Lying down or impossible to get ahead

Source: China Digital Times (6/10/24)
Quote of the Day: “Not So Much ‘Lying Down’ as Finding It Impossible to Get Ahead”

Today’s quote of the day derives from netizen backlash to the Communist Youth League’s (CYL) recent video broadside against “lying down”—referring to the much-discussed phenomenon of people slacking off, quietly giving up, or dropping out of the rat race as a means of coping with a hyper-competitive society that treats workers as “huminerals” to be relentlessly exploited and ultimately discarded.

The video, widely circulated on the Chinese internet, was titled “CYL Central Committee: ‘Only a Tiny Minority Are Truly Lying Down, While the Vast Majority Are Working Tirelessly.’” This was followed by an online survey that asked viewers to choose whether they were among the “tiny majority who lie down” or “the vast majority who work tirelessly.” To the amusement of many online observers, and at odds with the propagandistic tone and intent of the video, fully 93 percent of respondents confessed to being among that “tiny majority” of slackers, while only seven percent identified themselves as card-carrying members of the “vast majority” of indefatigable workers.

Columnist, pop psychologist, and WeChat blogger Tang Yinghong (唐映红, Táng Yìnghóng) put an interesting spin on the survey, cautioning that while most of the respondents were probably jesting, the CYL was likely correct in declaring that only a tiny minority were inclined to “lie down” because slacking off is a luxury that only the privileged few can afford. The vast majority of Chinese young people, Tang wrote, are simply too busy struggling to make a living to even contemplate dropping out or slowing down: Continue reading Lying down or impossible to get ahead

School of Cantonese Studies 2024

School of Cantonese Studies 2024

School of Cantonese Studies 2024 will be jointly organized by Hong Kong Metropolitan University and the Education University of Hong Kong. The theme of School 2024 is Cantonese studies with a comparative approach. Speakers of the School will highlight the special features of Cantonese through comparisons with other major languages such as Standard Chinese and English. Topics in this 4-day School include phonology, grammar, language and society, historical development of Cantonese, IT in Cantonese learning and teaching.

Date: 12 – 15 August 2024 (Mon to Thu), am and pm
Venue: Hong Kong Metropolitan University, Homantin, Hong Kong

*Medium of instruction: Cantonese supplemented with English and Putonghua.

About the SchoolSchool of Cantonese Studies was first organized in 2019 at the Education University of Hong Kong from 27 to 31 May 2019.The aims of the School are as follows:(a) to introduce recent developments and knowledge on different domains in Cantonese Studies to the participants;

(b) to introduce systematic and rigorous methodologies for conducting research on Cantonese;

(c) to provide a venue for scholarly exchange and interaction between scholars and participants of different backgrounds who are interested in Cantonese Studies.

The five-day event covered nine lectures delivered by twelve scholars specializing in Cantonese studies. There were 60 participants coming from different parts of the world. [See]

The School of 2021 (online mode) carried the theme “Cantonese Studies in the Digital Age”. In the two-day event, speakers of the School introduced some up-to-date Cantonese studies involving digital technologies, such as corpus-based research, online tools and resources for Cantonese studies, and digital processing of Cantonese corpus data. [see]

Continue reading School of Cantonese Studies 2024

Chengyu for Xi Jinping’s New Era

Scroll down for Part 2.–Kirk Denton

Source: China Digital Times (5/14/24)
Chengyu for Xi Jinping’s New Era (Part 1)

Xi Jinping’s New Era has inspired the creation of a host of “new chengyu: idiomatic, often four-character, literary expressions that are the kernel of a larger tale. The following New Era chengyu are all references to infamous incidents that have taken place within the last calendar year. Consistent with much of CDT’s 2024 coverage, the chengyu introduced below center on economic pain: impoverished farmers, distressed creditors, penny-pinching landlords—even cash-strapped police departments. Many also focus on official malfeasance: petty despotism, official greed, and wanton enforcement of the law. Without further ado, here are the five entries that make up Part 1 of CDT’s “New Era chengyu” compilation:

Yunhao Blocks the Plow (云浩止耕, Yúnhào zhǐ gēng)

Ji Doesn’t Know the Law (纪不懂法, Jì bù dǒng fǎ)

Repaying Debt With Prison Time (以刑化债, yǐ xíng huà zhài)

Calculating Damages by Lantern-Light (提灯定损, tídēng dìng sǔn)

Fishing the High Seas (远洋捕捞, yuǎnyáng bǔlāo) [Chinese]

Yunhao Blocks the Plow (云浩止耕, Yúnhào zhǐ gēng)

In April of this year, an undercover reporting team captured a shocking incident in Inner Mongolia’s Kailu County: village cadres blocking villagers from plowing fields on the eve of the make-or-break planting season. The reporters were with the state-run outlet Reports on China’s Three Rural Issues (中国三农发布, Zhōngguó sānnóng fābù) and they had traveled to Kailu after receiving a mass of complaints from villagers that officials were prohibiting them from planting—unless the villagers agreed to pay extortionate fees. The provenance of the dispute dates back two decades, when a nearly 1,000 acre (5600 mu) parcel of land was contracted out to villagers on a thirty-year lease. Since then, through diligent irrigation and stewardship, the land has been transformed from a palace where “even rabbits wouldn’t shit” to a viable corn field. But this year, local cadres were demanding that villagers pay an extra 200 yuan per mu tax before being allowed to plant—a fee that villagers insisted was illegal. The undercover state-media reporters captured footage of cadres blocking plows, accusing villagers of illegally occupying public land, and chiding them that calling the police was useless. One official, the village deputy Party secretary Ji Yunhao, was particularly egregious in his conduct, threatening villagers, “So what if 110 [China’s 911 emergency hot-line number] officers arrive? The higher-ups ordered me to collect money, so that’s what I’m going to do.” Ji was relieved of his position after the video attracted public criticism. However, there has been no official statement on Ji’s seemingly falsified resume, which came to light after his bullying behavior went viral. Continue reading Chengyu for Xi Jinping’s New Era

Angloscene review

MCLC Resource Center is pleasesd to announce publication of Ruodi Duan’s review of Angloscene: Compromised Personhood in Afro-Chinese Translations, by Jay Ke-Schutte. The review appears below and at its online home: My thanks to Michael Gibbs Hill, our translations/translation studies book review editor, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk Denton, MCLC

Angloscene: Compromised Personhood
in Afro-Chinese Translations

By Jay Ke-Schutte

Reviewed by Ruodi Duan

MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright May, 2024)

Jay Ke-Schutte, Angloscene: Compromised Personhood in Afro-Chinese Translations Berkeley: University of California Press, 2023. 219 pp. ISBN: 9780520389816 (paperback); 9780520389823 (ebook).

New approaches to China-Africa studies that center the mediating role of race remain greatly needed. Jay Ke-Schutte’s Angloscene: Compromised Personhood in Afro-Chinese Translations, which is available for free in electronic format from Luminosa, takes on this call. Through an ethnography conducted in the 2010s of the relationships and micro-interactions between Chinese and African students in Beijing, Ke-Schutte argues that these encounters are continually articulated through the vectors of whiteness, cosmopolitanism, and use of the English language. This landscape, Ke-Schutte argues, comprises the “Angloscene,” which is constituted through acts of interpersonal and intercultural translation.

I appreciate many aspects of the book. The ethnographic descriptions are rich and well-composed. Ke-Schutte accords much-deserved attention to how the dynamic afterlives of Third World unity still manifest in current-day grassroots exchanges, such as when an African student implores a Chinese street vendor to “help out a Third World brother!” (5). Relatedly, I find very provocative the connections that Ke-Schutte highlights between labor migrancy in apartheid-era South Africa and the aspirations of female rural-to-urban migrant workers in contemporary Beijing (72-75). Ke-Schutte’s willingness to tackle some of the most impossible questions in the articulation and reception of Black identities in modern Chinese society (i.e., who can be a racist?) leads to unanticipated and deeply insightful observations. For one, I am intrigued by the global reach of “white political correctness” as a register of the civilizational expectations that govern subaltern subjects (89). The exchanges between Adam, a Zimbabwean student, and his Chinese ex-girlfriend Lili at a costume party capture this dynamic. Adam and Lili found themselves trapped in an impossible bind given their use of English language as the vehicle for communication, unable to escape the racialized positions and aspirations that elevate Tim, Lili’s new white boyfriend, to relative unassailability and authority. Continue reading Angloscene review

Happy Together script

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of “Happy Together 春光乍洩 Script: Cantonese Transcription with English Translation,” by Sabrina Yu, Nicholas Kaldis, Kin Wing Kevin Chan, and Cecilia Liao. A teaser appears below. Click here for the full transcription/translation. My thanks to Nicholas Kaldis for sharing this work with the MCLC community. Thomas Moran offered important editorial suggestions.


Kirk Denton, MCLC

Happy Together 春光乍洩 Script:
Cantonese Transcription with English Translation

Directed by Wong Kar-wai 王家衛

Translated by: Sabrina Yu, Nicholas Kaldis, Kin Wing Kevin Chan, and Cecilia Liao
With assistance from: Ashley Yingxue Liu, Ana Ros Matturo, Gerardo Pignatiello[1]

MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright February 2024)

Lai Yiu-fai Passport.

Ho Po-wing stares at Iguazú Falls lamp.

 Ho Po Wing: Lai Yiu Fai, let’s start over.
何寶榮: 黎耀輝, 不如我哋由頭再嚟過。

Lai and Ho making love.

Lai Yiu Fai: “Let’s start over,” this phrase is Ho Po Wing’s mantra. I admit that these lines are very lethal. We’ve been together a long time, with the occasional break up, but I don’t know why, whenever that phrase is uttered it’s always brought us back together. Because we wanted to start over, we left Hong Kong. Two people with no destination ended up in Argentina.
黎耀輝: “不如由頭嚟過,” 呢句說話係何寶榮嘅口頭禪。我𠄘認呢句說話對我來講好有殺傷力。我哋喺埋一齊已經好耐。中間亦都有分開過,但係唔知點解次次講呢句說話我都同佢喺返埋一齊。因為想由頭嚟過,離開香港。兩個人行下行下咁就嚟到阿根廷。

Lai Yiu Fai: Where is Iguazú?
黎耀輝:Dónde es Iguazú?

Lai Yiu Fai: You said you knew how to read maps, we went in the wrong direction!
黎耀輝: 你又話識睇地圖,行錯路呀![READ THE FULL TEXT HERE]


Source: China Digital Times (1/18/24)
Word of the Week: “U-LOCK” (U型锁, U-XÍNGSUǑ)
Posted by 

This month, there have been a number of incidents—some major and some minor—that illustrate the “U-lock” mentality, a phrase that is sometimes used as shorthand to describe vitriolic xenophobic (particularly anti-Japanese) sentiment. “U-lock” refers to a U-shaped metal bicycle lock used to attack the Chinese owner of a Japanese-made car during the 2012 anti-Japanese protests in Xi’an. Ever since, Chinese internet users have used the term “U-lock” to refer to knee-jerk, xenophobic sentiment with the potential to incite real-world violence.

The “U-lock” mentality was on display in some of the rejoicing and Schadenfreude on Chinese social media after a destructive magnitude 7.6 earthquake struck western Japan on New Year’s Day of this year. Some nationalist commenters even claimed that the earthquake was “retribution” for past Japanese transgressions, from the conquest of Asia during WWII, up to and including last September’s initial release of treated nuclear wastewater from the damaged Fukushima nuclear power plant.

Just a week after the earthquake came the Nanning Metro “rising sun/folding fan” flap, set in motion by a nationalistic Douyin vlogger who complained that a colorful new advertisement on the Nanning metro system resembled the controversial former “rising sun” flag of the Imperial Japanese Army. Nanning Metro quickly backed down, deleting the offending imagery and promising to improve its oversight of future advertising, but a look at the entirety of the advertisement revealed that the image was not a Japanese rising sun at all, but a traditional Chinese folding fan. Some online observers chalked the incident up to nationalist trolls attempting to whip up anti-Japanese sentiment through deliberate misrepresentation or intentional misdirection (指鹿为马, zhǐlùwéimǎ, literally “pointing at a deer and calling it a horse.”) Others characterized it as an example of “porcelain bumping” (碰瓷, pèngcí)—in other words, creating a sham scenario to fool the unwary and advance one’s own agenda. (The term was coined, noted David Bandurski, “to describe a technique used by fraudsters who would wait with delicate porcelain vessels outside busy markets and demand payment when these shattered, ostensibly due to the carelessness of others.”) Continue reading U-lock

27th International Conference on Yue Dialects

Logo for the 27th International Conference on Yue DialectsThe 27th International Conference on Yue Dialects (2023)

This conference — hosted by The Ohio State University — will be held virtually via Zoom on the evenings of November 30 to December 2, 2023 (Eastern Time Zone). The dates correspond to the mornings of December 1-3 (Friday to Sunday) in East Asia.

The conference Program is now online. Check it out!

Online Registration (free and open to the public):

Registration 報名表格

The International Conference on Yue Dialects, first launched in 1987 in Hong Kong by the Linguistic Society of Hong Kong and The Chinese University of Hong Kong, debuts this year as the first overseas event, outside China and its two SARs, Hong Kong and Macau! We at The Ohio State University are honored to serve as the 2023 host of this prestigious conference series. We look forward to welcoming presenters and attendees from around the world with interest in linguistic research on Cantonese and other Yue dialects.

As part of the conference, we are excited to welcome three keynote speakers. Continue reading 27th International Conference on Yue Dialects

Mao and character reform, revisionist history on CCTV

Source: Language Log (11/7/23)
Mao and Chinese Character Reform: Revisionist History on CCTV
By David Moser

Just when you thought CCP propaganda couldn’t get more absurd, China Central Television (CCTV) has aired a short TV series in which Confucius and Karl Marx actually meet up for comradely chat about ideology. In typical fantasy time-travel style, Marx simply appears miraculously at the Yuelu Academy (estab. 976) in Hunan, and is warmly greeted by Confucius to chants of “A friend visiting from afar is a great delight.” (有朋自远方来,不亦乐乎?) The two gray-bearded philosophers then sit down together to discuss how their respective theories seem to merge harmoniously to form an ideal basis for governing China.

This bit of historical cosplay is part of Xi Jinping’s “Soul and Root” (魂和根) propaganda campaign, introducing the notion that Marxism and Confucianism – the “Two Combines” (兩個結合) – must be integrated to form a unified national identity, with Marxism being the “soul” and traditional culture, including Confucianism, being the “root.”

This awkward conjoining of the two philosophies is a bit of a shotgun wedding. There is the obvious fact that the Confucian emphasis on social roles and class hierarchies are in conflict with Marxism’s ultimate goal of eliminating class distinctions. And more uncomfortable is the fact that the May 4th intellectuals (including Mao himself) despised Confucianism, viewing its stultifying conservatism and dogmatism as a major cause of China’s weakness during the waning years of the Qing dynasty. The TV series at least acknowledges this tension in passing. For interested readers, Ryan Ho Kilpatrick provides a succinct summary of this new Party propaganda push at the China Media Project site. Continue reading Mao and character reform, revisionist history on CCTV

Visual language of official press

Source: China Media Project (10/20/23)
The Visual Language of China’s Official Press
Understanding the political messages of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) requires much more than mere summary and translation — and more even than close textual readings. Here’s a walk through the basics, looking at today’s edition of the Party’s flagship newspaper.
By David Bandurski

In the official Party-state media in China, design is driven by politics — and it is a crucial aspect of the political discourse. Want to see this principle in action? Today’s edition of the People’s Daily, the flagship newspaper of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) offers a prime example.

The oddest and most prominent feature of the front page of the People’s Daily today is the large vertical headline running down the left-hand side. The headline, which announces that top leader Xi Jinping met with international leaders attending the Belt and Road Forum in Beijing, ties the rest of the headlines on the page together. All are announcements of separate meetings, each with a different foreign leader.

As has been the case all week in the official state media in China, the top story is the Belt and Road. Coverage has touted its great benefits for participating countries, and for the entire world — emphasizing the growing economic and political centrality of China and its top leader.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the global infrastructure development and trade promotion program, which has been a pillar of China’s foreign policy, and the forum this week is the year’s most prominent opportunity for state-run media to roll out related domestic and international propaganda.

They have not missed the chance. Coverage of the Belt and Road Forum has eclipsed all other stories, including one of the world’s most pressing concerns, the unfolding conflict in Gaza and its potentially disastrous implications for security in the Middle East. Continue reading Visual language of official press

Kingdom of Characters review

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Gina Anne Tam’s review of Kingdom of Characters: The Language Revolution That Made China Modern, by Jing Tsu. The review appears below and at its online home: My thanks to Nicholas Kaldis, our literary studies book review editor, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk Denton, MCLC

Kingdom of Characters:
The Language Revolution That Made China Modern

By Jing Tsu

Reviewed by Gina Anne Tam

MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright September, 2023)

Jing Tsu, Kingdom of Characters: The Language Revolution that Made China Modern New York: Riverhead Books, 2022. xix + 314 pp. ISBN: 9780735214736​ (Paperback); 9780735214729 (Hardcover); 9780735214743​ (E-book)

Jing Tsu believes that Americans do not understand China well. With an eye on deteriorating US-China relations in the past several years, the prolific literary scholar has repeatedly made public her concern about the information gap between China and the West, a reality she sees as increasingly dangerous. Scholars who have deep, lived experience in China, she contends, have an increasingly important responsibility. She states that the “days of armchair scholarship are over,” instead imploring fellow specialists to do all we can to help readers understand China on its own terms—as a place that is textured and complicated, not a two-dimensional caricature of a dangerous and threatening hegemon.[1]

It was to further this goal that Tsu wrote Kingdom of Characters: The Language Revolution That Made China Modern, a work that has topped best-seller lists and gained widespread attention by mainstream audiences around the world. The book is a history of Chinese language modernization as told through several compelling biographies placed vividly into the context of the tumultuous history of China’s twentieth century. It is meant, Tsu purports, to help bridge the understanding gap between the average American and citizens of China. Language, she believes, is a vector through which we can understand China today—from the state processes that control and shape culture, to the economics of technological advancement, to ideas about foreignness, nativity, and power. Continue reading Kingdom of Characters review

The Chinese People Have Stand-Up

Source: China Media Project (8/30/23)
The Chinese People Have Stand-Up
China’s crackdown on stand-up comedy in May this year was swift and decisive — as was the medium’s rise during the pandemic years. Taiwanese comedian Vickie Wang offers her inside perspective on why the format has struck such a chord with young Chinese audiences.
By Vickie Wang

When I first saw Ali Wong’s Netflix special Baby Cobra, I thought to myself, “I didn’t know Asian women were allowed to talk like this in public!” It was raunchy, frank, and hilarious — and it inspired me to go to comedy shows. In 2017, I began doing open mics at Shanghai’s Kung Fu Komedy club.

When I started out, the performers and clientele in Shanghai both skewed heavily expatriate. Most of the jokes hinged on how overwhelming it was to live in China as a foreigner, or even more cringe-worthy material about intercultural dating. Still, I was drawn to the bare-bones nature of the performance format. A dedicated venue with a dark room, good soundproofing, a spotlight, and a good sound system all go a long way. It also helps if the venue sells alcohol. But stand-up comedy doesn’t require a theater: it’s just a comedian with a microphone and an audience.

Kung Fu Komedy was one of the most prominent stand-up comedy venues in Asia at the time, and the only club in mainland China dedicated to stand-up, putting on English-language shows like mine most nights of the week. But by October of 2018, in the lead-up to the first China International Import Expo, the club was shuttered amid a wave of crackdowns on performers’ visas and liquor licenses. The secret to why this happened goes to the heart of what makes stand-up so engaging for performers like me as an art form — even without the glitz and glamor — and why it attracts so much attention from the public. Continue reading The Chinese People Have Stand-Up

Xi’s obscure nicknames

Source: China Digital Times (8/25/23)
Words of the Week: Xi’s Obscure Nicknames, from ↗↘↗ to ‘2-4-2’ to ‘N’ to ‘N-Butane

With hundreds of documented (and censored) online sobriquets, Xi Jinping is arguably the most nicknamed leader in recent Chinese history. To stay ahead of the censors, online Chinese have long resorted to using homophones, variant characters, intentional typos, and a range of typographical tricks when referring to China’s “core” leader.

Image shows the tonal marks for the three Chinese characters in Xi Jinping’s name. The order of the tones is rising (2nd tone), falling (4th tone), and rising (2nd tone).

Over time, as evading online censorship has become more difficult, the nicknames have trended toward the abstruse. When a recent “Soviet-style” joke about a man asking a genie to “make blah-blah-blah blah-blah-blah” went viral, the first string of three nonsense syllables were interpreted by many to mean “Xi Jinping,” and the second was thought to mean something like “hurry up and die” or “step down soon.” Despite the vagueness of the joke, references to it were quickly censored on social media and the original poster (@怪以德服人猫) had their account summarily deleted from Weibo for allegedly violating platform policy.

Even the tonal marks used in Xi Jinping’s name (习近平, Xí Jìnpíng) have become a roundabout way to refer to him online. In May of 2023, Chinese Twitter and social media was abuzz about a sequence of three arrows ↗↘↗ said to represent the three tones (second/rising tone, fourth/falling tone, and second/rising tone, respectively) in Xi Jinping’s name. This usage had originated with a screenshot, purportedly from QQ, showing a post that read: “You know what’s depressing? When random netizens who do your job as a hobby are smarter and more competent than you.” Someone in the comments section had responded, “Those keyboard warriors are more competent than ↗↘↗.” Many who read the comment were shocked and amused that they managed to correctly interpret the three arrows as a reference to Xi Jinping, although others had to ask, “Can anyone explain this?” Among the comments of those in the know: “I understood that!” “How was I able to read that? Someone save me,” “God, I’ve been pronouncing it →↘→ all this time, guess my Mandarin isn’t that good,” and “I got it at first glance. Does this mean I’m going to hell?” Continue reading Xi’s obscure nicknames

Four Won’t Youth

Source: China Digital Times (7/20/23)
Word(s) of the Week: Four Won’t Youth (四不青年, SÌ BÙ QĪNGNIÁN)
Posted by 

A screenshot of the black-and-white chart described above features an X-axis, a Y-axis, and four quadrants, each containing a single Chinese character representing a mode of political behavior. There is also a Z-axis with the character “Xian,” representing the most extreme mode of behavior.

A screenshot of the black-and-white chart described below features an X-axis, a Y-axis, and four quadrants, each containing a single Chinese character representing a mode of political behavior. There is also a Z-axis with the character “Xian,” representing the most extreme mode of behavior.

Four Won’t Youth” (四不青年, sì bù qīngnián) is the latest appellation for discontented youth, who in this case “won’t date, won’t marry, won’t buy a home, and won’t have kids.”

Four Won’t Youth, like other similar terms (lying flatinvolutionKong Yiji), make the Party-state nervous. A document floating around the internet and purported to be from the Guangzhou branch of the Communist Youth League claims that of 15,501 surveyed youth, 1,215 could be classified as Four Won’t Youth. The document calls for an effort to transform these young people into “Four Will Youth,” who are willing to go out on dates, get hitched, purchase real estate, and procreate. Screenshots of the alleged document have been censored on Weibo. Continue reading Four Won’t Youth

International Conference on Yue Dialects 2023–cfp

Dear all,

We are pleased to announce The 27th International Conference on Yue Dialects, which will be held virtually via Zoom on the evenings of November 30 to December 2, 2023 (Eastern Time Zone), corresponding to the mornings of December 1-3, 2023 in East Asia.

The conference URL:

The 27th International Conference on Yue Dialects is organized at The Ohio State University, in Columbus, Ohio, U.S.A. We at OSU are very excited to host this conference, as it will be the first time that this conference series — first launched in 1987 in Hong Kong by Linguistic Society of Hong Kong and The Chinese University of Hong Kong — is being held overseas, outside China and its two SARs, Hong Kong and Macau.

The theme of the conference is: Visions, Variation, and Vitality in Yue Dialects. We welcome abstracts for submission on all aspects of linguistics of Cantonese and other Yue dialects, and especially those associated with the theme of the conference.

The conference has invited 3 keynote speakers, two in Chinese linguistics and one in Chinese history.

Professor Dana Bourgerie 白杰理教授 (Brigham Young University)
Professor Gina Anne Tam 潭吉娜教授 (Trinity University)
Professor Holman Tse 謝浩明教授  (St. Catherine University) Continue reading International Conference on Yue Dialects 2023–cfp

‘I Don’t Raise Pigs’

Source: China Digital Times (6/28/23)
Word(s) of the Week: “I Don’t Raise Pigs” (我不养猪 WǑ BÙ YǍNG ZHŪ)
By Alexander Boyd

“I don’t raise pigs” (我不养猪 wǒ bù yǎng zhū), a Hunan police station’s nonsensical comment on the death of a woman in their custody, is the latest incidence of “gobsmacking rhetoric” (léi yǔ 雷语) to go viral. “Gobsmacking rhetoric” is online slang that can be used to describe inappropriate official rhetoric that bowls over readers. In a popular culture context, it is solely humorous.

On June 14, a woman died in a Cili County police station. Police attributed the death to sudden cardiac death caused by malignant arrhythmia. The woman’s daughter then posted a video in which she alleged that her mother had died while under interrogation. The news went viral on Weibo, spurring investigative journalists to look into the claim. A reporter for Benliu News, a Gansu state-controlled outlet, called the police station in question to ask whether anyone had died there and received this odd response: “I don’t know. Our sow didn’t have a litter. I don’t raise pigs.” The bizarre police response massively increased attention on the case, prompting authorities to announce an investigation into the death. Many online called for the investigation to look into the “I don’t raise pigs” comment. The WeChat public account @犯犯之谈 posted an article titled, “She went in living, she came out dead,” that castigated the police for their bizarre comment:

“I wonder whether those officers are just used to treating the station like a pigsty and the people like swine, or whether that officer [on the phone] was putting on a performance and feigning mental illness? Oh wait, that’s right—if you’re mentally ill, you can get away with murder!” [Chinese] Continue reading ‘I Don’t Raise Pigs’