Sino-Vietnamese poster

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I think I've seen this before, but can't remember where or when:

Source (bottom of the page)

zhǔnbèi zhànzhēng
wéihù hépíng


Prepare for war
to maintain peace

What is striking to me is that the first, second, and last word of the main slogan in Vietnamese seem to be identical to those in the Chinese version, though they have something different for the wéihù 維護 ("maintain; defend; safeguard; protect; uphold").  So which came first in the mind of the person composing the slogan?  Were they thinking in Vietnamese or in Chinese?

Hue Tam Tai observes:

They were thinking in Vietnamese, using Chinese loanwords. A very high percentage of Vietnamese vocabulary is of Chinese origin. The one word that is not a loanword is gin giu (sorry, no diacritics); it means to preserve.

Liam Kelley remarks:

My guess would be that they were "thinking in Google Translate." Put "uphold the peace" in Google Translate and you will get your answer.

Steve O'Harrow comments:

The phrase "Chuẩn bị chiến tranh để gìn giữ hòa bình" is a bit stilted and "Chinesey," but could have been written by a Vietnamese speaker – we would usually say "giữ gìn"* rather than the other way around, which is why I tend to think there is an air of "Google Translate" as per Anh Liam's surmise. Writing the words together, without spaces, however, is very un-Vietnamese nowadays. The flyer, as best I can make out (it's pretty fuzzy) has to do with the opposition to the PRC in the "East Sea," which is what the Chinese would call the "South China Sea."  [VHM:  N.B.!  It's only foolish, deluded Europeans and Americans who call it the "South China Sea".  It has had and still has many other names, but "South China Sea" is a modern, Western misnomer (it's far south of the southernmost part of "China") — unless by "South China" is meant "South of China".]

All in all, there IS something a bit fakey about it, but a lot of Vietnamese day-to-day people do strongly oppose the PRC's incursions into what they believe are rightfully Vietnamese waters, so I wouldn't 100% dismiss it – however, this poster (if that is what it purports to be) would NOT please the VNCP at all, since they are trying to avoid a "chiến tranh" with the neighbor they cannot get away from. If I were some super-nationalist in China who wanted to stir up trouble by showing the Chinese public that VN wants war, this would be the kind of thing I would hoke up (kind of like the Russian "bots" did for The Donald in 2016).

* "giữ gìn" would be a proper translation of wéihù 維護 ("maintain; defend; safeguard; protect; uphold") in this instance.

Steve later adds:

But the English isn't too native-sounding either, since we would just say "war" and not "a war." The more I look at it the less I think it's legit. My 2¢….

Nguyen Ngoc Hung adds:

The look of the poster is definitely Chinese. I remember seeing this somewhere before where the Chinese paper called to burn all Vietnamese oil rigs and sent hundreds of thousands of fishing boats to the East Sea. All the boats in the picture look like Chinese boats and although Vietnam is still a communist country, we do not use much red color in posters. Furthermore, Vietnamese do not want a war. We will do everything to stop the Chinese from starting a war in this region. It is difficult, but there are ways for doing this.

Vietnamese and Sinitic languages are commingled, but the scripts have diverged and, throughout history, there have always been political tensions between the two peoples.  The linguistic commingling and the poltical tensions are embodied in this striking poster.


  1. Victor Mair said,

    December 4, 2017 @ 10:57 pm

    From William Hannas:

    The third word of the yellow sentence "để" means "in order to". The fourth word "gìngiữ" is "keep, guard, preserve, maintain". Both are indigenous Vietnamese words.

    I can't get enough resolution on the white poster to read it entirely. Only the last half is legible to me " … China's acts of violence in the East Sea."

  2. Victor Mair said,

    December 4, 2017 @ 11:34 pm

    From Hue Tam Tai:

    Additional comment on the poster

    As steve O’Harrow noted,it should be giu gin, gin being a meaningless filler on its own but for the sake of having a euphonious slogan the word order has been reversed.

  3. David Marjanović said,

    December 5, 2017 @ 5:54 am

    Si vis pacem, para bellum?

  4. Luke B said,

    December 5, 2017 @ 1:15 pm

    I wouldn't overplay the use of Chinese loanwords here any more than I would be surprised to see a slogan like 'Destroy the French' in a UK war against France.

    The most interesting things to me here are the writing together of the disyllabic loanwords, clearly an important issue to the author of the source document you pointed to above. I know the elimination of mandatory spacing between syllables has been often suggested in the recent history of Vietnamese orthography (along with hyphenation). Here, it's hard to see it as anything other than politically charged, especially given that the most recent post on the parent site of that forum is entitled "Let's teach the rulers of Chinazi another lesson of Vietnam's history!" But its political charge coexists with some interesting linguistic insights, such that polemical sentences like "Some Vietnamese linguist[s] might have "worshipped" [Barker], more or less, just simply because he was a western linguist who know something about Vietnamese" are found alongside the interesting / plausible "the misconception of dissyllabism of Vietnamese and Chinese have prevented specialists in the field of Vietnamese etymology from seeing that sound changes of individual syllables in dissyllabic formation are independent from its original monosyllabic equivalents" as well as the slightly more suspicious "This new approach has indeed enabled me to find a remarkable large number, about 20,000, of Vietnamese words of Chinese origin, many of which have been long regarded as Nôm words, or "pure" Vietnamese".

    Also interesting is that the top line of the near-illegible poster-within-a-banner seems to read 'Stop China atos BRUTAIS no mar Chine[?]'. Strange mix of English and Portuguese?

  5. Victor Mair said,

    December 6, 2017 @ 1:25 am

    From Steve O'Harrow:

    I see that my old friend, Prof. Nguyễn Ngọc Hùng, basically agrees with my surmise. That is very reassuring. He knows whereof he speaks. All-in-all, I think the poster is a fake.

  6. Eidolon said,

    December 6, 2017 @ 5:22 pm

    While a false flag operation is possible, an additional clue about the poster is the web site "" shown visibly at the top right of the poster, and which also shows in a different version of the poster on Dân Làm Báo, according to the following article from 2012, is "one of the most prominent of several dissident blogs that have started in the last two years."

    Dân Làm Báo appears to have taken a grand stand against the Vietnamese government in 2012 which can be found here: The character of citizen nationalism expressed by the group fits with what I know of reports of Vietnamese grassroots opposition to China, and subsequent Vietnamese government crack down, in recent years, so that at least seems consistent. Their current web site is: but according to this old post:, "" used to be their main web site that they were trying to recover.

    Given the fact that Dân Làm Báo appears to be an actual grassroots Vietnamese group, but one that is relatively obscure, in case this is a false flag operation to convince the Chinese public of Vietnamese aggression, it must be a fairly sophisticated one in touch with Vietnamese politics.

  7. John Swindle said,

    December 6, 2017 @ 6:18 pm

    Inquiry sent (in English) to Dân Làm Báo

  8. John Swindle said,

    December 6, 2017 @ 10:00 pm

    Meanwhile … Professor O'Harrow is surely right to flag "a war" as a mistake in the English version of the slogan. Unfortunately this mistake strengthens the unintended implication in the English that the whole thing is about a war to uphold the peace. That's not what the Chinese or, apparently, the Vietnamese says. If the English is screwy and the Vietnamese awkward, isn't the Chinese the original, regardless of who crafted it or for what purpose?

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