China goes forth: Q&A with Tan Yue

China goes forth: Q&A with Tan Yue

Your company, China Publishing Group, has announced a “going global” strategy. Where are you looking to expand: into more mature markets such as the US and Western Europe, or developing industries like Brazil or India?

We’re paying attention to both types of markets. On one hand, Europe and America are larger and have influenced China greatly due to historical and purely practical business reasons. On the other hand, emerging markets are in a similar historical stage as China, which sometimes makes it easier culturally to build partnerships. Generally, we are following China’s diplomatic strategy: focusing on neighbouring and emerging markets, but the top priority is Europe and the Americas.

Can you talk about your strategy in the West over the next year or so?

We have developed plans for the UK and the US and now we are adopting a new plan for France. But the implementation is quite difficult. For example, we signed agreements with a UK company after over a year of negotiations, but it had to be laid aside due to last-minute changes. We’ve found that foreign markets, especially in Europe and America, are interested in three aspects we value: Chinese teaching, modern interpretations of Chinese culture and academic publishing.

CPG had a huge advertising push in Times Square during BookExpo America. Will this be part of a broader strategy to promote CPG, and China, in the West?

Yes, we wish to have an impact on Western and other foreign countries, although we recognise that cultural development is a gradual process. Our basic strategy for going global is to make CPG recognised as a brand by the market, and then to co- operate with strong local publishing companies to explore local markets. In the past three or four decades, Western companies and culture have entered the Chinese market. We believe that Chinese culture can also “go out” and underpin Western countries gradually, but we need to be patient.

Domestically, what are the challenges for you?

Digital is the main one. It’s a small part of the market now, less than 10%—e-books generated around RMB 4.5bn (£459m) last year, while online reading [China’s internet-based form of self-publishing] was RMB 1.5bn [£153m]. But there is no doubt that digital reading will develop rapidly in the next few years. Online reading is a threat for traditional publishing, but also a resource, because good writing will be recognised by the market in any format. We plan to publish books traditionally but also get into the online sphere. A lot of online writing is not “mature”, but as a traditional publisher we need to capture the public’s exuberance for them and convert them into quality works through careful editing.

Tan Yue has been president of China Publishing Group (CPG) since 2008. In 2014, CPG had revenues of RMB 8.7bn (£893.7m), making it the 14th biggest publisher in the world. The group has 40 different divisions and imprints in China and owns 28 publishers and chain booksellers across the globe.

Read our analysis of the Chinese publishing market here.