to induce positive development of human resources. At the same time a friendly corporate culture is created to encourage employees’ professional development. All this makes sure that outstanding talents will be identified and have opportunities to apply their abilities. In terms of foreign language expertise, our press enjoys a special advantage. Through 30 years’ accumulation and development, FLTRP has built up excellent teams of editors, marketing personnel, copyright professionals, and managers. We are actively preparing for going global.
4. China is the guest of honour for this year’s Frankfurt Book Fair. As the largest publisher specialized in foreign language publishing in China, what are your major products to be launched at Frankfurt?
Because China is the country of honour for Frankfurt Book Fair for the first time, the government, publishers, and the media are all paying huge attention to this event. Each and every publishing house wants to show its own publishing philosophy and key products on this platform, with the purpose of winning more opportunities of international cooperation.
This year FLTRP will hold 4 events, which are the book launch of Breaking Through, written by Mr. Li Lanqing, former Vice Premier of China, co-published by FLTRP and OUP; the book launch of Ten Years in Germany (German Edition), by Mr. Ji Xianlin, with the event co-organized by FLTRP, the Chinese Culture Centre in Berlin, and Geottingen University; You and Me, a dialog between Chinese and German scholars; and the launch of Discover China, a series of CLT coursebooks jointly published by FLTRP and Macmillan Education.
We do publish a lot of language textbooks, but our focus is more on cultural communication. Our German partners are very keen on the publication of Ten Years in Germany. They will hold 3 events for the book. The primary objective for holding these events is to provide an opportunity for the foreign friends to understand the core values of Chinese culture and its contribution to the world. Apart from these events and activities, we are going to hold numerous business meetings. The number of deals to be achieved this year is expected to exceed that of last year. Furthermore, we have an information centre in Germany, and we will use this opportunity to hold a seminar with our authors and listen to their advices.
5. “Going global” for Chinese publishing is still at an early stage, mainly taking the form of copyright export. Chinese publishers are not able to get deeply involved with the marketing and follow-up the products when they have landed in the target markets. What do you deem as the largest obstacle or bottleneck for our “going global” efforts.
There have been tremendous changes compared with 20 years ago. China has a much more open market. Many international publishers have set up rep offices to do business directly with Chinese publishers. According to my knowledge, more than 40 foreign publishers have set up representative offices in China. All of the major international educational publishers have rep offices already. It is fair to say that copyright import has become much easier than before. At the same time, it means we are facing more intensive competition. We need to pay constant attention to optimize the planning of our product line, devising win-win cooperative models, and following internationally-accepted practices. Only by win-win relationship can we establish long-term collaboration with our partners. We particularly need to do market segmentation analysis, so as to pinpoint the appropriate market niche for certain products. That is the way to meet learners’ demand as well as maximizing profits for the products.
6. FLTRP recently signed with Disney English a strategic partnership agreement at the BIBF in order to develop the Disney English ELT products for the Chinese market. Could you talk about the market development work you’ve done for bilingual readers?
FLTRP officially started cooperation with the world-famous Disney to launch the Disney English products for Chinese kids. Before this point, FLTRP and Disney had conducted complementary studies and explorations in our own respective special areas. After in-depth discussion on both parties’ strategies in the following years, both sides decided to start comprehensive and long-term strategic collaboration, so that we can catch the business opportunities brought by the booming market for kids to learn English and the strengths of combining the Disney brand with quality ELT contents. We will both contribute into this partnership our own advantageous resources and expertise in terms of product planning, technical development, marketing and distribution.
The cooperation between FLTRP and Disney is definitely an alliance between industry leaders. The deal also indicates FLTRP’s will to work with international publishers in the field of children’s books.
7. Today, our main topic is about going global. However, we all know that FLTRP is always strong on copyright import. For instance New Concept English has set an amazing selling record of nearly 100 million copies. Please share with us the general situation of copyright import regarding FLTRP’s collaboration with Oxford University Press, Pearson Education, Macmillan Education, Cambridge University Press, etc.
In 1983, FLTRP signed the license agreements with Oxford University Press on Oxford Elementary Learner’s Dictionary of English and Practical English Usage. Those were FLTRP’s first license agreements ever. They are also the hallmark of our respect for copyright – please keep in mind that 1983 was a long time before China joined any international copyright convention. From then on, FLTRP has gradually developed comprehensive cooperation with major oversea publishers.
The best-known and most successful example of collaboration between FLTRP and OUP is the Bookworm series, which has now been developed into a systematic series of readers composed of 102 titles in 7 levels, covering a wide age range of readership from primary school pupils to adult English learners. It has become a classic in the eyes of English learners in China. Apart from Bookworm, dictionaries are also an important part of our collaboration. FLTRP has published over 10 OUP dictionaries, including not only learner’s dictionaries for different levels but also dictionaries on specific subjects. Apart from ELT, cultural communication is also another mutually interested area for FLTRP and OUP. The Very Short Introduction series is a 50-book collection of bilingual non-fiction readers covering history, philosophy, religion, politics, natural science, art, culture and etc. Since this collection was released to the market, it has been well recognized by readers and had extraordinary sales performance, especially among university students and teachers.
Talking about our collaboration with Pearson Education, New Concept English is a name I must not fail to mention. Ever since its publication by FLTRP in 1997, it has become a miracle in publishing industry. New Concept English also has its fans among different generations of English learners. In 2008, we invited Ms. Julia Alexander, the widow of the author, to present our readers with Junior New Concept English based on the original author’s curriculum and pedagogy. JNCE inherits the essence of teaching and studying methodology in the original book. The series has already been warmly received by young learners of English. Another important product published in collaboration with Pearson Education is Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English (Bilingual Edition). This dictionary is considered one of the best dictionaries for learners. It has won the recognition of learners of English in China since the publication of its first edition.
Cambridge University Press is also one of the closest partners of FLTRP. With our joint efforts, we have established the Cambridge ELT System, including Playway to English, Kid’s Box, Interchange 3, and the upcoming Connect. The whole system is a full set of English training textbooks covering the needs of English learners from 5-year-old children to adults, with an emphasis on the training of listening and speaking skills, nurturing good English learning habits and conducting English training according to a scientific procedure. It’s one of the most important curriculum systems developed by FLTRP for training schools. In addition, Cambridge IELTS series, and Insight into IELTS series are also key products by FLTRP and CUP, which are regarded as the must-read among the vast number of IELTS test-takers in China.
Macmillan Education and FLTRP have developed successful collaboration on school textbooks. The New Standard English series jointly developed by us, together with the supplementary materials, the NSE series has formed a huge NSE ELT system, which enjoys significant influence in the school textbooks market. In order to continuously strengthen the system, we’re now developing a New Standard College English series, hoping that the NSE series will accompany our English learners \through the 16 years from primary school till graduation from college.
In the future, we’ll continue to work vigorously with outstanding publishing houses from all over the world to bring one surprise after another to the learners and readers in China.
FLTRP was founded in 1979 and it happens to be its 30th anniversary this year. From copyright import to “going global”, FLTRP has created a miracle in the Chinese publishing history. Could you describe to us FLTRP’s strategy of “going global”? Do you have some specific long term plans?
The experience and resources accumulated from copyright import in the past is a tremendous help to our “going global” strategy. “Going global” and copyright import are two related and interactive policies. Let’s look at our experience: when we implement “going global” strategy, first of all, we need to think about how foreigners enter the Chinese market. Comprehensive market survey, product positioning, choice of right partners, mutual communication and understanding, joint marketing efforts are internationally-accepted standard practices. These experiences and operation methods are what we can learn from when going global. Secondly, we need resources. Through copyright import, we’ve already established long term collaboration with the most important educational publishers, especially those specializing in language education. We have become good friends with mutual trust. Every year during the BIBF, FLTRP holds a dinner reception for friends to get together. We don’t necessarily have to talk about business during the reception. People can just come and catch up with old friends. Usually no matter how busy people are, no one wants to miss the occasion. So the collaboration with FLTRP on our “going global” policy comes naturally.
Copyright import and “going global” are not in conflict. We’ll place equal emphasis on the two tasks and pursue parallel development. In the past, the major work for FLTRP’s International Department is copyright import, which accounts for 25%-30% of of our products. But in the recent 3 years, the focus of their work has been shifted and half of their attention is devoted to “going global”, such as licensing of copyright to overseas, co-publishing for overseas market, export of our products, etc. Now, we have around 80 to 100 licensing deals to overseas every year. Though the volume of export hasn’t expanded to a large scale, it already shows a rising tendency. In the upcoming two years, with the publication of a number of new projects, the volume of export is expected to multiply.