Tag Archives: xi jinping

China who? Why Chinglish is not ‘sweeping around the world’

6 Sep

chinaflagOh dear. Reasons why China won’t rule the world #359. A classic People’s Daily article caught my eye last weekend. It describes how Chinese loan words and Chinglish phrases are finding their way into everyday English conversations across the planet.

As if this weren’t a subtle enough message from the Communist Party mouthpiece, it wheeled out a rent-a-quote academic, in this case Meng Dehong from Beijing Foreign Studies Uni, who claimed, with reference to the Middle Kingdom:

“The more civilised, more advanced and more attractive the country is, the more influential the language gets.”

Now Meng is spot on there, with one crucial caveat – that applies to English (England and the US), not China.

The Daily gives as its examples of China’s growing cultural-linguistic importance in the world the words shuanggui (quasi-investigation); chengguan (municipal officers); jiujielity (hesitation); and, most tellingly, don’ train for “bullet train”.

Er, sorry guys, I know you and Japan have history but you have to admit, if any loan word is going to appear in English for “bullet train” it would be shinkansen, hailing as it does from the country that invented the frigging things. I can’t honestly say I’ve ever read or heard the other words out and about, and I live in Hong Kong.

Ditto the Chinglish phrases We two who and who? meaning “We are good friends”; Go and look meaning “We will see” and No money no talk, apparently meaning “Without money, any talk is spared”. Even the People’s Daily translations sound a little odd so to utter them down the pub they probably come across at best as the incoherent mumblings of an escaped psychiatric patient.

“Hello, can I introduce you to Steve? We two who and who!”

“Er, sorry?”

“We two who and who!!!”

“Um, are you having a seizure?”

As Shanghai Daily points out, the only Chinese words that have ever found their way into English, include gung-ho and kowtow and the phrase “long time no see”, which translates in that word order from the Cantonese.

They are incredibly few and far between. Now I’ve no doubt this will change gradually as China flexes its muscles on the world stage, but let’s not confuse economic dominance for cultural. It’s not helped by the fact that, with the best will in the world, Chinese students often don’t assimilate particularly well with others when studying abroad – preferring their own cliques to sharing their culture, and language, with those from other shores.

To my mind the only Westerners likely to drop obscure Chinese words into sentences are pompous journalists and the sort of people you make a habit of avoiding at parties, but will inevitably be stuck with for 30 will-sappingly long minutes, usually at the beginning. In the kitchen. While you’re still sober.

Another route Chinese language could take to find its way into the Western lingua franca is if the Middle Kingdom had a free press we could respect, engage with and learn from, but that’s about as likely to happen as Xi Jinping taking a dump on The Communist Manifesto. Until then, spurious articles on how Chinglish is sweeping around the world are exactly the reason why it won’t.

One other route for the Chinese language to penetrate our homes is of course through popular TV shows and movies. But honestly, when was the last time you saw one of them? If the combined firepower of Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, and Ang Lee, and over 100 years of colonial tinkering in the Middle Kingdom hasn’t made an impact then I’m sorry, but it’s probably never going to happen.

Or as they say in Beijing: “We two definitely not who and who!”

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Bo Xilai and the Jets of Power

29 Aug

bo xilaiThe local press over here has been dominated during the past few days by the sensational trial of Bo Xilai – former Chongqing party secretary and charismatic womaniser, whose estranged wife was recently convicted of murdering British business man Neil Heywood.

Whether you believe, as many Chinese do, that Bo was a victim of a vindictive wife and party rivals who didn’t care for his brand of populist Mao 2.0 politics or, as many other Chinese do, that he ran a Mafia-like operation for decades, swindling, extorting, embezzling and intimidating, it doesn’t really matter.

His trial was all for show – a show of power for Xi Jinping and the rest of the new Politburo who are trying to put clear red water between themselves and the previous administration with a well-publicised crack down on Party corruption.

The unfortunate truth for them – neatly suppressed by the Great Firewall and China’s ubiquitous Public Security Bureau – is that for every Bo there are thousands of others. Some are little Bo’s, others are probably Bo-sized in their corruption, but all share his greed, opportunism and insane Hungry Hippo-like grab for power and wealth.

This, to be brutally honest, is what happens when one political party remains in power for over 60 years. Where’s the alternative?

Well, they drove over it with tanks in 1989, or put it under house arrest till it died.

Corruption is so endemic there’s even a story knocking around that it’s the reason why the government refuses to issue any banknotes larger than 100 yuan – because that would make it easier to physically hand over large sums as bribes.

That said, Bo wasn’t the biggest news story of the week for me in China. Oh no.

Hubei’s Chutian City paper had a corker of a story about a young boy who was hurled two metres in the air by one of those annoying multi-coloured fountains that have started appearing in city centres everywhere.

The kid was apparently playing in the fountain when a high pressure jet blasted him into the stratosphere before gravity brought the unfortunate crashing down to earth (concrete) with a bloodied nose.

I for one am hoping this incident is publicised as widely as possible. Not only to stop lazy urban planners across the friggin’ planet from installing these depressing aqua features in public places, but from stopping screaming little shits turning city centres everywhere into de facto chav-infested leisure centres.

hubei fountain

You can just make out the boy flying through the air upside down in this first pic, and there he is all beaten up in the second. Ouch.

Being as this is China, some unscrupulous fountain manufacturing company with little regard for heath and safety has no doubt signed a nationwide deal for  the fucking things after lobbing a sackful of yuan at the right Party cadre.

As Beijing Cream reports, China has previous when it comes to overly aggressive water features.

In 2006 a 19-year-old Henan lassie had her stomach rearranged by an angry water jet, and just a fortnight ago an eight-year-old in Shandong had to undergo emergency surgery after fountain literally ruptured his rectum.

Parents of China take note: if you don’t want your children subjected to an impromptu colonic, keep them well clear.

Can you hear the little piggies? Oh no, they’re all dead…

14 Mar

xi jinpingSome breaking news just in from China. Xi Jinping, already anointed general secretary of the Communist Party last November and PLA chief, has won a nail-biting contest which went right down to the wire after he saw off no-comers to claim the presidency of his country.

Cocky Xi, 59, said “I thought I had a chance when the only political party in the country elected me unanimously as its leader that I might just be able to squeeze over the line and I’m glad to say that all my hard work campaigning door-to-door has paid off. I’m dedicating this one to the PEOPLE!”

Now, of course that’s not what Xi said. It was a simple lampoon. But I hope it’s at least partially successful in expressing a tiny bit of cynicism at today’s ‘election’, during which national broadcaster CCTV actually reported that the National People’s Congress (aka China’s annual ‘parliament’) took a break to count the votes. A break to count the votes. Yeah, and make sure you do it carefully people because every…vote…counts. If that isn’t democracy in action, I don’t know what is.

In the end Xi secured 2,952 votes, with one brave soul voting against and three abstensions. Seriously, did someone lose their fucking marbles? They voted against? Before you have a pop at the Chinese presidential elections, though, check out the voter turnout. President Xi now has a 99.86 per cent mandate to do whatever he and his seven-man Politburo team, and of course all the shadowy factional power string-pullers, put their mind to. In your face Obama.

So while that one poor soul who didn’t vote for Xi can expect a swift exit from front-line politics, what can the rest of us look forward to from Xi’s China?  Well, less ostentatious displays of wealth from cadres for sure – in fact, the austerity/corruption crackdown has already begun, primarily because it makes central government look good. Hopefully that will also mean fewer instances of spoilt princelings wrapping their Ferraris around motorway bridges whilst getting sucked off by high class hookers. Actually, no, I’d quite like that to continue, if it keeps the general population of these arrogant little runts down.

We can certainly expect to see more effort to turn the whole smog thing round. The pollution levels in Beijing and other cities regularly go off the scale. I mean literally, they don’t even have measurements for how fucked people’s lungs are getting. Fujian province has even marketed itself to tourists on the back of its supposedly superior air quality with Partridge-esque slogans such as: “Welcome to a breath of fresh air”, and, “Take a deep breath. You’re in Fujian”. This interesting campaign was only curtailed recently when hundreds of dead piglets were found in a ditch in the province, contaminating the water and turning the air rather sour. Nice one Fujian.

Yes. Dead pigs. We can certainly expect a whole heap more public health scandals of this kind. In fact, over 6,000 of the oinky critters have been fished out of Shanghai’s  Huangpu river in recent days. In response to concerns that the water, which is processed into drinking H2O, was contaminated, President Xi remarked that a good “citizen test” to see if a river’s water is safe is to get the local mayor to go for a swim in it. Fancy a punt on the Huangpu Xi? Thought not.

If that wasn’t bad enough, it seems that the reason for the mass porcine disaster-cide is that diseased pigs were being killed and dumped in the river upstream after a local government crackdown meant they could no longer be slaughtered for eventual sale as processed pork-style products. Yes, diseased and dying pigs slaughtered for meat on an as-yet-unknowable scale. Forget randy monkeys, this is probably how AIDS started.

Southern Weekly saga: porridge, censorship and hacked off hacks in Xi’s China

10 Jan

chinaflagIt’s been a rather depressing, or optimistic, week in China depending on how you view the Party’s latest not-so-subtle attempts to strangle free speech and the unusually vocal reaction to it.

It all began when propaganda chief of the southern Guandong province, Tuo Zhen, decided he didn’t like an already edited-for-his-pleasure New Year’s message in the liberal-leaning Southern Weekly and decided to re-write it, removing the bits calling for reform and adding his own anodyne intro.

Considering China’s hacks already conform to imposing censorship requirements, the editorial team got rather peeved at this blatant hatchet job and went on strike.

Messages of support from scholars, students – and maybe more importantly, bloggers and celebs with tens of millions of followers on weibo – followed as the stand-off between the hacks and the Party-influenced paper management continued.

An editorial in state-run rag Global Times playing down the dispute was ordered by the Party to be published in papers across the country, forcing the principled Dai Zigeng, editor-in-chief of the Beijing News, to resign after he refused to do so.

Undeterred, the BJ Daily, as it’s called by no-one, ran a fascinating article about porridge in defiance of the Party. Yes. Porridge. Read CMP here for the reason why porridge is now politically dissident (hint: It involves homophones and metaphors).

All of this can be set against the backdrop of incoming Party and national leader Xi Jinping’s crusade for reform and transparency. Xi has made it his mission to root out corruption in the Party and sent some pretty strong signals so far that this isn’t just an attempt to cement his popularity and power base.

So is this a particularly sad day for freedom of speech in China’s admittedly pretty sad history? It depends what you believe is going on here.

To take the pessimistic view one could see the message coming loud and clear from the new administration that no relaxing of the country’s tough censorship laws will be allowed, despite initial hope that the country’s new leaders would be a tad more liberal.

A leaked directive sent to all editors from the Propaganda Department would seem to confirm this depressing take on things, blaming as it did the usual mythical “external hostile forces” for the development of the Southern Weekly situation and stating unequivocally: “Party control of the media is an unwavering basic principle”.

Coming from another angle, however, there are signs of encouragement.

One couldn’t expect Xi to stamp his personal mark too quickly on the presidency and the Party, in fact, he’s not even sworn in as pres until March and Party-wise the incoming leader is usually hidebound for many months and even years before they can really take control.

This whole affair could rather be seen, as Beijing-based scholar Russell Leigh Moses argues, as the result of heavy-handed actions – perhaps even designed to deliberately disrupt Xi’s reformist push – of the old guard of the Party.

In addition, pro-democracy protesters were allowed to gather freely outside the Southern Weeklybuildings – although police took pictures of many in that rather sinister “we’ll be in touch later” way police sometimes do – for several days.

And in defiance of the Party, hugely popular internet portals such as that run by Sina published theGlobal Times editorial with the crucial caveat that it did not represent their views. Acrostics in unrelated headlines were also used ingeniously to spell out messages of support for Southern Weekly.

In short, I’ve absolutely no idea what’s going on in China, as usual, but there are signs, albeit hugely caveated ones, that some things may be changing across the border.