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Concern of Life: the Professional Pursuit of a Publisher -- An interview with Mr. Huang Xu, President and Chief Editor of Fujian Education Press

Mr. Huang Xu is a senior publisher who has been in the circle for nearly two decades. He has masterminded and chief-compiled lots of titles, for example, Illustrated China's Naval History, A Collection of the Budding Wood-Carving in China, Study on Zhou Enlai's Thoughts on Education won China Book Award, Study on the Basic Theories of Education won the nomination award of the National Book Award, Students' Reader of Deng Xiaoping's Theories won the "Five One" Project Award of Spiritual Civilization Development sponsored by the Central Publicity Ministry, and Serial Compiling of Social Surveys in the Republic Period won the first Chinese Fine Publications Award.
Mr. Huang Xu is an educational scholar with humanities concerns. "Learning Strategies" he studies has been recognized by domestic experts as being of pioneering significance. He is actively spreading the notion of "life education" and organizes and masterminds experiments of "life education" project which is famous not only provincially but also nationally. Mr. Huang Xu is also a business-minded entrepreneur who has a unique understanding of the status quo and future of educational publication. This correspondent made a special visit to him in the event of Fujian Education Press ushering in its 50th Anniversary.

Journalist's Question: At present, educational publication is confronted with unprecedented challenges: reduction of burdens, price cuts, bidding, rise of paper price by a big margin, free textbook policy, and installation of textbook recycling … So what measures will you take to help the ship of Fujian Education Press navigate in the sea of business?

Huang's Answer: The tough situation facing education press requires us to think calmly and give an appropriate judgement of the timing and adjust our publication strategies as per changes in the marketplace. In 2005, we proposed the "One Focus and Two Wings" pattern of development, that is, to focus on fundamental educational textbooks supplemented with various teachers' books, students' readers and other cultural and academic books that meet the needs of the market. Our press has already clearly defined our main orientation based on the idea of doing something well within reach while doing nothing on those that are out of reach.
In terms of the publication of textbooks and auxiliary teaching materials, in view of pluralism of textbook versions and increasing regionalization of auxiliary teaching materials, we have adopted measures to forge our own brands and to make regional exploration so as to produce our own flagship products. Textbooks compiled as per state standards Junior High Chinese and Primary School English developed by our press have already passed appraisals by the Textbook Appraising Committee of Primary and Secondary Schools. The current coverage of Primary School English has been close to 70% in Fujian Province. Local textbooks like Primary School Information Technology and Junior High Information Technology have already covered more than 80% of the schools in the province. Learning Plans from Famous Schools, a grand series of auxiliary teaching materials, has already established a very good brand image with good competitiveness in the fierce competitions in the marketplace. In a special quality check conducted by Fujian Provincial Journalism and Publication Administration Bureau on the seven publishing houses in our province that publish auxiliary teaching materials, ours reached a high rate of 100% qualification.
In terms of publication of teachers' reference books and students' readers, our press carries forward our traditional advantages, and seeks breakthroughs in refinement and details. As a result, a batch of fine books with comparatively high academic values and economic benefits have been produced, like Serial Compilation of 20th Century Famous Educational Works in China, The Way that Pros. Sun Shaozhen Interprets Literal Works, Seeking for the Way, Study on Chinese Rural Areas, "New Curriculum Classroom Exploration Series", and "New Education Essay Collection Series". According to statistics provided by relevant organizations, the market share of books in theoretical category published by our press has already jumped up to top ten among our counterparts nationwide.
In terms of the publication of books on humanities and social sciences, we lay stress on depth in our selection of themes and have already formed into three categories of books with fledging orientations of our own characteristics, that is, Series of Lu Xun's Works and Study on Lu Xun, Historical Literature Series in the Republic Period, and the Western Coast of the Taiwan Straits Series. The in-depth development in the selection of "Morrison Study Series" won the attention both at home and abroad. In the festivity to mark the 2007 Sino-Australian establishment of the diplomatic relationship, the Australian Embassy to China presented books in this series to Chinese leaders like President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao. In January, the Exploration and Discovery Column of CCTV Channel 10 broadcast a five-series grand historical literature program based on the documentary background of Old China through G. E. Morrison's Eyes and it brought forth an extensive repercussion in the society. Dr. Wu Lien-The: Unrivalled Plague Fighter caused a great stir in Harbin for recalling Dr. Wu's great medical achievements, especially in his fights against plague. Consequently, the municipal party secretary wrote a book review himself to call on all the city dwellers to read it. Mr. Han Qide, vice committee-in-chief of the National People's Congress and president of National Science Association mentioned this book in the national conference of the science association and he was glad to give the inscription "Reject Mediocrity and Serve the Society". Recently, the book won the Second Chinese Excellent Publication Award. A complete Collection of the Manuscripts of Lu Xun's Works, A Complete Collection of Lu Xun's Works in Their Chronological Order, "Eryi Series", A Collection of the Budding Wood-carving in China and other "Series of Lu Xun's Works and Study on Lu Xun" won the credit "a key publishing house of Lu Xun's works" for our press in the publishing circle and the academia.

Journalist's question: It strikes me that your press has already formed into the characteristics of your own in terms of publishing books on humanities and social sciences and therefore made great achievements. I've noticed that three laureates your press has obtained so far fall into this category. So my question is: Is your press, as a professional publisher whose major scope of business is educational publication, publishing books on humanities and social sciences for awards so as to put on a good face for yourself?

Huang's Answer: Well, this is really a tricky question. I have always believed that educational publication is different from public publication as well as other professional publications. Educational publication concerns itself with publication as well as education, which is regarded as our centennial plan. What's more, both publication and education are strongly connected and concerned with the inheritance and development of human culture.
What really brought us to sail out of Fujian Province and gain our footing in the field of humanities and social sciences could be said to be ascribed to the publication of a grand book, that is the 20th Century Academic Canon of China initiated by our press. This grand book summarizes in the form of entries the academic accomplishments of Chinese scholars in disciplines like natural science, engineering technology, social sciences, and humanities. Compilation and publication of such a grand reference book help our press to accumulate rich resources of authors and forge our own team of editors. "Series of Lu Xun's Works and Study on Lu Xun" I masterminded was also a fruit of the resources we accumulated in the compilation and publication of the Canon. It is also based on this holy sense of responsibility and duty that we treat books on humanities and social sciences as one of the wings of our "one focus and two wings" pattern of development. It could also be boiled down to a peculiar pursuit of intellectuals.

Journalist: I guess, it is this kind of peculiar pursuit of intellectuals that helps create in your press a harmonious atmosphere of humanities and publications by your press are imbued with a strong scent of humanities, and therefore activities masterminded by your press carry a strong complex of humanities.

Mr. Huang Xu: Honestly speaking, most of the time we are smiling with tears in our eyes. I like what Einstein said: "A hundred times every day I remind myself that my inner and outer lives are based on the labors of other men, living and dead, and that I must exert myself in order to give in the same measure as I have received and am still receiving." So long as we always keep a heart of gratitude, we will bear in mind the social responsibility of publishers and make the spirit of humanities the tenet we should adhere to and whole-heartedly serve the cause of education and serve both teachers and students. For many years, besides serving education and culture with our publications, my comrades and I also take showing love to the society and giving rewards to the general public as our task. Statistics show that from 2000 to 2007, our press had made donations totalling a worth of RMB 2 million to education in poverty-stricken areas. What's more, various books of a total value of RMB 1.5 million had been donated to both disaster-stricken and poverty-stricken areas. In 2007, our press was chosen by the Fujian Provincial Commission as one of the "Advanced Unit to Fight Against Typhoons, Floods, and Other Risks".
"The Spirit of Humanities" is also the major contents in the building of corporate culture in our press. We attach special importance to holding various activities to enrich the life of our staff and create a harmonious environment of humanities. An exhibition show of calligraphy, painting, photography and excellent teachers' photography exhibition were staged in our press last year. We have held "Min Education Cup" Staff Swimming Contest and Fun Sports Meet as well as Evening Parties with self-created and self-directed programs. Various activities to help enliven the atmosphere in the press and to promote our cohesion have become the corporate culture characterizing our press.

Journalist's Question: At present, the "Grand Development" is under discussion in the publishing circle in order to seek for a road of development to make themselves bigger and stronger. What's your view on this?

Mr. Huang's Answer: That's really a tough question. From the perspective of market, only by making ourselves bigger and stronger could publishing enterprises boost their anti-risk abilities so as to stay invincible in the fierce competitions. Our press is a small and medium-sized publishing business, to be exact, we are finding a way to survive in the narrow margins left in between big presses and private book dealers. Although the goings are tough, we will never give up our major scope of business, namely, the publication of textbooks and auxiliary teaching materials.
I majored in education and once served as a teacher. I got edification from educating my child in this regard. When my daughter was still very young, I told her that, no matter what she does when she grows up, she should, first of all, learn to do well whatever she does, even though it is just a triviality. Now it could be said that she has already figured herself prominently nationwide and her fame has already dwarfed that of mine, but she still keeps a down-to-earth profile. So I believe that big presses have their own ways of running business, while small ones have their own. What the latter should do is to face the music and be well-grounded and try their best to do well whatever they are doing. Therefore, from May last year, we have already stepped up our internal organizational establishment. Firstly, we reshuffled our internal organization and set up the marketing department. Secondly, we've founded Baben Fang Culture Communications Co., Ltd. in Beijing so as to provide strategic layout and preparations for the growth of our press. Thirdly, we established a digital department to get involved in the field of digital publication while centering on resources, contents and masterminding advantages with the Education Develoment Group Co., Ltd. Shareheld by our press as the main body for investment and our subsidiary, the Multi-media Company, as our technological supporter and operator. Fourthly, our press also runs periodicals so that an interactive platform is established in between books and magazines. Lastly, we make use of others' resources and new attempts have been made in terms of trade in publication right.
I once read the autography of Mr. Chen Jiaying, a famous contemporary philosopher, and was deeply impressed by what he said: "To tell the truth, the advance of academia is due partly to the work of those in the academic circle and partly to the efforts of publishers." This is very good evaluation and consolation on the part of us publishers.