T-shirt slogans

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A 28-year-old Chinese citizen of Korean ethnicity, the activist Pyong Kwon (the Korean reading of his name would be Gweon Pyeong 권평; MSM Quán Píng 權平), has disappeared after telling a friend that he was planning to wear the t-shirt pictured below on the street on October 1, China's National Day.

The story is recounted in this article:

"Young Chinese activist missing after sharing plan to wear ‘Xitler’ t-shirt in public – report" (Catherine Lai, Hong Kong Free Press [11/3/16])

The first of the three slogans needs no explanation.  The other two require considerable unpacking to appreciate their full impact.

Xí bāozi 習包子 ("steamed stuffed bun Xi")

There are many different varieties of baozi, but they usually have a bread-like (made with yeast) outer covering and a filling made of meat, vegetables, bean paste, etc.  They are typically eaten for breakfast and are considered to be simple fare.

Xi Jinping got his nickname as "Xí bāozi 習包子" ("steamed stuffed bun Xi") due to the much publicized visit he made to the famous Qìngfēng bāozi pù 庆丰包子铺 ("Qingfeng baozi shop") in Beijing.  During and after his visit to the shop, media swarmed over the place and were eager to portray an image of Xi as being down to earth and close to the people.  Those who dislike Xi use this nickname sarcastically against him for being a hick and for hypocritically "putting on a show" (zuòxiù).

There's a Chinese Wikipedia article on the "Xi Jinping eats steamed stuffed bun affair".  China Digital Times' "Grass-Mud Horse Lexicon" has an entry for "Steamed Bun Xi" (Xí Bāozi 习包子).

The satirical nuances of the "steamed bun" moniker become even more biting when combined with the idea of "core / nucleus", as in this tweet. Occurrences within the GFW tend to be ephemeral.

The third slogan on the t-shirt is:

dà sābì 大撒幣 ("scattering / throwing money around lavishly")

The implications of this expression are well explained by Xiao Qiang, Founder and Editor-in-Chief of China Digital Times:

It can be translated as “big spender,” a play on the literal translation of the words sā bì 撒币 “throw money” and “stupid cunt” (shǎ bī 傻逼). The nickname takes aim at the economic aid Xi has promised to foreign countries; the moniker is so widely used on Chinese social media that the censors’ repressive measures only draw more attention to it, and to the criticism embedded within it.

The dà sābì 大撒幣 ("scattering / throwing money around lavishly") meme seems to have existed at some point a few years ago, according to Google — but that could've been an unrelated usage or a homophone for a certain crude insult or something along those lines. In any event, it has clearly become a lot more common in the past year or so and has to do with massive overseas investment, which many observers feel is experiencing its last gasp.

All three slogans taken together are a devastating indictment of the Party's core / nucleus.  Having dared to talk about wearing such a t-shirt in public in the PRC, Pyong Kwon has disappeared into the maw of the public security apparatus.  We may never see him again, but his memory and that of the triple sloganed t-shirt he was planning to wear will live on forever.

[Thanks to Jichang Lulu, Brendan O'Kane, Fangyi Cheng, Yixue Yang]


  1. John Swindle said,

    November 7, 2016 @ 1:37 am

    And what are we to make of the face?

  2. John Swindle said,

    November 7, 2016 @ 3:03 am

    Wait. I get the face. Xi Jinping is Chairman Cat. Sounds like Mao.

  3. Cervantes said,

    November 7, 2016 @ 7:09 am

    @Victor Mair:

    Having dared to talk about wearing such a t-shirt in public in the PRC, Pyong Kwon has disappeared into the maw of the public security apparatus. We may never see him again, but his memory and that of the triple sloganed t-shirt he was planning to wear will live on forever.

    You can see him in the shirt here.

  4. Victor Mair said,

    November 7, 2016 @ 7:39 am


    Photo taken 8/28/16. There are even videos of him talking, singing, dancing, playing a piano, etc. If anyone is interested, I'll post the URLs

  5. Simon P said,

    November 8, 2016 @ 1:17 am

    Visiting the Wikipedia article about the "Xi Jinping Eats a Bun Incident", I'm greeted with a curious mixture of simplified and traditional characters. It seems to vary from section to section, or sometimes it has a simplified header followed by a traditional paragraph, and in at least one case it switches mid-sentence: "共消費人民币21元". That's a bit weird. Is it me or is it Wikipedia?

    In at least one case, there's a mistaken traditional character, too, at least by HK standards: "沒有提前通知和沒有森嚴戒備的情況下造訪了一家包子". In (HK) traditional characters, 鋪 (M: pu1 C: pou1) is used as a verb, meaning "to spread out", whereas a shop is 舖 (M: pu4 C: pou3/pou3*2).

  6. B.Ma said,

    November 8, 2016 @ 9:24 am

    @Simon P

    You do know that Wikipedia articles are written by regular people, and that they are constantly being edited by other regular people, right? The contributors to each article each write in their own preferred script, which is how the text is saved in the database. The zh.wikipedia software automatically converts everything into the script you want to read (including some vocabulary differences).

    Click the "不转换" at the top left to see the available scripts.

  7. Simon P said,

    November 8, 2016 @ 9:37 am

    Sure, but I expected the link to give me one of those versions. I didn't expect it to take me to a page of mixed versions. But I guess that makes sense. Unless the address specifically takes me to a converted version, I get the "raw" version with mixed script.

    The 鋪/舖 thing is still wrong, though, and it seems it has been entered as a traditional character, so it's not the fault of the software. I guess it's a common enough mistake, though.

  8. Eidolon said,

    November 8, 2016 @ 8:35 pm

    "An officer at the Yanji police department confirmed to US-backed Radio Free Asia that Kwon is currently in police custody."

    I guess we do know where he is. Not surprising. China might tolerate online dissent up to a certain degree, but as soon as you try to take your activism off line, the police will be at your door in short order.

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