Style guide for Party media (1)

The article states that the name “Xinhuashe” (新华社) was adopted “after the 1949 revolution.” Two problems with this. First, the name Xinhuashe was used from 1937 when the CCP moved to Yan’an (after the Xi’an Incident). Second, officially there was no “revolution” in 1949, only the “establishment of the PRC” (建国).

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Style guide for Party media

Source: Sup China (7/20/17)
A style guide for Party media: no bosses or green tea bitches

Founded in 1931 as Red China News Agency 红色中华通讯社, and named after the 1949 revolution, Xinhua News Agency is China’s most important state-owned newswire. Every day, Xinhua feeds thousands of articles to newspapers, websites, and TV stations across China. Xinhua copy is available for free to any news organization; in addition, during some political events, news organizations are required to use Xinhua copy.

So when Xinhua updates its style guide, it affects the way the news is written in every media organization in mainland China. On July 20, Xinhua added 57 new rules (in Chinese) to its existing style guide (which was released in May 2015). Here are some of them:

  • Boss
    Never use boss (老板 lǎobǎn) to describe leading cadres of the Party or people in charge of state-owned enterprises. Continue reading

Cantonese isn’t dead yet

Source: Quartz (6/26/17)
Cantonese isn’t dead yet, so stop writing its eulogy
By Cameron L. White

Secondary school students use chalk to write slogans, reading "Hong Kong keep going", along a main road, part of an area blocked off by protesters in Hong Kong

“Add oil, Hong Kong.” (Reuters/Tyrone Siu)

When I decided to start studying Mandarin as a teenager, friends and family approved. China was enjoying explosive economic growth, so speaking the country’s lingua franca was sure to open doors. But when I moved to China after college, I ended up in one place where Mandarin doesn’t get you very far: Hong Kong.

The majority of the city’s 7.3 million people speak Cantonese, a Chinese dialect mutually unintelligible from Mandarin. And while I’ve thrown myself into learning Cantonese with just as much passion, I do not get the same reaction that I did with Mandarin. Instead, I’m told Cantonese is on its way out the door.

Hong Kong’s English and Chinese media pin the blame on Mandarin. Local officials began stressing Mandarin-based education following the city’s return to Chinese sovereignty in 1997, and now 70% of Hong Kong primary schools use Mandarin to teach Chinese classes. There are also plenty of Mandarin speakers coming from across the border; since 1997, 150 mainlanders have been able to obtain residency each day. Continue reading

Cantonese is not dead

Source: Language Log (6/9/17)
Cantonese is not dead yet
Filed by

Not by a long shot, judging from several recent articles in the South China Morning Post:

American professor speaks up for Cantonese to preserve Hong Kong’s heritage: Robert Bauer from HKU is writing a Cantonese-English dictionary that will include colloquial terms, believing language represents cultures” (Heyling Chan, 5/21/17)

Hong Kong vloggers keeping Cantonese alive with money-spinning YouTube channels:  While many fear Cantonese may be in decline, for Hong Kong’s online stars it has opened a gateway to thousands of followers and lucrative careers” (Rachel Blundy, 6/10/17)

Use Cantonese as a tool to extend Hong Kong’s influence, academic urges:  Chinese University linguist says better teaching of the native language is the vital first step in raising the city’s profile in Beijing’s trade initiative” (Naomi Ng, 5/4/17)

In Vancouver’s ‘Cantosphere’, a sense of responsibility and an identity under siege:  Artists and academics in Vancouver are carving out a space to examine both the fate of Hong Kong and the diaspora identity” (Ian Young, 5/19/17)

All four articles evince a keen sense of the centrality of Cantonese language in maintaining the cultural identity of its speakers.  I urge anyone who is interested in Cantonese to read each of these articles to gain a better idea of the vital issues of language education and preservation that members of the Cantosphere are facing, wherever they are. Continue reading

The politics of passing on in China

Source: (6/2/17)
The Politics of Passing On: In China, the death of a esteemed comrade is never strictly a private matter.
By David Bandursky

Mourners gather in Beijing on May 18 for the memorial service of former foreign minister Qian Qichen.

When Lux Nayaran, the co-founder of content analytics company Unmetric Inc, fed 2,000 New York Times obituaries into a natural language processing program, he found that most all the people featured, famous or not, had used their talents for good. They had, he said, “made a positive dent in the fabric of life.” Had Nayaran instead run 2,000 obituaries from Chinese Communist Party leaders through his program, he might have found something astonishing — that they had all made more or less identical dents in the stiff fabric of Chinese politics. Continue reading

Lesbian app Rela shut down

Source: Shanghaiist (5/29/17)
Rela, China’s leading lesbian app with over 5 million registered users, gets shut down
By Alex Linder


China’s leading lesbian app Rela (热拉) was shut down last week following a viral incident at Shanghai’s marriage market in People’s Park in which a group of mothers of LGBT children were kicked out by police while trying to raise awareness for gay rights.

Last week, the Shanghai-based app’s users were shocked to find that Rela’s official Weibo account had been deleted, along with its website. The app is no longer available on the Apple or Android app stores where it counted over 5 million registered users. Existing users are no longer able to log into their accounts. Continue reading

Curious rise of the “white left” as an insult (1)

Here’s the Global Times‘ take on the “white left” phenomenon. See also –Kirk

Source: Global Times (5/22/17)
Chinese baizuo gibe a rebuttal to West’s moral superiority
By Zhang Yi

A Chinese-created term is catching attention on American social networks. Baizuo, or literally the “white left,” has triggered heated discussions about how it should be interpreted.

The term can now be found on Urban Dictionary, a crowdsourced online dictionary of slang words and phrases. The dictionary describes the buzzword as “meaning a naive Western-educated person who advocates for peace and equality only to satisfy their own feelings of moral superiority.”

A baizuo only cares about topics such as immigration, minorities, LGBT and the environment. The term first became a hit amid the European refugee crisis and German Chancellor Angela Merkel was the first Western politician tagged with the baizuo label because of her open-door refugee policy. Reporters said that Chinese students and job hunters complained that they had to try hard to stay in Europe, while unskilled refugees could just claim asylum and get welfare. Continue reading

Curious rise of the “white left” as an insult

Source: Open Democracy (5/11/17)
The curious rise of the ‘white left’ as a Chinese internet insult

Meet the Chinese netizens who combine a hatred for the ‘white left’ with a love of US president Donald Trump.


Internet cafe, Beijing, Flickr/Kai Hendry. Some rights reserved.

If you look at any thread about Trump, Islam or immigration on a Chinese social media platform these days, it’s impossible to avoid encountering the term baizuo (白左), or literally, the ‘white left’. It first emerged about two years ago, and yet has quickly become one of the most popular derogatory descriptions for Chinese netizens to discredit their opponents in online debates. Continue reading

China calls for whole population to speak Mandarin

Source: SupChina (4/4/17)
China calls for whole population to speak Mandarin

China’s Ministry of Education and its National Language Committee have issued an announcement (in Chinese) calling for intensive work to spread the use of spoken Mandarin and standardized Chinese characters. Currently, about 70 percent of the population can speak Mandarin. In big cities, the figure is around 90 percent, but according to the announcement in some rural areas and among ethnic groups, the number is 40 percent or even lower. The BBC has a short report on the announcement that says the target is to have 80 percent of the population speaking Mandarin by 2020, but the original announcement does not actually mention that number.

The Ministry of Education says that ensuring that the use of Mandarin is thoroughly popularized is an important goal of the 13th five-year plan, and necessary to meet China’s development goals and to preserve social harmony and unity of the nation. The announcement also calls for the “scientific preservation” (科学保护 kēxué bǎohù) of the languages of ethnic minorities.

Zhou Youguang dies at 111

Source: BBC News (1/14/17)
China’s Zhou Youguang, father of Pinyin writing system, dies aged 111

Zhou Youguang

GETTY IMAGES: Zhou Youguang was born is 1906 during the Qing Dynasty

Chinese linguist Zhou Youguang, who created the writing system that turns Chinese characters into words using letters from the Roman alphabet, has died aged 111.

Mr Zhou and a Communist party committee spent three years developing the Pinyin system in the 1950s.

It changed the way the language was taught and helped raise literacy rates.

Mr Zhou, who was born in 1906 during the Qing Dynasty, later became a fierce critic of China’s communist rulers. Continue reading

Disappearing dialect in the capital

Source: Sinosphere, NYT (11/24/16)
The Disappearing Dialect at the Heart of China’s Capital

BEIJING — To the untutored ear, the Beijing dialect can sound like someone talking with a mouthful of marbles, inspiring numerous parodies and viral videos. Its colorful vocabulary and distinctive pronunciation have inspired traditional performance arts such as cross-talk, a form of comic dialogue, and “kuaibanr,’’ storytelling accompanied by bamboo clappers.

Continue reading

Kentucky position (1)

There was a mistake in how applications should be submitted in the version of this job announcement I posted on Oct. 28. Please use this updated version.– Liang Luo

Open Rank Faculty in Second Language Acquisition

The Department of Modern and Classical Languages, Literatures & Cultures at the University of Kentucky invites applications for a tenure-track position in Second Language Acquisition to begin August 2017. The position is pending final approval of funding. The level of the position is open and will be determined on the basis of the candidate’s qualifications. The successful applicant’s tenure home will be in the Department of Modern and Classical Languages, Literatures & Cultures, a dynamic academic unit committed to interdisciplinary collaboration and dialogue among faculty with diverse geographical interests, theoretical concerns, and methodological approaches.  Applicants are expected to have a Ph.D. in Second Language Acquisition or in a related field by August 2017. We seek a candidate who has expertise in Chinese. Experience in teacher education is mandatory. Experience building international collaborative programs is a plus. Continue reading

One language is not enough

Source: The Guardian (10/13/16)
Xiaolu Guo: ‘One language is not enough – I write in both Chinese and English’
The Chinese-British novelist on the hidden language of dreams, living in London and Berlin, and writing in her third language
By Xialu Guo

Illustration by Alan Vest

Illustration by Alan Vest

My writing day starts in the night, with midnight or early morning dreams. When I wake up in my east London flat, I ponder on them while making coffee. In one recurrent dream, my dead Chinese grandmother speaks in my hometown dialect to my western boyfriend, and my western boyfriend responds to her in his language. Both seem to understand each other perfectly without a translator. I must have been using a hidden language to narrate the dream – neither Chinese nor English. It is a dreaming language. I desperately want to capture it, and write in it. Continue reading

Censors scramble after Xi’s G20 speech

Source: Voice of America (9/5/16)
China’s Censors Scramble After Xi’s G-20 Speech
By VOA News

China’s President Xi Jinping speaks during the opening ceremony of the G-20 Summit in Hangzhou in eastern China's Zhejiang province, Sept. 4, 2016.

China’s President Xi Jinping speaks during the opening ceremony of the G-20 Summit in Hangzhou in eastern China’s Zhejiang province, Sept. 4, 2016.

Censors in China are working overtime to scrub the Internet and social media of any mention of a slip-up made by Chinese President Xi Jinping made during a speech in Hangzhou before the Group of 20 Nations leaders’ summit.

In a speech Saturday to the Business 20 (B20) summit, which advises the G-20 leaders on policy decisions, Xi talked about the global economy and quoted an ancient Chinese phrase: “Make the tariff light and the road smooth, promote trade and ease agricultural policy.” [轻关易道,通商宽农]

But because the last character in the phrase for agriculture is very similar to the one for clothes, he ended up saying “taking one’s clothes off” [宽衣] instead of “ease agricultural policy.” [宽农] Continue reading

Moser on modern Chinese language

Source: Sinosphere, NYT (5/27/16)
David Moser on the Struggle to Create a Modern Chinese Language

26chinamoser01-master180BEIJING — At a chaotic conference in Beijing in 1913 led by the Chinese linguist and political anarchist Wu Zhihui, the teacups flew, as well as the words, as participants tried to work out: What was the Chinese language?

It was an urgent task. Two years before, the last imperial dynasty had fallen in a republican revolution led by Sun Yat-sen. Reformers like Mr. Wu knew that China had to become a modern nation if it was to survive. But China was home to hundreds of spoken languages and dialects and a “fantastically hard” writing system that only a few highly educated people and officials were familiar with, according to David Moser, the author of “A Billion Voices,” a new book recounting the creation of modern Chinese. Continue reading