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Guangdong-Berkshire Signing Ceremony–with photos!

A large group of publishers attend under the umbrella of the Chinese Publishing Delegation, a huge installation decorated in glowing yellow and red, with large red paper lanterns and special smaller lanterns for the Mid-Autumn Festival. Kenny Chen was amused that a woman had asked if she could buy the lanterns. This isn’t unusual, apparently; Ellen said that last year someone had bought the fabric they’d used to drape their tables! She didn’t know what was so special, but was happy enough to sell it at the end of the show. (I wonder about cultural arrogance, going to booths from non-Western countries and expecting to be able to buy the furniture-I’ve never had anyone come by and offer to buy our decorations or the rug we used on a table.)

Listening.jpgEllen Wong did a great job of translating for Mr Li and me, and had done a great deal of work to prepare the translations of our remarks. This was the first time I’d had something translated as I spoke and I wasn’t sure quite what to do while Ellen was talking. It wouldn’t make sense to act as if I had any idea what she was saying, after all, though I do now recognize some words in Chinese. I even heard her use the word guanxi, I think, when I said something about the cooperation between our companies. In this photo you can see me looking a bit bemused. Later, a Chinese woman in the crowd smiled at me and used gestures to get me to move closer to the microphone. Liz said she had tried to catch my eye, too, to tell me just that. We never found out who she was, but the help was appreciated.

Contractsigning.jpgI spoke first (text at the link below-in English), and afterward Mr Li thanked the guests and gave a short speech, in which he said very complimentary things about our vision, and about our plans to do more together. Then he and I went to the table, signed copies of the contract in red folders, exchanged them, and then we all stood and toasted the agreement.

DerekKarenPeter.jpgThis event was an important beginning for us, and it was wonderful to see several friends in attendance-that’s no small thing at Frankfurt, given the schedules everyone has. A token of good fortune for our new ventures was having Peter Saugman and Derek Albiston there. You’ll see them here (Derek on the left, Peter on the right). I met both of them of my first day in publishing, in June 1979, when I arrived in London on the BUNAC student program and the secretarial agency sent me to Blackwell Scientific Publications on John Street to work in the journals department. Derek was the journals manager, and Peter was running the London office. Reconnecting with my UK publishing friends has been one of the best things about starting our new venture two years ago, and now they’re part of our beginning in China.

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Karen Christensen, CEO, Berkshire Publishing Group

Good afternoon. My name is Karen Christensen, and my Chinese name is Shen Kai Lun. I am the CEO and cofounder of Berkshire Publishing Group in Massachusetts.

Berkshire was founded with the idea of promoting global understanding. We develop books that will help students, professional people, and all interested readers to know more about their world. Since 2001, when I first visited China, we have been especially eager to publish books and encyclopedias that will help readers to understand Chinese history and culture, as well as modern China and its remarkable development.

This is a very important day for our company, as we begin a most promising partnership with an eminent Chinese company, the Guangdong People’s Publishing House, with the signing of this agreement to publish all 12 books in the Black Horse Chinese Horoscope series.

The Chinese Horoscope Collection offers breathtaking proof of the dynamism and innovation of graphic design in modern China. These books are particularly suitable for Berkshire’s first publication from China because they combine traditional culture—the Chinese horoscope itself, but also the designs, which often incorporate a traditional motif or suggest the Chinese written character for the animal—with contemporary style, sensibility, and wit. Modern and global, they will open people’s eyes to the quality of modern Chinese design and the creative spirit of the Chinese people.

Seven of the books will be available in English for the Spring Festival (or Chinese New Year, as we call it), which will mark the beginning of the year of the pig, and we will also be distributing the Chinese editions of those volumes in the United States for use by students. How appropriate it is to celebrate our contract signing on the day of the Autumn Festival here in Frankfurt!

We will publish an English-language edition of each of the remaining five titles as they are published. The final volume in the series will come out in 2012, the year of the dragon. The number of titles involved and duration of the project makes this one of the most significant Chinese-to-English publishing agreements to date.

I want to add a few personal remarks here, because many people ask me how I myself became so very interested in China and Chinese culture.

In fact, I have been fascinated by China since I was a child, reading the novels of Pearl S. Buck, and I also loved Chinese design in textiles and ceramics. After our company began work on the Encyclopedia of Modern Asia, my husband and I made our first trip to China. We traveled with our daughter and son, who were then 12 and 15, and we had a strong reason for taking them along. We knew that China would be of vital importance in their lifetimes, and we wanted it to be familiar to them—not mysterious and foreign. We met many Chinese friends and colleagues, enjoyed baoxi on the street as well as Peking duck in restaurants, and traveled all the way to Ürümqi in Xinjiang Province.

Our 2001 visit to Beijing was during the last months of the Olympics bid, and a friend was able to get us a set of the beautiful promotional posters that we saw everywhere in the city. Ever since then, those posters have graced the halls in our offices in Massachusetts.

Since then, my son has learned Chinese, studied in Beijing, and worked for a summer as an intern at a Chinese business in Shanghai. He plans to go to China to study and work after he graduates from college. My daughter is eager to visit China again, too—for the food, which she remembers well, as well as for all the important historical sites and cultural experiences.

At the time of our 2001 visit, we were developing an academic publication called the Encyclopedia of Modern Asia (which involved 700 authors in 65 countries and containing 3,000 articles, for a total of 2.2 million words). Our China scholars introduced me to the concept of guanxi, and I became very much interested in it, in the idea of building relationships, or what we in the West often call networks.

This important Chinese concept is relevant to all aspects of social interaction. In business, it is especially important for partnerships, joint ventures, and informal collaborations. Berkshire’s new monthly journal on China is called Guanxi: The China Letter in part because we hope to encourage precisely these sorts of connections and relationships between people in the West and China.

We look forward to publishing new titles in China, too. We expect to see our cooperation with the Guangdong People’s Publishing House and the Guangdong Provincial Publishing Group expand in the months and years ahead. Already, we are discussing some exciting book projects that we hope to undertake jointly. This is a wonderful example of the type of cooperation that Chinese and English-language publishers are likely to undertake more and more as interest in Chinese scholarship, culture, and language grows throughout the world. We are proud to be part of this effort to build new global understanding and feel honored to work with the Guangdong People’s Publishing House.

I want to thank my new colleagues for their enthusiastic involvement. I was able to talk to with Mr. Jin, the editor in chief of the GPPH, in Guangzhou just a few weeks ago. We agreed that our meeting here at Frankfurt a year ago was a piece of good fortune, and I’m so sorry he isn’t here to celebrate with us. At that time I also met Ms. Wong, who has helped us in so many ways. Mr. Huang, the president of the Publishing Group, is another old acquaintance—since last year!—and I am delighted to be here with him today. I’m just sorry that all the new friends I met in Guangzhou last month are not with us. But we send our warm regards to them and look forward to seeing them in China very soon. I also want to thank Liz Steffey, an editor from our company, who has been a tremendous support in our China project and who has worked valiantly to teach me a little Chinese. It is entirely my fault that her efforts have not yet borne more fruit!

Thank you for joining us in this celebration, and thank you again to my wonderful new colleagues from Guangzhou.

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