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Chinese translator – Expertise in the Chinese Advertisement Law

Our Chinese translators aren’t just familiar with the Chinese market and its 1.3 billion consumers; they also know its risks and regulations. They know which seemingly harmless expressions must be avoided because they carry the risk of severe penalties in line with the Chinese Advertisement Law.

STAR’s complete package: Translation and linguistic proofreading

Would you like one of your company’s texts to be translated into Chinese? Does it contain reference to the highest levels of customer satisfaction or promise the best service? Then under no circumstances should you use a free translation tool! It will not tell you that by using the phrases “the highest” or “the best”, you are in violation of the Chinese Advertisement Law. As a translation company for Chinese, we offer not only Chinese translations but also a linguistic review to check the texts for conformity with the law.

Translations and the Chinese Advertisement Law

Every advertisement published in China is subject to the provisions of the Chinese Advertisement Law. The regulation dates from 1994 and was last updated in 2015. Its aim was and is to stem the tide of misleading and factually incorrect adverts and to strengthen consumer protections.

In addition to the basic provision that advertising must be truthful and legally compliant, it also stipulates

  • mandatory texts for medicine advertisements,
  • certain depictions are prohibited for alcohol adverts,
  • warnings for financial and investment advertising,
  • permitted usage for the Chinese national flag, anthem and military emblems.

It goes further than this and within a large scope, it lists specific words, expressions and phrases that must not be used in advertising.

Examples of prohibited words include

  • 国家级 (on a national level),
  • 最佳 (the best…),
  • 最高级 (the highest…)
  • additional superlatives such as the characters for “most powerful”, “most economical”, “fastest”, etc.

The ban applies regardless of whether the statement is objectively true or not. When it comes to advertisements, this constitutes a major restriction, which means that everything communicated in a translation into Chinese must be checked and revised if necessary. This becomes particularly time-consuming when there are various marketing communication channels to consider: Websites, packaging, brochures, magazines, newspapers, TV and radio, e-mails, SMS and other messaging services, etc. All text on these channels, i.e. any freely available advertising material falls within the scope of the Chinese Advertisement Law and is therefore potentially vulnerable. This is why it is so important that a dependable and experienced Chinese translator works on your content.

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Key benefits at a glance

  • Minimise risks with legally compliant texts
  • Efficient processes with terminology blacklists and an additional revision step
  • Option of additional services such as legal vetting by specialist lawyers
  • Everything from a single source – from the translation to the final approval

What do businesses have to consider?

Who is responsible for the texts?

Within the scope of the Chinese Advertisement Law, primary liability lies with the advertiser – meaning the party who has commissioned the advert, which is in most cases the company whose products or services are being advertised. Yet, in the event of violations, advertising agencies or service providers working on the advert, such as translation companies, can also be held liable for the published content.

In concrete terms, this means that both the company commissioning the advert and any service providers working on it have a particular duty of care for its content. This can actually only be fulfilled by an explicit approval of the advertising texts or translations by the commissioning party.

What are the potential penalties?

The penalties associated with violations of the Chinese Advertisement Law are substantial. Anyone found in contravention of Article 9(3), which lists prohibited phrasing, can be fined between RMB 200,000 and RMB 1 million (approx. EUR 25,000–130,000). In addition to this, additional sanctions are possible; including the removal of business licences for repeat offences.

In one case, a cosmetics company in Shanghai was fined more than RMB 2.7 million (equivalent to EUR 350,000) for false statements. The company had claimed that one of its shampoos cured split ends and brittle hair after five uses.

Adverts for Crest toothpaste, a Procter & Gamble brand, were also found to be untenable after they claimed that the toothpaste could lead to visibly whiter teeth after just one use. The business was fined under the Chinese Advertisement Law and paid a fine of over RMB 6 million (approx. EUR 785,000).

In a further case, the Chinese website of a large German company was taken offline for several weeks while it was reworked after the relevant authorities found that the texts contained superlatives that were not compliant with the Chinese Advertisement Law. In this instance, the authorities did not take action of their own initiative; they were reacting to a notification – from a competitor.

These examples show that the risks the Chinese Advertisement Law poses to Chinese translations are very real and can have painful consequences.

Get help from skilled Chinese translators

When it comes to translations into Chinese, STAR offers the complete package because we include a post-translation linguistic check for the most frequent problematic expressions. In this two-stage process, the texts are firstly thoroughly checked by a skilled translator. Then we make use of our terminology “blacklists”, which contain the prohibited phrases, in order to replace them with permitted formulations.

Checking the texts with these blacklists is not a simple process, because many Chinese characters can change their meaning according to the context. For example, “最高” (highest) and “最大” (largest) are superlatives and are often used in a legal sense in product specifications in this wording, e.g. to signify the tallest height. The challenging part of our specialists’ work is in finding alternatives to the “prohibited” characters that still fit the context.

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Do you need a Chinese translator?
Get in touch.

Virginie Wespel

Team Leader Sales & Marketing
+49 7031 21 70-38