Information Warfare: The Benefits of Bad Translations

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October 19, 2006: The 1999 Chinese book, "Unrestricted Warfare," is only available to English speakers in a badly translated edition. Even the title is poorly rendered; it should be "Unlimited Warfare." In effect, it's about the range of policy actions that a state can employ, from foreign aid to nuclear weapons, in pursuing its objectives. It's also essentially the views of the authors. Like the Soviets before them, the Chinese communists permit a lot of unofficial opinion in military literature. But just as Chinese officials sometimes misinterpret what they see in the Western media, as official government policy, so do Westerners misinterpret books like this as official policy. Even dictatorships need some free exchanges of ideas, in order to find the best solution for problems. While there are limits to how far-out authors can be (and editors of the state controlled publishers know where the limits are), this aspect of free speech does allow for a very wide range of proposals. But most of these books are just that, proposals, and will never become policy. But for Western media, searching for the next hot headline, a bad translation is preferable to an accurate one.

 


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