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Translating Chinese News: "Chinese steel enterprise trade secrets discovered in Rio Tinto computers"
Having studied a whole year of Chinese Journalistic Reading (中文报刊阅读) and almost as much News Listening Comprehension (新闻听力)... I thought maybe I'd try putting it to use to see what the Chinese Press are saying about the Rio Tinto / Hu Stern "Corporate Espionage" case. The results: there's a LOT more information and opinion on the matter to be had in the Chinese language Chinese press than there is in the English Language press - Australian, Chinese, or otherwise. I thought it might be interesting to attempt translating a piece or two.

After I showed an opinion piece from the SMH to a Chinese friend as an example of the Australian perspective, he recommended I read the this article to see a Chinese point of view. I've translated it into English below. Comments and corrections welcome.

Trade Secrets of dozens of Chinese steel enterprises discovered in Rio Tinto computers

Rio Tinto "spygate" scandal could drag in two other mining giants.
13/07/2009: According to insiders familiar with the matter, data relating to dozens of steel enterprises having long term contracts and agreements with Rio Tinto has been discovered hidden on computers seized by authorities from Rio's Shanghai office. The data involved relates to steel enterprises' detailed purchase plans, production schedules and raw material stocks. The data even includes explicit details on the monthly production volumes and sales activities of one or more large-scale steel enterprises.

"[Rio Tinto] knows Chinese steel mills like the back of their own hands", the source said. "The miners understand the steel producers' businesses better than even the producers' own bosses."

Operation of "Inside Sources" not a secret

According to reports, the computers seized by police contain detailed analysis of technologies and methods employed by Chinese steel enterprises, and extremely accurate data on production variables. "[The data] does not seem to have been arrived at by conjecture", says the source.

According to those within the industry, "the mining companies' understanding of the behind-the-scenes operation of steel companies may in a large part come from steel company employees responsible for particular parts of business operations." Taking as an example the the case of Tan Yixin {assistant to the General Manager of Shougang Group}, insiders say that although he and Rio Tinto Shanghai Office General Manager Hu Stern had a very good personal relationship, information revealed by Mr Tan to Mr Hu for the most part only included a few particulars of iron ore negotiations. They say that Mr Tan would not have risked himself by providing detailed production information to Mr Stern. Insiders say the information was more likely obtained through staff working in departments responsible for the operation of various parts of the steel enterprises' business.

Senior steel industry figures say that mining company recruitment often emphasises "experience working in large-scale steel production enterprises". This means that many mining company employees are originally personnel from the high levels of Chinese steel enterprises, and are therefore extremely familiar with the enterprises' operations. Even the most recent production and sales information is easily accessible to them through personal connections. "It is certainly quite possible that the mining companies' understanding of the steel producers is obtained through these types of inside sources", industry figures say.

A quick search of Hu Stern's itinerary shows he and his colleagues would carry out on-site inspections at steel mills almost every month. The inspections did not just include industry magnates Baosteel, Shougang and Laigang, but also included visits small and medium sized steel producers, including to Xinsteel, Ping Xiang, and Jingye.

"Hu Stern's appearances were in order to establish high-level relationships. Detailed information was then collected by his colleagues at the lower levels", say staff members at Hebei Iron & Steel Group. According to staff members, mining company representatives would make visits almost every month. Telephone calls were even more frequent, coming at least once a week. According to industry insiders, "personal connections" between mining and steel production companies were very close. Apart from the usual "kickbacks", mining company personnel would also give gifts to steel company counterparts at Chinese New Year and other festivals. "Gifts were not only given at high levels, even those responsible for work at the mid-levels of the company received gifts."

Three Mining Giants "in the same pair of trousers"?

Even if the current case against Rio Tinto does not further expand, there are already a variety of signs to indicate that the other two of the "three mining giants" most likely found it difficult to operate independently, and exclusively in their own interests.

"From the perspective of transaction motivators, the "three mining giants" have a union of common interest. For Rio Tinto, it would not have been worthwhile taking on the risks whilst allowing the other two sit back and enjoy the benefits. Therefore I believe that 'Spygate' could yet drag in BHP and Vale (CVRD)." OCN {a Chinese investment consultant} head of energy research Jiang Xu believes that "inside information" and bribery have become the "hidden rules" of the steel industry. Suspicion that Rio Tinto has been caught using these "hidden rules" to its own advantage does not eliminate the possibility that BHP and Vale also copied these methods in their own deals.

BHP's large-scale entertainment of guests from Chinese enterprises - including large steel enterprises - during last year's Olympic Games previously attracted large-scale controversy. What BHP termed "building personal ties" has been criticised as commercial bribery.

According to industry insiders, "even though negotiations take place separately, the mining companies all make contact with each other in advance." In previous rounds of iron-ore initial price negotiations, when an agreement is reached with any of the iron ore producers it becomes the initial iron ore price for the current year, and the remaining producers follow suit under the same terms and conditions. In reality, this ties the three mining giants together as a single interest group.

"As soon as searches are made, [BHP and Vale] will be unable to escape implication", Steel Authority personnel told this reporter on 13 July. The only remaining question is when will the Chinese side get involved.

数十中国钢企机密 被曝藏身力拓电脑


  13日,有内部知情人士透露,被有关部门带走的澳大利亚力拓集团上海办事处办公电脑已被 “拿下”——数十家与力拓签有长协合同的钢企资料藏身电脑。这些资料涉及了企业详细的采购计划、原料库存、生产安排等数据,甚至连有的大型钢企每月的钢铁产量、销售情况也非常明晰。















Disclaimer: I'm not a professional translator. This translation will contain errors.

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Looks pretty professional to me :)

I guess professional translators probably learn what mistakes they definitely must make sure they do not make so as not to get in shit, and then focus a lot on getting the tone right.

Have you studied translation at all?

Yes, I studied a semester of English to Chinese translation at BLCU, but I have not formally studied Zh -> En translation. I imagine I might be able to get a certification from NAATI for Zh -> En, I'm going to look into it when I get back.

That is very interesting, Daniel. Since I have worked for large corporations in the pharmaceutical and consumer packaged goods industries, I know what goes on in terms of public relations and in information gathering. 'News' appears even on the ABC already packaged from the company that stands to benefit.

Working for a large government owned enterprise, I am constantly made aware by the local press of issues of corruption, of influence being bought or of the steps required to prevent influence being bought. The same issues also arise in large corporations that are not government owned.

When the information that is held by state-owned organisations becomes a state secret, and obtaining information that is not public becomes spying is an interesting take on the issue.

In Australia and other western countries, we hold a superior attitude. But in the background, the Australian government was hoping that Chinalco would not take over Rio Tinto. And Australia hopes that the iron ore miners will negotiate the best deals possible with Chinese 'companies'. The distinction between 'commercial' and 'national' interests becomes very blurred. Australia has an interest in the success of the miners, and China has an interest in the success of the steelmakers. But the Chinese, it would seem, draw the line between 'commercial' and 'national' success differently from what we would do. They are prepared to intervene more directly.

But I don't think that one is morally superior to the other, or that we would not find an alternative means to the same result if we could.

Australia had been singularly successful in maintaining the prices of prescription medicines at the lowest level in the western world - at about a third of US domestic prices. One of the consequences of The Free Trade Agreement with the US has been to undermine our ability to negotiate better prices. The Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee had to become 'commercially transparent', that is give away information, even though the pharmaceutical companies usually deal on the basis of 'commercial in confidence'.

Should John Howard be charged with treason for signing the FTA? Or do the other supposed wins counter this loss?

The definition of corruption, of spying or of treason depends on your point of view. It seems to me that when you take treason and spying out of the defense context, you are creating a minefield. But I can understand why anyone would want to.

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