Ask Language Log: splittism and separatism

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From Elijah Z. Granet:

I am an avid reader of Language Log, and am writing with a question that has puzzled me for sometime, and which, as far as I can tell, has never been addressed. I would be quite grateful if you could spare a moment of your valuable time to help me figure out this odd occurrence.

I do not speak Chinese (or any East Asian language, for that matter), but I do try to follow the news coming out of China.  For several years now, especially as unrest in Xinjiang has increased, I have been growing increasingly puzzled by the insistent use of the calque “splittism.”  Official sources (e.g., Xinhua) will always say “splittism”, and many English sources will  also use it (albeit with a qualifier along the lines of “the Chinese authorities have condemned what they call ‘splittism’”).  A cursory search of Google Books and News suggests the use of “splittism” in reference to China dates back decades.

I am at a loss to explain this. “Separatism” is a perfectly serviceable English word, whereas “splittism” is so foreign that almost all English publications have to qualify their use of the term.

Is the term from which “splittism” is calqued materially different from separatism? If so, what is the difference between the two words? Or, if “splittism” means the same thing as “separatism”, why do both official and Western sources continue to use this awkward, unassimilated calque?

Once again, I would greatly appreciate any light you could shed on this strange bit of usage.

Elijah's questions sent my head spinning.

We have numerous examples of what some call "Xinhua English" or "New China News English".  I've discussed this phenomenon several times on Language Log, going back to posts like these two:

"Protests, Complaints, and Representations" (7/29/09)

"Xinhua English and Zhonglish" (2/4/09)

Many of these terms, such as "paper tiger" and "running dog", enter English as part of the vocabulary for discussing political issues pertaining to China, but never become a part of common English usage such that they can be applied freely in other circumstances.

In this case, we have the not fully assimilated English calque "splittism", which is based on Chinese fēnlièzhǔyì 分裂主义.  On the other hand, we have the English word "separatism", which may be translated into Chinese as fēnlízhǔyì 分离主义.

Although they often get confused when translated into English, in my own mind they are significantly different when I'm thinking in Chinese.

Since "splittism" is a highly charged political (communist) term, I assumed that fēnlièzhǔyì 分裂主义 might have come into Chinese from Russian.

I asked several Russian-speaking colleagues their opinion.

Petya Andreeva:

The word for "separatism" (сепаратизм) is used very often in Russian news outlets (interestingly, it is used as frequently in Bulgarian news as well) to refer to a large group trying to split up from a larger political entity, usually a state. It is frequently used in reference to Chechnya, for instance. I have seen it also being used for the rebels in the Arab Spring, and even ISIS in their attempts to form a pan-Islamic State. I have also encountered separatism being used to refer to Tibetan autonomy.

As far as I am aware, there is no direct Cyrillic transliteration or translation for splittism that would make much sense or is largely in use in Russian or other Slavic language.  My immediate feeling is that the Chinese term may not be derived from Russian discourse. The Russian term that comes to mind is раскольник (raskol'nik) which originally had a religious rather than political connotation and was first used to refer to the split in the Orthodox Church during Peter the Great's reign. It is not uncommon for political pundits and the like to use the term "raskol'nik" in a political sense, but it is still a largely uncommon usage. Other than that, terms being used for political factionalism are more on the lines of simply "division" (разделение), etc. My intuition so far is telling me that fēnlièzhǔyì 分裂主义 ("splittism") is not a calque from a Russian term.

Rostislav Berezkin, discussing fēnlièzhǔyì 分裂主义 ("splittism"):

There is a nuance for this word in Russian translation. I guess it may be used to translate "schism" in the Russian church, but am not sure, would need to check. I guess you may know this schism was a big ideological movement in the 17th-18th cent., which changed Russian history. Sometimes it is hard to translate old Russian notions into Chinese: no standard equivalents exist.

Tanya Storch:

For some reason, the exact [Russian] word [for splittism] doesn’t come to me right away.

But I remember that I heard this term many times during our political education classes.

Could it be RASKOL?

I think it might be something like raskol partii nedopustim, that is, splitting the party is not permissible

Etymologically RASKOL is related to breaking things apart like breaking a glass into pieces

This is the same root/word that we encounter in the name of Dostoevsky’s main character in Crime and Punishment – Raskol’nikov.

It is also in the word, “raskol’niki” which apply to religious splitting away from the church.

I suppose it came to revolution from this religious usage.

Daan Pan, after reading the entries for fēnlízhǔyì 分离主义 ("separatism") and fēnlièzhǔyì 分裂主义 ("splittism") in the online Baidu encyclopedia states:

It looks like these two terms refer to the same thing [VHM:  dividing off a part of the territory of a sovereign state and setting up an independent country], though the latter also applies to intra-party factionalism. In Chinese media, the former term is not commonly used.

Sanping Chen, who grew up in China during the Cultural Revolution, recalls that fēnlièzhǔyì 分裂主义 ("splittism") was part of the standard CCP jargon during the Mao era, applying to both political factionalism and "country-splitting". He thinks that fēnlízhǔyì 分离主义 was probably introduced from HK/Taiwan after the Cultural Revolution as a neutral term translating "separatism."

Wiktionary defines "splittism" as "Political separatism, specifically the following of independent interests as opposed to central Communist party policy."  This would seem to indicate that "splittism" is a particular kind of "separatism" in a Communist party context.  Wiktionary further squarely attributes "splittism" to calquing of Chinese fēnlièzhǔyì 分裂主义.  The two quotations that it provides both connect its use in English to Chinese communist circumstances:

  • 1963, Life, 12 Jul 1963, p. 4:
    The Chinese have intensified their ideological quarrel with Khrushchev to the point of an almost irreparable break. They accuse him of the most heinous Communist heresies: "adventurism" (for moving missiles into Cuba), "capitulationism" (for moving them out), "great-power chauvinism" (for interfering in non-Russian parties), "revisionism" (for not wanting nuclear war) and even "splittism."[1]
  • 2010, The Economist, 17 Jul 2010, p. 53:
    To China's rulers it is a backward kind of place whose former serfs, ‘liberated’ by the Communist army, have repaid the favour with ingratitude and even outright ‘splittism’.

There is a difference between fēnlièzhǔyì 分裂主义 ("splittism") and fēnlízhǔyì 分离主义 ("separatism").  The latter simply indicates a breaking away, a dividing off, whereas the former implies that the breaking away / dividing off was done with particular disregard for the political dictates of the ruling Party, and that is why the New China / Xinhua news outlets insist on "splittism" rather than "separatism" when they're referring to cases like the Uyghurs of Xinjiang.

In the final analysis, it looks as though we're stuck with this awkward word "splittism", just as we are with "paper tiger" and "running dog".  Like all such words having a very specific, limited application, there is little chance that it will enjoy wider circulation apart from Chinese communist contexts.

[Thanks to John J. Tkacik and June Teufel Dreyer]


  1. Alon said,

    August 23, 2017 @ 11:25 am

    And then there's splitterism, conventionally used for one of the factions in the long-standing controversy about categorisation across many scientific fields.

  2. Jim said,

    August 23, 2017 @ 11:40 am

    Many of these terms, such as "paper tiger" and "running dog", enter English as part of the vocabulary for discussing political issues pertaining to China, but never become a part of common English usage such that they can be applied freely in other circumstances.

    Maybe I'm misunderstanding what you meant, but I've definitely seen "paper tiger" used in various contexts other than Chinese politics, and sometimes not even about politics at all, but just a general term for someone whose authority is more theoretical than practical. "Running dog" seems more politically charged and limited in application, but I wouldn't be particularly surprised to see it used by someone on the left in the context of purely Western politics.

  3. RP said,

    August 23, 2017 @ 11:43 am

    Interesting post.

    "the latter simply indicates a breaking away, a dividing off, whereas the former implies that the breaking away / dividing off was done with particular disregard for the political dictates of the ruling Party"

    I don't think either of them is a neutral term. In my experience "separatism" has a negative valence, so it tends to indicate that the separation is against the interests and desire of the nation that the separatists wish to separate from. So there may be even less difference between the two terms that you seem to imply here.

    I would be surprised if Scottish Nationalists were happy to be described as separatists, for example. And most of the OED examples of the word's usage, from the first ("seperatisme was hatched" 1628) to the most recent ("Separatism is a problem in Quebec as well as in Scotland") are clearly negative; none are clearly positive. We even see "What is there then to be feared? Anabaptisme, Brownisme, Separatisme" and "The numerous accusations of separatism" among the examples…

  4. Alyssa said,

    August 23, 2017 @ 12:27 pm


    I was going to counter you by saying that separatists in Quebec seem happy to use the term, but it turns out you're right – in French they refer to themselves as " souverainiste" (sovereignist) instead.

  5. Sergey said,

    August 23, 2017 @ 12:45 pm

    The description of "splittism" reminded me of the Stalin-era Russian phraseology. Basically, the communist (or bolshevik as it was called then) party was built from scratch on the idea of the rigid military-like discipline from top to bottom. Although some "intra-party discussions" were permitted, the fractionism was a big no-no. Of course, in reality there always were fractions or clans fighting for political power but it could not be called so openly. And, um, "fractionism" (I guess another non-word for English, and probably a non-word for Russian until that time too) was a major crime ascribed to the members of the losing fractions who got arrested and executed. Another such crime was "уклон", "lean": i.e. diverging one or the other way from the prescribed party line. Never mind that "left lean" wasn't meaningfully different from "right lean", any specific action had been labeled in whatever way was seen convenient. So the losing group was typically labeled as a fraction with a certain lean and executed.

    So I wonder if "fractionism" would be another translation of "splittism".

    For a background, the story of why bolsheviks were called so: once upon a time the Russian Social Democratic Workers Party had a split over the course of actions. The somewhat smaller part of the representatives at the party assembly voted to stay within the legal system, and from there on was known as mensheviks, a made-up word with the meaning "minoritans". The larger part voted to go for revolution, with the military-like organization and discipline, and from there on was known as bolsheviks, another made-up word with the meaning "majoritans". As you can see, the socialists tend to be pretty active at making up the new words for political labels.

  6. KevinM said,

    August 23, 2017 @ 12:57 pm

    "Schismatic" I've seen as an adjective, and as a noun in reference to a person (often critically, to indicate one who multiplies small differences and promotes splintering). I don't think I've ever seen it used as an "ism," but "schismaticism" might be a pretty good translation.

  7. Victor Mair said,

    August 23, 2017 @ 2:14 pm

    The Buddhists early on had Mahayana ("Greater Vehicle") and Hinayana ("Smaller Vehicle"). The usage of these terms is highly vexed and has occasioned a great deal of scholarly controversy in recent years.

  8. Samuel Wade said,

    August 23, 2017 @ 2:28 pm

    I hate to do this, but the separatist People's Front of Judea denounced the similarly separatist Popular Front of Judea as a splitter ….

  9. Lazar said,

    August 23, 2017 @ 3:19 pm

    @VM: Indeed, as it notes there, hīna doesn't just mean small (a more neutral word would be alpa), but rather has a host of negative connotations – making the term more akin to, say, "Puny Vehicle". But from what I gather, this nuance was lost on the trip across the Himalaya, and in East and Inner Asian languages it usually is the basic word for "small" that's used – although even that has a certain marginalizing connotation.

    Myself, I favor the proposal to replace the term with Mūlayāna, or Root Vehicle.

  10. Victor Mair said,

    August 23, 2017 @ 4:11 pm

    From Jichang Lulu:

    Раскол raskol 'split', раскольник raskol'nik and the adj. раскольнический raskol'ničeskij are indeed used by Russian-language Chinese state media to translate 分裂主义 'splittism', 分裂分子 'splittist', although сепаратизм separatizm, сепаратистский separatickij also occur, I think less often. State-media translations are of varying quality, but tend to be stable when sensitive terms are involved.


    "Китай выступает против визитов Далай-ламы в любую страну и организацию в каком-либо качестве и под каким-либо предлогом с целью ведения сепаратистской деятельности"


    "Хуа Чуньин обратила внимание, что уже давно далай-лама XIV занимается деятельностью, нацеленной на отделение ['separation'] Тибета от Китая. В этой связи, продолжила дипломат, китайская сторона решительно выступает против того, чтобы далай-лама в каком бы то ни было качестве и под каким бы то ни было предлогом осуществлял антикитайскую раскольническую деятельность в любых других странах, а также против того, чтобы официальные лица какой-либо страны имели с ним контакты в каких бы то ни было формах."


    Синьцзян будет наносить решительный удар по "трем силам зла" /терроризм, сепаратизм и экстремизм/ в любых формах проявления в соответствии с приказом Центрального правительства, подчеркнул председатель Синьцзянского правительства.

    (Pplz Deli)

    I think separatizm is more often used in an international context, referring to separatists outside China, or within but when seen as an international phenomenon, perhaps in context where 'separatism' (rather than 'splittism') would be used in Xinhua English.

    A 2003 white paper on Xinjiang (《新疆的历史与发展》 "Xīnjiāng de lìshǐ yǔ fāzhǎn" (History and development of Xinjiang)) is available in Russian translation ("История и развитие Синьцзяна" Istorija i razvitie Sin'czjana) from government website It contains one occurrence of separatizm:

    Особенно с вступлением в 90-е годы двадцатого столения под влиянием религиозного экстремизма, сепаратизма и международного терроризма внутренние и внешние силы за «Восточный Туркестан» перешли к раскольнической подрывной деятельности, основными методами которых стали теракты.


    分裂分子 'splittist' occurs five times, always translated as raskol'nik:

    После появления так называемой концепции о «Восточном Туркестане» раскольники всех мастей затеяли возню вокруг вопроса о «Восточном Туркестане», пытаясь осуществить несбыточные надежды о создании «государства Восточного Туркестана».

    所谓的 “东突”理论形成后,形形色色的分裂分子都打着“东突”的旗号进行活动,企图实现其建立“东突厥斯坦国”的妄想。

    分裂势力 fēnliè shìlì 'splittist forces' are раскольнические силы raskol'ničeskie sily:

    В июне 1946 года руководители «трех революционных районов» Ахмаджан и Абасов свергли Алихана Туле, «Республика Восточный Туркестан» была реорганизована и переименована в Сенат Илийского округа, что нанесло сокрушительный удар по раскольническим силам.

    Bare 分裂 'split' is raskol:

    Некоторые организации за «Восточный Туркестан» во всеуслышание заявляют, что посредством терактов достигнут цели раскола.


    Запрещаются любые действия, подрывающие национальную сплоченность и создающие национальный раскол.


    Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Taiwan, 2000:

    Раскольнические действия Ли Дэнхуэя на международной арене получили сокрушительный отпор.

    As for the verb: raskolot' (Pplz Deli again).

    Индийский журналист со стажем разоблачает подлинные замыслы клики Далай-ламы в стремлении расколоть Китай

    So Storch's intuition about raskol agrees with my anecdotal recollection, and the state-media examples above, although of course this only reflects the practice of contemporary media translating from Chinese into Russian. I'm not familiar enough with Communist Scripture in either language to give an opinion on whether 分裂主义 might have come that way. If anyone knows a relevant locus classicus in e.g. Lenin, perhaps it could be checked.

  11. peterv said,

    August 23, 2017 @ 4:44 pm

    The name of the 1970s German terrorist organization, the Rote Armee Fraktion, is usually translated into English as the Red Army Faction, rather than Fraction. This difference led to much debate: Were they a part of the wider Left (ie, a fraction) or a breakaway from it (a faction)?

  12. Joshua Rosenzweig said,

    August 23, 2017 @ 6:11 pm

    "Splittism" in some instances is also making reference to the offense under Chinese criminal law of "splitting the country" (CL Art. 103). There is also the crime of "inciting splittism" (CL Art. 104). These charges are almost always made against members of ethnic populations, particularly Uyghurs and Tibetans. Regardless of any other usage in terms of intra-party schisms, the ethnic context seems primary today.

  13. Joyce Melton said,

    August 23, 2017 @ 6:36 pm

    The story I heard about the Mensheviks and Bolsheviks was that Lenin's group got the upper hand on one vote and chose the name for their faction while Martov's group accepted being called a minority. It was basically a propaganda victory since in fact, the Bolsheviks position was that a small professional party was more likely to prevail while Martov's group held that a widely-based party foundation was more likely to survive.

    Does language matter? Apparently, it does.

  14. Eidolon said,

    August 23, 2017 @ 6:54 pm

    "Maybe I'm misunderstanding what you meant, but I've definitely seen "paper tiger" used in various contexts other than Chinese politics, and sometimes not even about politics at all, but just a general term for someone whose authority is more theoretical than practical. "Running dog" seems more politically charged and limited in application, but I wouldn't be particularly surprised to see it used by someone on the left in the context of purely Western politics."

    To bolster this claim, the following book titles agree with your assessment:

    "EU Counterterrorism Policy: A Paper Tiger?" Oldrich Bures 2016

    "How Obama Is Transforming America's Military from Superpower to Paper Tiger" Jed Babbin 2010

    "Cowardly America: How We Became a Paper Tiger" Irving Gerber 2006

    The following articles also exhibit common usage of the phrase:

    "Who’s afraid of Trump? Not enough Republicans — at least for now" Washington Post, June 27, 2017. "One senior Republican close to both the White House and many senators called Trump and his political operation “a paper tiger,” noting how many GOP lawmakers feel free “to go their own way.”"

    "Iran, the Paper Tiger" New York Times, Oct. 11, 2010. Title.

    "9/11: Osama bin Laden's spectacular miscalculation" CNN, September 12, 2016. "In his first television interview on CNN in 1997, bin Laden claimed the United States was a paper tiger, pointing to the American withdrawals from Vietnam in the early 1970s, Lebanon in the early 1980s and from Somalia in 1993 as evidence of the United States' waning power. "

    I would say that "paper tiger" has already become a well-known term in the context of international and domestic politics and journalism. Where it goes from here, we will have to see. "Running dog," however, has had no such fortune, likely because dog lacks the pejorative sense in English that it has in Chinese, resulting in cultural dissonance.

    "Splittism" is unlikely to ever attain general usage in the Anglophone world, because its subtle distinctions from "separatism" cannot be readily appreciated by a Western audience.

  15. Phil H said,

    August 23, 2017 @ 7:34 pm

    I don't know the history of this particular word, but there is a mixture of factors swirling around the bad English in Chinese organisations that makes it stickier than it need be.
    One is a widespread theory of leadership as technical preeminence: leaders are assumed to be more technically competent than even their specialist subordinates. So technical choices like which English word to use are ascribed to leaders (a little bit more than you might be used to in US/UK organizations).
    A second is general low competence in English – still, to this day, even in outward facing organisations like Xinhua English.
    A third is excessive reverence for words. I think this starts in schools with the memorisation of poems and political texts that children are not asked to understand. It continues in corporate life: I work in a dynamic tech firm, and we are occasionally required to sit and study the writings of the boss. We can't be told what he means, we have to read the exact words. In political life, permission to vary from the exact text of leadership pronouncements has to be signaled explicitly by use of the word "spirit": talking about the spirit of the latest congress means figuring out what the leadership meant. If the word spirit is not invoked, the assumption is that we stick only to the exact wording of what they said.
    Finally, Chinese organizational culture is often rather punitive. Problems not only need solving; responsibility must be assigned. Someone must be punished.

    Taken together, these factors mean that it would just be too embarrassing for all involved to change the word splittism now.
    NB. All generalisations about China should be taken with a huge pinch of salt, so read with caution.

  16. Sean Richardson said,

    August 23, 2017 @ 8:38 pm

    Might the Xinhua usage reflect an understanding of a distinction between the core English meanings of split and separate — with the infelicity of splittism knowingly accepted in order to stay well away from associations of separate that are inherent and politically unacceptable?

    The main distinction that I see is that when something is split, a whole becomes parts, while when something is separated, parts already existed that then become wholes themselves. Compare splitting firewood or slate to separating apples or peas. Compare splitting off a branch to separating wheat from chaff.

    In the human realm, to speak of people as separated implies (legal) recognition of a self-determined change in relationship.

    In the political sphere, people who are called separatist call themselves nationalists, and there are many examples of nations being recognized after successful separatist efforts; the words suggest each other.

    Using splittist suggests someone who would break a whole to get a piece, which would not be viable, doing harm to the whole. Using separatist suggests someone who would break away an already existing viable whole. A considerable difference salient to the aims of the Chinese state.

  17. AntC said,

    August 23, 2017 @ 9:37 pm

    Off the top of my head, I would put English splittism as a long-standing term of disapprobiation in Communist party politics. Marx/Engels had huge difficulty holding together the Communist International. The Communist Manifesto 1848 is in many ways a compromise document trying to include elements from diverse revolutionaries in various European countries (esp. the Bukharin anarchists in/exiled from Russia). "From each according to his ability" is Marx; "to each according to his need" is Bukharin.

    I'd be looking for a calque from German.

    Lenin's propaganda victory with "Bolsheviks" (who were in fact in the minority, but better at manipulating the party machinery) is just one example.

  18. Margaret Wilson said,

    August 23, 2017 @ 9:38 pm

    "Paper tiger" appears in numerous popular songs, and in a Calvin & Hobbes cartoon. (Hobbes defines it as a tiger with a paper route.) In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Giles takes over ownership of the magic shop, and gets called a "capitalist running dog."

  19. nick m said,

    August 23, 2017 @ 11:33 pm

    One reason why "paper tiger" has floated free (did kites inspire the image?) of Chinese-politics-specific usage is that it is poetry. Humour, biting sardonic wit, and picturesque fancy (with a pleasingly exotic flavour for non-Chinese), are all distilled into just two words.

  20. RP said,

    August 24, 2017 @ 2:47 am

    I agree that "paper tiger" can be used outside of the Chinese context, but I think that "running dog" is rarely so used in English other than in a jocular or mocking way. It's possible some (probably Maoist) Communists might use it, but as far as I know, the English-speaking left in general doesn't use it except when making fun of themselves or each other. There may be exceptions.

  21. chris said,

    August 24, 2017 @ 6:37 am

    Maybe "running dog" has difficulty gaining traction in English because it's too similar to "lapdog"? Or is there some nuance of meaning aside from the general implication of loyalty taken to doggishly blind/foolish extremes?

    As for splittist vs. separatist, I'm inclined to agree with Sean Richardson — separatist permits the interpretation that the thing is naturally or inherently separate, while splittist emphasizes the artificial or forced nature of the division. Which term is more appropriate to e.g. a given ethnic enclave/former independent nation-state is likely to be a politically charged question.

  22. Narmitaj said,

    August 24, 2017 @ 6:42 am

    Lefty comic Alexei Sayle had a UK Channel 4 segment called "Splitters! Alexei Sayle on London’s Maoist trail" : "It might seem like a world away now, but there was a time when London was filled with revolutionary sects. Alexei Sayle takes Channel 4 News back to his communist youth."

    On "fraction" – the politically-minded sf writer Ken MacLeod called his first novel The Star Fraction; "The major themes are radical political thinking, a functional anarchist microstate, oppression, and revolution. The action takes place in a balkanized UK", as Wikipedia puts it.

    I imagine "paper tiger" is widely used well away from China as most people can see instantly what it means: something that looks scary but can easily crumple, tear, burn or get soggy. "Running dogs" are not so immediately obvious – a bunch of dogs running about a field can be a joyous affair. No doubt it is supposed to be the slavering loyal security beasts of Mr Burns in his mansion or the baying hunting pack of hounds of the fox hunt ripping apart their prole prey. A more common dog-related insult in the West these days, of course, is "poodle", as in Mr Blair's supposed relationship to Mr Bush.

  23. Alyssa said,

    August 24, 2017 @ 8:34 am

    "Fractionism" seems to me a much more elegant translation than "splittism", though I'm sure Phil H is right and it's much too late to change now. I can't imagine a native English speaker coining "splittism" – perhaps "splitterism" if they were determined reference "split."

  24. Victor Mair said,

    August 24, 2017 @ 9:08 am

    I agree with everyone who says that "paper tiger" is better assimilated into English than "running dog", but — at least for me — it still carries Chinese communist nuances whenever and wherever I see it.

  25. languagehat said,

    August 24, 2017 @ 9:18 am

    Sergey (August 23, 2017 @ 12:45 pm) said basically what I was going to say: the Russian/Soviet equivalent would relate to the period in the late 1920s when Stalin was consolidating his power by attacking in turn opponents to his right and left; the corresponding Russian term is уклонизм [uklonizm] 'deviationism.'

    Off the top of my head, I would put English splittism as a long-standing term of disapprobiation in Communist party politics.

    Huh? No it's not. You go on to talk about Marx and Engel, but they did not write in English. I can find no use of "splittism" in English before 1964 ("In short, if the leaders of the C.P.S.U. genuinely desire the unity of the socialist camp and the international communist movement, they must make a clean break with their line of revisionism, great-power chauvinism and splittism").

    I'd be looking for a calque from German.

    Very unlikely — by the time "splittism" became a thing, Germany was, shall we say, not at the forefront of world socialist thinking.

  26. languagehat said,

    August 24, 2017 @ 9:19 am

    (Sorry, should be Engels, of course — copy-and-paste fail!)

  27. Jerry Friedman said,

    August 24, 2017 @ 9:24 am

    RP: Americans who think different races should live separately may call themselves separatists.

    "When asked if he maintained the beliefs of the KKK, notorious for violently condemning minorities and religious beliefs that conflict with their own, the Imperial Wizard said, 'I'm a separatist. I'm not a racist. I believe in the separation of the races. It was originally printed in the Bible.'" From a story about the KKK trying to "adopt" a mile of highway in Georgia.

  28. languagehat said,

    August 24, 2017 @ 12:34 pm

    From the Department of Serendipity: while reading Peter C. Perdue's (superb) China Marches West: The Qing Conquest of Central Eurasia, I ran across this sentence on p. 514:

    There is a noticeable contrast between former Chinese historical treatment of Han peasant rebels, like the Taiping, who used to be seen as anticipating mass peasant revolution, and the treatment of non-Han rebels as "splittists" who endangered the unity of Han and minority peoples.

  29. Lazar said,

    August 24, 2017 @ 1:10 pm

    @LH: According to the Qianlong Emperor, "There exists a view of China (Zhongxia), according to which non-Han people cannot become China’s subjects and their land cannot be integrated into the territory of China. This does not represent our dynasty’s understanding of China, but is instead that of the earlier Han, Tang, Song, and Ming dynasties." This Qing redefinition seems to have survived unabated in post-monarchical China.

  30. languagehat said,

    August 24, 2017 @ 1:22 pm

    Yes, indeed. Perdue has a lot to say about that.

  31. flow said,

    August 24, 2017 @ 2:39 pm

    @Lazar: care to share a pointer to some digital version of that remark by the Qianlong Emperor?

  32. Lazar said,

    August 24, 2017 @ 3:25 pm

    @flow: It's cited in a footnote here.

  33. flow said,

    August 24, 2017 @ 4:32 pm

    @Lazar: thanks, interesting read.

  34. Jonathan Smith said,

    August 24, 2017 @ 4:53 pm

    I was curious about the exact language here too… the footnote points to p. 4 of ZHAO Gang, "Reinventing China: Imperial Qing Ideology and the Rise of Modern Chinese National Identity in the Early Twentieth Century
    in Modern China" Vol. 32, No. 1 (Jan. 2006), pp. 3-30 (on JSTOR), where the quote is cited as from p. 7338 of "Huangchao wenxian tongkao [A comprehensive study of the Qing imperial documents] (1965) Taipei: Xinxing shuju" (though this particular edition appears actually to be titled 淸朝文獻通考.) Scans of the whole HCWXTK text are floating around; if you trust皇朝文獻通考_(四庫全書本)/卷284, the key portion of the stele (御製平定凖噶爾告成太學碑文) text reads […] 征伐則民力竭,和親則國威䘮. 於是有"守在四夷.羈縻不絶.地不可耕.民不可臣"之言興矣. 然此以論漢唐宋明之中夏而非謂我皇清之中夏也 (my punctuation).

  35. Jonathan Smith said,

    August 24, 2017 @ 4:58 pm

    so "their land cannot be integrated into the territory of China" in particular is rather interpretive…

  36. J.W. Brewer said,

    August 25, 2017 @ 11:58 am

    George Plimpton titled his 1966 book about trying out for the Detroit Lions, despite being no one's idea of an NFL prospect rather than professional writer, "Paper Lion," which seems an obvious play on "paper tiger," and thus some indication that "paper tiger" was even back then not so tainted with Red-Chinese-propaganda associations as to be unusable in other contexts.

  37. Victor Mair said,

    August 25, 2017 @ 2:03 pm

    From François Demay:

    pour retracer l'historique du mot en Chine populaire

    En français, splittism correspondrait plus à fractionnisme

    Petit Robert

    fractionnisme [fYaksjCnism] n. m.

    • av. 1959; de fraction

    ¨ Polit. Attitude tendant à briser l'unité d'un groupe ou d'un parti politique. Þ séparatisme.

    et "separatism" est l'équivalent de séparatisme

    séparatisme [sepaYatism] n. m.

    • 1860; relig. 1721; de séparatiste

    ¨ Tendance, mouvement séparatiste.

    séparatiste [sepaYatist] n.

    • 1796; relig. 1650; de séparer

    ¨ Personne qui réclame une séparation d'ordre politique, l'autonomie par rapport à un État, une fédération. Þ autonomiste, dissident, indépendantiste, sécessionniste. Les séparatistes du Sud (sudistes), aux États-Unis. — Adj. Mouvement séparatiste basque.

    Séparer au sens chimique suppose que le milieu en question est formé de plusieurs composants alors que cliver/diviser (split) implique une unité de l'objet.
    Séparer des composants peut avoir des raisons justifiables mais diviser une unité est UN CRIME.
    Faites le rapprochement avec LE fuseau horaire et l'UNICITÉ du chinois.

    Dans le contexte nord-américain, le mouvement séparatiste québécois préfère (ou préférait !?) user du terme souverainisme.

  38. Colin said,

    August 25, 2017 @ 6:19 pm

    @peterv: I've never heard 'fraction' or 'fractionalism' used in this political context in English, although maybe it has some limited currency in discourse about Communist parties. There's a slight difference in meaning between 'Fraktion' and 'faction', in that the latter is not used for a unified political party in a parliament, but that distinction isn't relevant if we're talking about the Rote Armee Fraktion. (There's also the option in American English of translating 'Fraktion' as 'caucus', but again, this probably doesn't make so much sense for the RAF.)

  39. languagehat said,

    August 25, 2017 @ 7:21 pm

    I've never heard 'fraction' or 'fractionalism' used in this political context in English, although maybe it has some limited currency in discourse about Communist parties.

    It does indeed, so much so that in this decade-old post I unthinkingly referred to "the theoretical infighting of various Marxist fractions," and the second comment called me out: "I dunno, the very idea of numbers duking it out over ideological differences intrigues me." But I was so immersed in the jargon that I missed the point, and another commenter had to enlighten me: "the echelon problem strikes again, I suspect." I agreed: "I’ve been reading so much material that borrows the Russian term fraktsiya ‘political faction/group’ as fraction that I’ve absorbed the usage, which (now that you mention it) does sound odd in English." It's a problem that's bound to crop up when any specialized material is being discussed.

  40. peterv said,

    August 26, 2017 @ 2:52 am

    @Colin: When I said "much debate", I should have added: "among those on the Left interested in campaigns of violent resistance in developed world countries in the 1970s/80s."

  41. James Wimberley said,

    August 26, 2017 @ 5:26 am

    What words do far-right pols use to attack their opponents in internal disputes? "Splittist" is only ever used by Marxist radicals. Possibly only Leninist ones, since it presumes strict Party discipline.

  42. Jichang Lulu said,

    August 27, 2017 @ 5:37 am

    Demay suggests fractionnisme as French for 'splittism'. But fractionnisme (also fractionnalisme) typically refers to political schisms in (usually hard-left) political parties. This is the equivalent of English 'fractionalism', which other commenters have brought up; as languagehat says, this might be a Russian borrowing. In contemporary Partyspeak, 分裂主义 (and Xinhua English 'splittism') is mostly applied to ethnic separatism, insubordination, nonconformism, or the vague suspicion of any of the above. In that sense, French-language state media mostly use séparatisme.

    Demay's interpretation of the split-separate distinction (even if Xinhua French fails to render it) is spot on. 分裂 fēnliè can also mean 'split' an atom, in nuclear fission (核裂变 hélièbiàn). Splitting the Core is not an option.

  43. Sergey said,

    August 27, 2017 @ 5:47 am

    Since the proper English translation for the Russian word "fraction" (which probably comes from German) is "faction", perhaps the better translation of "splittism" is "factionalism"?

  44. Victor Mair said,

    August 27, 2017 @ 6:06 am

    From Jichang Lulu:

    If Zhao is referring to the exact text quoted by Jonathan Smith, "their land cannot be integrated into the territory of China" can't really be called a translation. It is, as Smith says, an interpretation of some sort.

    Qianlong's description of the policies of ethnic Chinese dynasties up to the Ming is a string of idioms and quotations.

    守在四夷. 'Protect/establish order in [the lands of] the Four Barbarians.' (Frequently used to refer to Imperial border policy; don't know what's the earliest occurrence.)

    羈縻不絶. ([horse-]bridle-[cow-]harness not cut) ~ 'Bind them with unsevered ties.' ~ 'Firmly control them.' (Also an age-old Barbarian-management trope, from the Book of Han down. In this context, it likely means controlling distant peoples by conferring Chinese titles on their native rulers, but I'm not sure every use of the phrase in the history books refers to this specific policy. A classical commentary says matter of factly that controlling the Barbarians is like driving cows and horses. Although in the post-Han tradition it's a Barbarian-management term, the idiom also occurs in a different context in the Shi ji.)

    地不可耕.民不可臣. 'The land [of the Barbarians] cannot be tilled. The people cannot serve as officials.' (Likely an allusion to a Book of Han passage on the Xiongnu.)

    The 'territory of China' interpretation makes sense if you identify that concept with 'land you can cultivate for Imperial feeding purposes, inhabited by people who can become Imperial officials.' Maybe that's what Zhao wants to argue, but it's not in the original text. You could also say that talk of 'the territory of China' is anachronistic for at least part of the Han-to-Qing timespan. Phrases properly translatable as 'territory of China' do occur in Qing and earlier documents, but just not in this quotation.

    The Manchu emperors were Sons of Heaven to the Chinese, Khaans to the Mongolians, cakravartins to Buddhists etc. Their policies towards conquered peoples certainly differed from those of the ethnic Chinese emperors (notice Qianlong mentions the 'Han, Tang, Song and Ming'), and the whole idea of 'Barbarians too uncivilised [i.e. too distant and antagonistic] to be ruled as anything but remote-controlled cattle' didn't make much sense under a 'Barbarian' dynasty. But I don't think this is a matter of delimiting 'territory' in the modern sense. In terms of modern policy, 'bridles not to be severed' could refer to autonomous regions, colonies, protectorates, buffer states, junior partners.

  45. Spaltpilz said,

    August 28, 2017 @ 4:14 am

    To Eidolon ("['Splittism"s] subtle distinctions from 'separatism' cannot be readily appreciated by a Western audience") and J. Wimberley ("'Splittist' is only ever used by Marxist radicals. Possibly only Leninist ones, since it presumes strict Party discipline"):

    I recall noticing the newspaper Frankfurter Rundschau, which I think was owned by one of the 2 major political parties at that time and to some extent acted as its mouthpiece, calling another party Spalter ("splitters" in the Life of Brian sense mentioned above by Samuel Wade) without quote marks in a headline not for an opinion piece, presumably for splitting the vote left of the CDU. The newspaper was aimed at a general audience. The party, SPD, was and is far removed from Marxism since WW1/1959. I was surprised to see the paper use such an offensive term in that way. Analogous to English, I perceive Spalter and Spaltertum as strongly disapproving, as opposed to the technical, almost neutral Separatismus, which for other reasons would have been odd in the headline. I do not perceive the former two to be used only by Leninists, much less understood only by Leninists, but conflict between non-centrist political organizations is where I would most expect them; like J. Wimberley above, I'm curious if the political right has its own term for this.

    The paper has probably continued to fade into obscurity. I enjoyed the articles by its China correspondent, Harald Maass.

    I suggest everyone use the term "splittism" to disparagingly refer to allowing split infinitives, and "splitism" for saying Split instead of Spalato, or for language use peculiar to that city.

  46. languagehat said,

    August 28, 2017 @ 7:08 am

    I suggest everyone use the term "splittism" to disparagingly refer to allowing split infinitives, and "splitism" for saying Split instead of Spalato, or for language use peculiar to that city.

    I heartily approve of these suggestions.

  47. Graeme said,

    August 28, 2017 @ 6:09 pm

    Interesting. At first blanch I thought splittism was a term to capture a broader array of aims. But that was a lawyer's assumption – separation as succession, versus splits as also including autonomy-seeking within a federal rather than unitary China.

    Khrushchev can't be a separatist in relation to China, so 'splitter' acts to capture the sin of intentionality as well as meddlers from outside.

  48. dw said,

    August 28, 2017 @ 7:23 pm

    The earliest use of "splittism" I can find in English (in a Chinese context) comes from the (presumably official) English translation of a statement issued by the Chinese delegation to the 1962 Czechoslovak Communist Party Congress. The context suggests that the Chinese were quoting a word that had been used to attack the Albanian Communist Party during the USSR-Albania split:

    "Is is possible that the launching of an attack on a fraternal party [the Albanian Communists] is to be called "Marxist-Leninist" and conforming to the Moscow Declaration and the Moscow Statement, but that the reply by the attacked party is to be branded as "secratianism", "splittism", "dogmatism", and a violation of the Moscow Declaration and the Moscow Statement?

  49. Johan P said,

    August 29, 2017 @ 11:04 am

    The term "splitter" in English – possibly calqued from Raskolnik – was prominent enough in left-wing circles in the 1970s to feature as the main insult levelled at other political fractions by The People's Front of Judea, Monty Python's satirical leftist group in Life of Brian:

  50. languagehat said,

    August 29, 2017 @ 1:10 pm

    How on earth would it have been calqued from raskolnik in the 1960s, especially considering it was created in relation to China, not Russia (and tsarist Russia at that)?

  51. Sergey said,

    August 29, 2017 @ 4:54 pm

    The correct Russian sovied-period origin word might be "otschchepenets" (отщепенец), literally meaning "one that splinters off".

  52. V said,

    September 1, 2017 @ 4:30 am

    ""Running dogs" are not so immediately obvious – a bunch of dogs running about a field can be a joyous affair. No doubt it is supposed to be the slavering loyal security beasts of Mr Burns in his mansion or the baying hunting pack of hounds of the fox hunt ripping apart their prole prey."

    I always thought it meant dogs running _away_ from something and it didn't quite make sense. Your explanation makes more sense, bu I wouldn't translate that as "running dogs".

  53. V said,

    September 1, 2017 @ 4:46 am

    To clarify, it didn't occur to me how the phrase "running dogs" could have a negative connotation other than being scared of something, and that didn't fit the actual usage well.

  54. V said,

    September 1, 2017 @ 4:58 am

    Sergey: maybe, like Bulgarian отцепник (ottsepnik), though I don't know if it was used in a BKP context.

  55. V said,

    September 1, 2017 @ 5:08 am

    Although on the first page of Google hits for отцепник two are in a political context.
    (I'm sorry for the multiple posts. Consolidate them into one if you want and have the time.)

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