The Linguist

The Linguist 55,4

The Linguist is a languages magazine for professional linguists, translators, interpreters, language professionals, language teachers, trainers, students and academics with articles on translation, interpreting, business, government, technology

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22 The Linguist Vol/55 No/4 2016 FEATURES P ower tends to be in the hands of those who can best use technology. Weaponry still dominates territorial disputes, but the greatest power lies in language, especially through the use of information technology. As governments and powerful global companies select and control what the public sees, hears and says, the public fights back using the very tools those companies supply. In China, the authorities spar with citizens in ongoing internet guerrilla warfare. China's Great Firewall (GFW), 1 for example, is designed to do what its Great Wall did several centuries ago: the GFW may not physically keep people in or out of China, but it is aimed at keeping their cultural proclivities and loyalties within a Chinese context. Some global social media are proscribed in China, but VPN (virtual private network) is widely used to circumvent these blocks. The situation is complex and changes from day to day. China has blocked Google, Twitter, Facebook, Wikipedia and others, 2 and can block VPN. Google was accused of having bent to Chinese government requirements, but later rejected censorship regulations, moving its operations to Hong Kong in 2010. The language of official soft power The greatest weapon in China's soft power arsenal is its auto-translation. China translates itself, and its friends and adversaries, comprehensively in official mainstream media, enabling it to highlight the positive and to self-censor, outside and inside China. The government exploits tradition in its propagation of soft, sinocentric power. For instance, government policies, periods and events are 'golden'. Perhaps the most outrageously ironic example is the Golden Shield Project (金盾工程), which refers to the GFW system of censorship and surveillance. The optimistically labelled 'Golden BRIC' group (Brazil, Russia, India and China) is another. "China has 5,000 years of history" is a catchphrase used to justify 21st-century policy. Confucius, vilified in China for the greater part of the 20th century but now restored to his former saintly status, and the language of his ancient philosophical tenets, are invoked to support government policy. The 'China dream' (中国梦) is a term seen everywhere in China (determinedly translated as 'China', rather than 'Chinese', to emphasise the gravity of nationhood). It is used officially to indicate an idealised role of the individual in Chinese society in relation to the goals of the nation, and its repeated use is clearly intended to create belief in the idea. Auto-translations vs. fansubbing The Chinese government is subject to the subtitling, blogging and tweeting that are indispensable weapons in resistance movements all over the world. China counters possible subversion by blocking international social media sites, such as Facebook, which may carry negative or sensitive information about China. Equivalent Chinese-generated sites are permitted, including Weibo, which is similar to Twitter, and the mobile text and voice messaging service WeChat (or Weixin). 3 These services are available outside China, and can become sites of subversion. Chinese is rich in homophones and subversive puns, and other forms of coded message are also common. © SHUTTERSTOCK Desktop warfare Internet-savvy bilingual activists have been resisting information control by the Chinese government, argues Valerie Pellatt

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