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Warm ties between countries mean no loss in translation

Updated: 2013-03-23 01:52
By Zhao Shengnan ( China Daily)

Warm ties between countries mean no loss in translation

When I was given the assignment of arranging interviews with officials and organizations related to China in Moscow, what struck me first was worry, instead of the excitement I usually feel when going abroad.

I had been warned by some friends how difficult it is for a Chinese reporter, who cannot speak a word of Russian, to seek an interview with high-ranking officials, or even to ask people for directions.

However, my experience in the past week turned out to be totally the opposite.

From a highly efficient response from the Russian Foreign Ministry, and friendly conversations with Russian people, I began to see the ingrained connection between the two countries and the strong desire among their peoples to further strengthen such ties.

Just by sending a few e-mails and making a single phone call to the Russian Foreign Ministry, I secured an interview with Andrey Denisov, the country's first deputy minister of foreign affairs.

During the one-hour interview at the landmark building housing the Foreign Ministry, the veteran diplomat recalled his experience in China - generally speaking in English and occasionally in Chinese - since he first arrived in China in the 1970s.

Denisov witnessed the launch of Chinese reform and opening-up policies, several historic visits by Russian leaders to China, and was one of the first readers of China Daily, which was established in 1981.

He conversed fluently about Chinese classical and contemporary literature, as well as handwritten Chinese poems with traditional Chinese characters.

"I am one of those people here who likes China, not just because it is my profession, but simply because it is part of life," he said.

Away from the Foreign Ministry, I met Zhang Qi, a Chinese taxi driver who has been working in Moscow for more than a decade, who said Chinese tend to have a fixed mindset.

"If there's someone saying Russian people don't like us, then many Chinese people tend to believe that. You should come here in person to have a look. Things may be different from what you heard."

Zhang added that the two nations and their peoples have many similarities, the most obvious being the look-alike buildings in Moscow and Beijing, which he illustrated by pointing to the boxy residential buildings lining Moscow's streets.

Lu Jiangtao, general director of the Sanya Xinxinrong traditional Chinese medicine health center, gave me another example of such a connection.

"Because of historical reasons, traditional Chinese medicine is especially popular among Russians. They believe in it and like it."

Hainan province, where Lu's health center is based, is a traditional destination for holidaymakers from Russia looking for a tropical paradise. In 2011, some 220,000 Russians visited the resort island, topping the list of foreign visitors to Hainan.

But Cui Chen, a manager for Hainan Airlines, said both sides urgently need to maintain and improve the traditional friendship among their young people.

"Currently, most Chinese visitors to Russia are middle- aged or elderly people brought up before the end of the Soviet era, but since their numbers are falling year by year, it is necessary for the young people to know more about each other and about the great changes over the past decades."

Contact the writer at zhaoshengnan@chinadaily.com.cn

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