Digital China Wins the Future

Illuminating "Digital China" with original Chinese-language sources

Translation Notes

This working aid includes recommendations on the translation of key Chinese terms related to the “ends, ways, and means” of Digital China. Western analysis on the Digital China strategy has suffered from inconsistent English-language translation, as well as improvised and inconsistent technical/theoretical terms and acronyms, across the entire scope of the strategy’s “ends, ways, and means.” This working aid is my small attempt to begin a fix. Questions, comments, additions, and corrections are welcome! Please contact me at digitalchinawinsthefuture@gmail.com

Digital China 数字中国

Despite the importance of this term in party theory, there is no standard English-language translation for "数字中国," including by PRC state-run media. In Western writing, Digital China has been described as a "vague" term or treated as a meme, contributing to inconsistent analysis, and resulting in its most common English-language translation as "digital China." Digital China is a Communist Party strategic initiative (since 2012) and a national-level strategy (since 2017).  Adopting standard practice in the West on naming national-level strategies, I use "Digital China" as the standard translation and most accurate descriptor in English, except when directly quoting from other sources.
Great Power 强国 including Cyber Great Power, Maritime Great Power, et al

Despite the importance of this term in party theory, there is no standard English language translation for "强国," including by PRC state-run media. I translate “强国” as “great power,” or in some cases by context as simply "power," except when directly quoting from other sources. This translation best reflects the formality, meaning, and wider usage of “great power” (强国; shortened form of 强大国家) in the party’s strategy lexicon, and to ensure consistent translation of a party term-of-art throughout this site. "Great power" is routinely translated in Western writing as "superpower" (there is a different, standard Chinese term for superpower) and "powerhouse" (too informal for a theoretical term and there is also a different, standard Chinese term for powerhouse). In addition, standardizing the translation "great power" has become increasingly important as PRC theorists begin to describe "great power transition" (from major power to great power). In cases where the term "great power" is linked to the formal name of a national strategy, such as "Cyber Great Power," I adopt standard practice in the West and capitalize the term "great power." [see also Digital China].
Plan for the Global Layout of Digital China Construction 数字中国建设整体布局规划

整体: In this context, "整体" should be translated as "global. Although "global" is non-standard, it accurately conveys the primary intent of the new plan and its 2522 framework, which is raising the profile and emphasis of the international component of Digital China. The standard translation of "整体" is "overall," but Digital China has been an "overall" (总体) strategy for several years, that is, the "Overall Strategy for National Informatized Development." Translating "整体" also as "overall" does not convey the important shift that has occurred. In short, Digital China domestic (emphasis prior to the plan) + Digital China international (emphasis added by the new plan) = Digital China global (new emphasis on both).

规划: In this context, "guideline" vice "plan" is the preferred translation of "规划." "Guideline" provides function and intent for English readers and distinguishes it from other types of PRC planning. "Guideline" is also how PRC state-run media first translated "规划" in this context. 

Update March 14, 2023: I am surrendering my technical point on "规划" for the greater good, and converting the word "Guideline" to the word "Plan" in my translations. Since the word "规划" was commonly being translated as "plan" in Western reporting, my translation of "规划" as "guideline" had the unintended effect of suggesting to some that two separate documents were issued, a "plan" and a "guideline." The technical point is not worth the confusion.    

Other views on translation [and my deepest thanks for the expert, honest, and thoughtful input from others]:

Graham Webster, Editor in Chief, DigiChina, March 7, 2023: Your decision to render 整体 as "global" is adding too much (and on measure a misleading) analytical gloss to the translation. It can be a valid analytical conclusion that the ambitions are global (and indeed the "international" is explicitly a component of the 2522 framework) without giving readers the impression the rhetoric says "global" when it means "overall" or "as a whole." Indeed, in the specific case of the 《数字中国建设整体布局规划》, the contents while occasionally cross-border in scope are heavily domestic. Of course "global" can have a figurative meaning similar to overall, but when arguing about international implications I think we ought to be careful not to imply the Chinese government has explicitly announced an international expansionist plan when it is instead talking about knitting together a couple of dozen mostly preexisting and largely domestic policy initiatives.
Modernized Socialist Great Power 社会主义现代化强国

Despite the importance of this term in party theory, there is no standard English language translation for "社会主义现代化强国," including by PRC state-run media. Although neither “modern” nor “modernized” adequately convey in English the deeper ideological implications of “现代化” in the context of national informatization, this site adopts “modernized” as the closer fit. Thus, for the purposes of this site and adapting to standard English, I use the irregular translations “Modernized Socialist Great Power” (社会主义现代化强国) and “modernized socialist country (社会主义现代化国家), except when directly quoting from other sources. In addition, the term Modernized Socialist Great Power is capitalized, both as the end state for a grand strategy and to highlight the formality of the term in party discourse. [see also Great Power]