The mind-numbing official-speak of the CCP

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David Bandurski has done the world a great service by providing a point by point translation and valuable exegesis of the essentials of President Xi Jinping's "important speech" delivered in Beijing on July 26, 2017.  See his:

"The Arithmetic of Party-Speak:  The 19th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party is just around the corner — and that means the machine of political discourse is humming away at high speed" (8/28/17).

As presented in state media products such as “Xi Speak in Pictures” (Xí yǔ tújiě 习语图解), the essence of the Core Leader's directives may be boiled down to and designated by the following magic numbers:  2, 3, 5, 9, 8, 3, 2.

Translating directly from the Chinese text provided by Xinhua News Agency, Bandurski lays it all out for us (here I give the Chinese only for the headings, but the complete translation for what comes under each heading):

2 gè "láo láo bǎwò" 2个"牢牢把握"

The 2 Tight Grasps

1. Tightly grasping the special characteristics of our country’s development
2. Tightly grasping the yearning of the masses for a good life

3 gè "shìguān" 3个"事关"

The 3 Concerns (Profoundly Describing the Important Meaning of the 19th National Congress)

The 19th National Congress that will soon open is an important and major meeting held during a stage of the building of a moderately well-off society that will determine victory, and a critical period in the development of socialism with Chinese characteristics.


Whether or not a plan of action that is comprehensive, strategic and forward-looking:

1. Concerns the historical transitioning of the undertakings of the Party and the government
2. Concerns the fate of socialism with Chinese characteristics
3. Concerns the fundamental interests of the greatest number of people.

5 gè "shénme" 5个"什么"

The 5 Whats (profoundly showing the basic nature of the Party)

Our Party must make a clear pledge as to:

1. What banner it raises [ideologically]
2. What road it travels
3. What spirit it upholds
4. What historical mission is bears
5. What objective it struggles toward

9 gè "wǒmen" 9个"我们"

The 9 We’s (Profoundly outlining the historic changes to the undertakings of the Party and the government over the last 5 years)

Over the last 5 years, the Central Committee of the CCP has scientifically grasped the development trends in the world today and in contemporary China, has resolved many difficulties that had long been awaiting resolution but had not been resolved, and has done a number of major things that were intended but not accomplished in the past.

1. We have comprehensively strengthened the leadership of the CCP, greatly enhancing the Party’s cohesiveness, fighting strength, leadership power and rallying power.
2. We have resolutely implemented a new development concept, strongly promoting higher quality, more efficient, more equal and more sustainable development for our country.
3. We have resolutely and fully deepened reforms, shown full force in promoting reforms, making many breakthroughs, and pushing deep advancement of a new dimension [in China’s development].
4. We have resolutely and fully advanced governance of the nation in accord with the law, clearly enhancing our Party’s capacity to use of legal methods to lead and govern the country.
5. We have enhanced the Party’s leadership of ideology, firming up the unity and solidarity of the entire Party and the entire society.
6. We have resolutely promoted the building of an ecological civilization, making important strides in promoting the building of a beautiful China.
7. We have firmly and resolutely advanced the modernization of defense and the armed forces, promoting historic breakthroughs for national defense and the military.
8. We have firmly and resolutely promoted major power diplomacy (大国外交), creating a peaceful international environment and a favorable regional environment for our country’s development.
9. We have firmly and resolutely promoted full disciplined governance of the Party, working hard to resolve the most salient problems voiced by the people, that are most threatening to the Party’s foundation of power.

8 gè "gèng" 8个"更"

The 8 Mores (The desires of the people are the objective of the Party’s struggles)

[The people desire:]

1. More quality education
2. More stable employment
3. More acceptable incomes
4. More dependable social security
5. More quality healthcare and sanitation
6. More comfortable living conditions
7. A more beautiful environment
8. A more abundant spiritual and cultural life.

3 gè "yìwèizhe" 3个"意味着"

The 3 Mean That’s (A high assessment of the great achievements made by socialism with Chinese characteristics)

[The great achievements of socialism with Chinese characteristics . . . ]

1. Mean that the Chinese, who in modern times have endured great suffering, have now made an historic flying leap from standing up, to becoming prosperous, to becoming strong.
2. Mean that socialism in China has shone strong vitality and has constantly opened new horizons of development.
3. Mean that socialism with Chinese characteristics has expanded the path through which developing nations can move toward modernization, offering China’s knowledge, and providing Chinese proposals, for the resolution of problems facing humanity.

2 gè "bìxū" 2 gè "yào" 2个"必须"2个"要"

The 2 Musts and 2 Needs (Profoundly describing how to adhere to the development of socialism with Chinese characteristics under new historical conditions)

More accurately grasping the nature of the constant changes in our country in the primary stage of socialism,
Adhering to the Party’s basic line,
As we continue to promote economic development,
better resolving various societal problems emerging in our country,
better achieving the comprehensive development of various undertakings,
better promoting the comprehensive development of the people, and comprehensive social progress.

[We] Must
Place great emphasis on the utility of theories, raising our theoretical self-confidence and strategic focus.
[We] Need
To grasp the priorities, address the shortcomings and strengthen the weak points in various demands for building a comprehensively well-off society as raised at the 16th, 17th and 18th national congresses.
[We] Must
Unshakably uphold and improve the leadership of the Party, unshakably promoting new projects in the building of the Party.
[We] Need
To adhere to the guidance of issues, maintaining strategic focus, promoting the deep development of comprehensive and strict Party governance, making our ideas and actions on comprehensive and strict Party governance more scientific, more rigorous, and more effective, ensuring that the Party stands with the people in thoughts and in actions throughout.

Bandurski concludes:  "When it comes to CCP discourse, we need CliffsNotes for the CliffsNotes. But at least we have a start."

I'm afraid that if I had to live in such an ideological environment my brain would quickly fry to a crisp, even if I had CliffsNotes for CliffsNotes on Xi-speak.

[h.t. Jichang Lulu]


  1. Christopher Henrich said,

    August 29, 2017 @ 10:04 pm

    I love the phrase "wooden-tongued" for old-time Stalinist rhetoric. (In French: "langue de bois") But *this* takes the (fossilized) cake.

  2. djbcjk said,

    August 30, 2017 @ 12:21 am

    What we need for comparison is a contemporary corporate mission statement from a USA-based corporation. I feel we would see remarkable similarities, the only difference being the quaint translationese of Chinese idioms.

  3. Matt said,

    August 30, 2017 @ 2:45 am

    It's very thoughtful of them to count the We’s, though, so that George Will can scientifically compare self-absorbedness level relative to Obama, etc.

  4. AntC said,

    August 30, 2017 @ 3:14 am

    3. We have resolutely and fully deepened reforms, shown full force in promoting reforms, making many breakthroughs, and pushing deep advancement of a new dimension [in China’s development].

    @djbcjk for a corporate mission statement you could substitute "quality procedures" for "reforms", and achieve equal vacuity. No Corporation says "good" quality.

    Likewise, nobody in Hong Kong has seen reforms to governance that have any benefit for the HK people. It's all about what's good for the Party.

  5. Phil H said,

    August 30, 2017 @ 8:04 am

    There's a nice analysis of Nigerian email scams which says: the reason they're so dumb is so that they select for only the most gullible of patsies. Could the unremitting silliness of Chinese political rhetoric serve the same purpose? What kind of person is selected for by requiring audiences to sit straight-faced through this tripe?

  6. Victor Mair said,

    August 30, 2017 @ 9:43 am

    I'm eager to see the kind of "contemporary corporate mission statement from a USA-based corporation" that djbcjk talks about in his comment so that we can compare it with this CCP official-speak (which, by the way, infects everything in China, including universities).

    As for the comparison with Nigerian email scam audiences, the entire Chinese population is selected for CCP tripe.

  7. James Wimberley said,

    August 30, 2017 @ 4:43 pm

    More 9 is missing: more say in the running of the country.

  8. ngage92 said,

    August 30, 2017 @ 4:58 pm

    No offense, but American political rhetoric is often even sillier than this in its insane self-regard combined with a total detachment from any objective reality.

  9. Eidolon said,

    August 30, 2017 @ 7:54 pm

    "No offense, but American political rhetoric is often even sillier than this in its insane self-regard combined with a total detachment from any objective reality."

    But American political rhetoric is designed to be consumed by the common people, through the media; hence it is often colorful, emphatic, and perhaps most importantly, colloquial. When Trump makes a speech, people might cringe, but they don't need a dictionary or cliff notes to understand him. Chinese political rhetoric is the opposite – it is elitist almost to a fault, and very obviously designed to show off the speaker's grasp of party platforms, jargon, and perorational tradition. It exclusive, rather than inclusive, as we might expect from an authoritarian government with no electorate.

  10. AntC said,

    August 30, 2017 @ 11:57 pm

    @Eidolon When Trump makes a speech, people might cringe, [yes!] but they don't need a dictionary or cliff notes to understand him.

    ? "bing, bing, bong, bong"; "covfefe". More worryingly [of Israel/Palestine] "one state, two states, I can work with that"; [of Charlottesville] "on both sides".

    What Trump says today is no indicator of what he might say tomorrow or might actually do. He doesn't even manage the consistency of a liar or a diplomat (or a CCP tract). It's the empty clanging together of phonemes, signifying nothing. Thanks to the wisdom of the founders of the Constitution, he's actually doing next to nothing (except bringing the office into disrepute).

    That's why China and Russia are running rings round America. And the rest of the world must make shift for itself. This is abject failure for the narcissist-in-chief. So China will continue to expand into the North Borneo Sea (8th Mean that, 3rd We); and North Korea will respond to Trump's empty rattling by eventually actually killing people outside its own population.

  11. Terrence G. said,

    August 31, 2017 @ 10:43 am

    I wonder if anyone has studied the grammar of such CCP party speak. It seems to me that some of the sentences are ungrammatical.

  12. sugarloaf said,

    September 1, 2017 @ 7:38 am

    I am surprised to find no reference to "harmony" which I understood to be a big concept in modern (and Confucian) China. It might have appeared in We 8, as Chinesse official statements have often referred to the requirement of "harmony" in connection with the South China Sea. Perhaps it is included in the word which is translated as "peaceful"?

  13. Victor Mair said,

    September 1, 2017 @ 3:18 pm

    "Xi Jinping's seven quotes about life" | Updated: 2017-09-01 08:37

    Click through all seven quotes (boxes halfway down the page).

  14. Victor Mair said,

    September 1, 2017 @ 9:58 pm

    "Chinese Textbooks Get a Few Shades Redder" – Sixth Tone

    In a press conference Monday, the assistant minister of education, Zheng Fuzhi, said that the new textbooks will help reinforce the will of the nation and the “Core Socialist Values” — a set of 12 ideological tenets promoted in the country since 2012. Zheng is also the director of the ministry’s textbook bureau. “The core values will be embodied in the flesh and blood of the Chinese language [subject],” Wen Rumin, the editor-in-chief of the Chinese textbooks, said at the press conference according to a report by financial news outlet Caixin. It added that the new Chinese language textbooks include dozens of articles about revolutionary heroism, such as Mao Zedong’s well-known piece “Serve the People.” Students will also learn more classic Chinese literature compared with the widely used previous book from People’s Education Press.

  15. beowulf888 said,

    September 5, 2017 @ 4:40 pm

    For djbcjk and Victor Mair:

    My company recently was purchased by a larger company. The morning after the public announcement there were "Stronger Together" posters all over my building — pictures of people with raised arms at top of mountain peaks, of people racing across a finish line, and of young hipster professional people smiling and being happy together (and presumably being stronger together through their shared happiness). These posters all seemed, well, very Marxist in a low-key capitalist marketing sort of way.

    Of course we have our share of managers who put up those corporate inspirational posters, praising teamwork, leadership, positive attitude, and going above and beyond.

    Likewise, our CEO has been continually frustrated by the fact that no one has been able to memorize our corporate credo, so the management printed up little cards for us to carry in our wallet — for us to ponder upon when we weren't striving to go above and beyond. It's all good things, indeed! "What we stand for: wow our customers; trust, respect, and develop our people; listen and be open; be innovative, passionate, and decisive; win with integrity and teamwork; celebrate excellence." Yay! Can't wait to see the corporate credo of our new masters!

    Anyway, my company's credo doesn't have as much verbal baggage as the CCP's, but the sentiment is largely the same

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