Ma-Xi –> MaXi

« previous post | next post »

What is the message conveyed by this strange photograph and the unusual writing on it?


This is actually a very clever, satirical commentary on the recently concluded meeting between Ma Ying-jeou, President of the Republic of China (ROC, on Taiwan), and Xi Jinping, President of the People's Republic of China (PRC, on the Mainland), in Singapore.  Many people in Taiwan were upset that Ma met with Xi while thousands of PRC missiles are aimed at them and the PRC constantly interferes with Taiwanese participation in all sorts of activities and forums around the world.  Consequently, there were plenty of protests against the meeting between Ma and Xi, which was sprung on them rather precipitously.

What made the meeting even more galling to the Taiwanese is the fact that it came just before the presidential election in Taiwan, which is scheduled to be held on January 16, 2016.  To understand the acrimony of the Taiwanese people against Ma for his perfidy in shaking Xi's hand in Singapore, a little bit of background is in order:

    1. Ma, the incumbent president, belongs to the KMT (Kuomintang, Nationalist) party and has a Mainland Chinese heritage.
    2. Tsai Ing-wen, the candidate of the Democratic Progressive Party, has a Taiwanese heritage and is widely expected to be elected as the first woman president of Taiwan (she has been leading by a comfortable margin in all polls.
    3. Xi Jinping and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) are fiercely opposed to the election of a Taiwanese president who is not committed to the unification of Taiwan and China.
    4. Since being elected President in 2008, Ma Ying-jeou has brought Taiwan ever closer to the embrace of the PRC.

The photograph at the beginning of this post is a composite which melds Ma and Xi into a single image, visually underscoring the claims of those who are angry at Ma for selling Taiwan out to Xi.  What they are saying, in essence, is that Ma is Xi and Xi is Ma.  Some of that sentiment is seen in the name of a group calling itself the Fǎn MǎXí zhènxiàn 反騽陣線 ("Anti-MaXi Front").  There have also been lots of Facebook posts using the phrase MǎXí huì 騽會 ("MaXi Meeting") instead of Mǎ-Xí huì 馬習會 ("Ma-Xi Meeting").

The difference may be overly subtle for some, but it has to do with making two individuals into one.  In other words, it was not a meeting between Ma and Xi (i.e., Ma-Xi), but a meeting of MaXi with his alter ego, MaXi.

The satire is mordantly underscored by the choice of an obscure character, xí 騽 ("black horse with a yellowish back; an abundance of long hair on the front of a horse's leg") to simultaneously stand for Ma (Mǎ Yīngjiǔ 馬英九) and Xi (Xí Jìnpíng 習近平):  馬 + 習 = 騽.  That accounts for the first character at the top left of the photograph above.  The other two characters just below are constructed by combining the given names of the two men:  Yīng 英 + Jìn 近 and jiǔ 九 + píng 平.

The only thing I have to add is a pun that I am not aware of as having been made by anyone else, but seems natural to me:  MǎXítuán 馬習團 ("MaXi cabal") || mǎxìtuán 馬戲團 ("circus").

[Thanks to Jason Cox]


  1. liuyao said,

    November 10, 2015 @ 1:16 am

    I thought you'd posted on these composite characters. They are well-designed that it makes me wonder if they came from existing software that would merge any two characters in a recognizable and elegant way.

    A note: on the Mainland it's of course called Xi-Ma hui, so you would make a pun with 洗馬, which is actually an officicial post oj the staff of the heir-designate. (After looking it up, it's probably pronounced Xian Ma instead.)

  2. liuyao said,

    November 10, 2015 @ 2:44 am

    While politics does not belong to this blog, I was taken aback with your remark that MOST taiwanese were upset. I'm mindful that political opinions could get amplified and distorted on the internet, yet I was also aware that Ma's Facebook page was filled with overwelming positive supports. Not sure what to make of this, I just happen to read the New York Times report which contains some poll numbers:

    A United Daily News poll of 832 people in Taiwan on Sunday found that 37.1 percent were satisfied with Mr. Ma’s display in Singapore, while 33.8 percent were unsatisfied.

    which is not really a contradiction with your remark.

  3. Alastair said,

    November 10, 2015 @ 5:01 am

    On a related note, the meeting seems to be called 习马会 on the mainland and 馬習會 in Taiwan (participants reversed).

  4. Chuck said,

    November 10, 2015 @ 8:07 am

    Earlier siting of the MǎXítuán 馬習團 ("MaXi cabal") pun on 08 November 2015:

  5. Victor Mair said,

    November 10, 2015 @ 8:54 am


    I was very careful not to use the word "most", which you emphasize as "MOST". I said "many", which is definitely true.

  6. Victor Mair said,

    November 10, 2015 @ 8:57 am


    That's wonderful that Michael Turton had that pun independently too!

  7. liuyao said,

    November 10, 2015 @ 9:59 am

    My apologies. I meant to share the figures I saw, and the response on Ma's facebook page (which I was surprised to see, given his low ratings and all the media reports) and didn't double check your words when typing from a phone.

  8. Michael Turton said,

    November 12, 2015 @ 10:18 am

    Hey, thanks for the shout-out! Too bad the event was over so quickly and we couldn't get 馬習團 to go viral.

    Had more fun with a very interesting sign in an ad for the Eric Chu campaign
    Ignore my remarks on the ad and go down to the discussion from below the still image.

    Michael T

RSS feed for comments on this post