The paper sets out to propose a model for analyzing how translators exert their impact on their translations by altering the lens from which characters and events are perceived. Built upon Rimmon-Kenan’s framework (i.e. perceptual, psychological and ideological facets of focalization), an analytical model is developed to examine re-focalization as reflected between the source and target narratives—how one facet of focalization is altered into another and/or what changes are made within the same facet. The model is applied to a case analysis of the Chinese translation of Peter Hessler’s China story River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze. The findings from the textual analysis suggest that Li Xueshun, the translator, assumes an insider position in the sense that he aligns the focalizer’s perception of the history of China since 1949 with that of the Chinese people and foregrounds the inner qualities of the focalized (including the peasants and other common townspeople) by adopting the Chinese socialist lens. The model provides an alternative way to interrogate translators’ relationships with their own translations. While most previous research has tended to trace the translator’s voice through stylistic features, the proposed model allows one to explore how the translators influence the original ways of ‘seeing’ by introducing into the translated narrative a different focalizer.