Inside MAI Blog: Thoughts on global publishing

Made in China

The phrase, “Made in China,” is running through my head. But it has nothing to do with labels on clothing, shoes or appliances. I’m thinking about Christian books and articles written and published in the world’s largest nation.

Staff from five different Chinese Christian publishing houses are here in Hong Kong for the MAI-Asia Publishing Forum. So far, they are publishing mostly translations from the West. But that will change, given the vision of people like Paul Peng of Enoch Communications.

Paul founded Enoch in 1999—one of the first indigenous Christian publishing houses in China. Since then, the staff has grown from 2 to 24. Despite the challenges faced by Christian publishers in getting ISBN numbers and pre-publication approval by government censors, Enoch has published 130 titles so far, 100 of which remain in print. Enoch is financed through its own sales, not foreign subsidy.

Most significant, Paul and Enoch are committed to developing and publishing Chinese authors. Each year he gathers 20 to 25 experienced authors for training and encouragement. He will continue to publish quality translations, but his primary focus is books by Chinese writers.

Yesterday at the Forum, Paul gave an overview of Christian publishing in China and the ministry of Enoch. Then he interviewed staff from each of the four other Chinese Christian publishers at the Forum. It was a rare privilege to hear what these publishers are doing in a challenging context.

“The biggest challenge for my team is the rate of change,” Paul noted.

China’s number of internet users has grown from a relative few in 1998 to 485 million today—more than the combined populations of the US, England and Germany, noted Gary Hopwood of Eight Blessings Consulting Group in Beijing. Internet use crosses social strata, with 44% of the users lacking a high school education.

Also, in the last 7 years mobile phone use in China has grown from 30 to 300 million users.

Spiraling internet and cell-phone accessibility poses tremendous opportunities, as well as challenges, for publishers. But one thing is certain: China’s Christian publishers will respond with vision, courage and creativity. “Made in China” will increasingly refer to locally authored, life-transforming Christian books by Chinese authors.

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