Archive for Language and politics

Who owns kimchi?

[This is a guest post by S. Robert Ramsey]

"Korean kimchi originally came from China."

–Or so China’s online encyclopedia Baidu Baike declared in its article on kimchi.

Koreans were outraged. What gall for Chinese to lay claim to their national dish! Adding to the furor, China’s English-language newspaper Global Times reported last year that the International Organization for Standardization (the ISO) had recognized an “international standard for the kimchi industry led by China.”

Indignant Koreans flooded the Internet: “It’s total nonsense, what a thief stealing our culture!” a South Korean netizen said. Another wrote: “I read a media story that China now says kimchi is theirs, and that they are making international standard for it. It’s absurd.”

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The five don'ts of novel coronavirus vaccination in Hainan, China

A notice issued in Wancheng, a town in Hainan Province on March 31 warning people of consequences if they refuse to take vaccines. (Screenshot via Weibo)

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"'White left' — a Chinese calque in English", part 2

A little less than four years ago, I wrote a post about the subject of báizuǒ 白左 ("white left").  It was a difficult post to write, because the topic was sensitive, controversial, and recherché.  The post provoked an enthusiastic discussion, with much of the emotional investment being about whether the term would stick in English a year or two later.

I filed it away far in the back of my mind, thinking that I might never have to deal with it again because, in truth, it had given me a lot of headaches, trying to make sense of its ideological and political implications in China and in the West (which are by no means the same), its relationship to SJW (Social Justice Warriors), and so forth.  I was happy enough not to have to think about báizuǒ 白左 ("white left") for four years.

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Annual wave of Anti-English sentiment in the PRC

Article in official CCP media source:

"Chinese lawmaker proposes removing English as core subject"

Liu Caiyu, Global Times (3/5/21)

Coming from GT, the hyper-nationalistic tabloid, this attack on English is not unexpected, and similar anti-English proposals come up every year around the time of the national meetings of the Liǎnghuì 兩會 (Two Sessions), annual plenary meetings of the national People's Congress and the national committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference that have just concluded in Beijing (March 4-11).

Here we go again:

Is English really that important? A Chinese lawmaker at the two sessions has proposed removing English as a core subject for Chinese students receiving compulsory education, triggering heated discussion on Chinese social media.

The proposal was made by Xu Jin, a member of the Central Committee of the Jiusan Society and also a member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC). It has also been proposed by other lawmakers in previous years.

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"Chinese people don't eat this condom!"

China's netizens are taking the recent diplomatic contretemps in Anchorage, Alaska in an extremely lighthearted spirit:

Photo: Weibo

(Source:  Weibo)

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Glossing English with Sinograms

For more than five decades, Orville Schell has been one of our leading China expositors.  Having authored or co-authored a dozen books on Chinese affairs, he now turns his hand to a fictional biography with My Old Home:  A Novel of Exile (Penguin Random House, 2021).  Blurb from the publisher:

A uniquely experienced observer of China gives us a sweeping historical novel that takes us on a journey from the rise of Mao Zedong in 1949 to the Tiananmen Square uprising in 1989, as a father and his son are swept away by a relentless series of devastating events.
 
It’s 1950, and pianist Li Tongshu is one of the few Chinese to have graduated from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. Engaged to a Chinese-American violinist who is the daughter of a missionary father and a Shanghai-born mother, Li Tongshu is drawn not just by Mao’s grand promise to “build a new China” but also by the enthusiasm of many other Chinese artists and scientists living abroad, who take hope in Mao’s promise of a rejuvenated China. And so when the recently established Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing offers Li Tongshu a teaching position, he leaves San Francisco and returns home with his new wife.
 
But instead of being allowed to teach, Li Tongshu is plunged into Mao’s manic revolution, which becomes deeply distrustful of his Western education and his American wife. It’s not long before his son, Little Li, also gets caught up in the maelstrom of political and ideological upheaval that ends up not only savaging the Li family but, ultimately, destroying the essential fabric of Chinese society.

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Anti-Neanderthal prejudice?

“We are on the cusp of being able to fundamentally change the nature of this disease because of the way in which we’re able to get vaccines in people’s arms […] And the last thing, the last thing we need is Neanderthal thinking, that, ‘In the meantime, everything’s fine. Take off your mask. Forget it.’ It still matters.”

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Non-toxic dog whistles?

The OED's definition of the political sense of dog whistle is "A statement or expression which in addition to its ostensible meaning has a further interpretation or connotation intended to be understood only by a specific target audience", derived from the literal sense "A high-pitched whistle used in training dogs; (later) esp. one producing sounds at a frequency above the range of human hearing". The definitions at Merriam-Webster and Wiktionary are similar.

There seem to me to be a few things wrong these definitions, at least as the term dog whistle is generally used. One thing missing that the "further interpretation" is (viewed by user of the term dog whistle as) shameful. And one superfluous part of the definitions is the idea that the "further interpretation" is not understood outside the "target audience" — rather, the goal (as attributed to the dog whistler) seems to be more a matter of euphemism or deniability.

Scanning instances of dog whistle on Google News this morning, the first dozen or so of the examples seem to me to confirm my impressions.

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Tsai Ing-wen's multilingual New Year's greetings

The multilingual part of this message from the President of Taiwan comes near the end of this 2:26 Twitter video:

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"The Museum of the Passive Voice"


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"(Political) party" in the Analects

A select quotation from the Confucian Analects (Zǐlù 13.18):

Shè gōng yù Kǒngzǐ yuē:`Wú dǎng yǒu zhígōng zhě, qí fù rǎng yáng, ér zi zhèng zhī. 'Kǒngzǐ yuē:`Wú dǎng zhī zhí zhě yì yú shì. Fù wèi zi yǐn, zi wèi fù yǐn, zhí zài qí zhōng yǐ.'

葉公語孔子曰:「吾黨有直躬者,其父攘羊,而子證之。」孔子曰:「吾黨之直者異於是。父為子隱,子為父隱,直在其中矣。」

The Duke of She informed Confucius, saying, "Among us here there are those who may be styled upright in their conduct. If their father have stolen a sheep, they will bear witness to the fact." Confucius said, "Among us, in our part of the country, those who are upright are different from this. The father conceals the misconduct of the son, and the son conceals the misconduct of the father. Uprightness is to be found in this."  (trans. James Legge)

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Hokkien renaissance

This is cause for rejoicing:

 "Meet the Malaysian on a mission to make Hokkien great again, amid Mandarin’s rising popularity in Southeast Asia"

    Linguist Sim Tze Wei has been accused of trying to divide the Chinese people, as there are those who see the use of other Chinese languages ‘as a sign of disunity and weakness’
    But he points out that Chinese immigrants to Asia have for generations been speaking their own languages, which are being edged out as more turn to learning Mandarin

Randy Mulyanto, SCMP, 1/24/21

When Sim Tze Wei began working to raise awareness of the Hokkien language, he never expected he would be accused of trying to divide the Chinese people.

“Han Chinese nationalists everywhere are keen to equate Mandarin to [real] Chinese,” said Sim, adding that there are those who find ethnic Chinese people speaking in Chinese languages other than Mandarin “as a sign of disunity and weakness”.

The Malaysian-Chinese linguist, who is in his mid-30s, is president of the Hokkien Language Association of Penang. Through the association, Sim is campaigning for the wider use of Hokkien, and advocating that it be reinstated as a language of instruction in independent and Chinese primary schools in the northern Malaysian state, as he fears Hokkien will “continue to be eroded by Mandarin and English”.

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No word for "runoff"?

Candice Norwood, "In battle for the Senate, Georgia organizers fight to mobilize voters of color", PBS News Hour 12/3/2020:

For Susana Durán, Georgia State director for the civic engagement group Poder Latinx, informing voters about the race starts with the basics.

“What is a runoff? There’s no Spanish language word for runoff,” Durán said. “I’m trying to figure out the shortest way to explain what a runoff is without having the voters run off.”

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