The Australian people have stood up

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In recent months, one after another, instances of Chinese interference in Australian politics have come to light.  After a series of outstanding investigative reports in the media, finally Australia is starting to push back against Chinese encroachment:

"Laws on foreign influence just the beginning in fight against Chinese coercion", Peter Mattis, Sydney Morning Herald (12/7/17).

Most conspicuously, earlier today, the Prime Minister has spoken out, and in Mandarin, no less:

"Malcolm Turnbull declares he will 'stand up' for Australia in response to China's criticism", Caitlyn Gribbin, ABC (12/9/17).

In the video at the beginning of the article, the Prime Minister states that the founding of the PRC was marked by this stirring call:


Zhōngguó rénmen zhàn qǐlái 中国人们站起来 ("The Chinese people stand up")

Ten seconds later, he declares:


Àodàlìyǎ rénmen zhàn qǐlái 澳大利亚人们站起来 ("The Australian people stand up")

The usual wording for the Chinese pronouncement, probably the most famous slogan in PRC history, is:

In a paper published in the academic journal Party History and Organisation Study in 2007, Guan argued that Mao had never mentioned the slogan during the speech and the title was added by editors.

'What he said was 'The Chinese [VHM: Zhōngguó rén 中国人] have stood up', which, despite being just a word off, conveyed a totally different meaning,' Guan wrote.

"Chinese people' [VHM:  Zhōngguó rénmín 中国人民] is a political term. In different periods, its definition could change. In Mao's own words, it includes workers, farmers, urban petty bourgeoisie and patriotic bourgeoisie.

'Chinese, however, is a nationality. In Mao's own words, it includes every Chinese who is brave, hard-working and together constituted a fourth of the world's population.'

See "The famous Mao slogan, that he never even used", SCMP (9/25/09)

As for what Mao Zedong actually declared from the Gate of Heavenly Peace on October 1, 1949, watch this video:

"What did Mao Zedong really say?" SCMP (9/24/09)

Mao's thick Hunan accent is part of the evidence adduced.

Here, from 0:40-0:56 is Mao's proclamation of the founding of the People's Republic of China from the Gate of Heavenly Peace on October 1, 1949:

Tóngzhìmen, Zhōnghuá Rénmín Gònghéguó, Zhōngyāng Rénmín Zhèngfǔ, jīntiān chénglìle! 同志们,中华人民共和国, 中央人民政府, 今天成立了! ("Comrades!  The People's Republic of China [and] the Central People's Government are established today!)

By putting it the way he did, as quoted from the video just after the page break above, Prime Minister Turnbull spoke more wisely than if he had said, as most people do, "As Mao Zedong proclaimed from the Gate of Heavenly Peace on October 1, 1949, 'The Chinese People have stood up!'".


  1. Victor Mair said,

    December 9, 2017 @ 8:58 pm

    From an anonymous colleague:

    It was not Chinese Professor Guan Hailun (2007, op. cit. in o.p.) or American scholar Perry Link (2013, Anatomy of Chinese, cited in today's news reports on this matter) who pointed out what Mao actually said and did not say in September and October 1949. It was Australian historian John Fitzgerald (1999). See his ‘China and the Quest for Dignity,’ The National Interest (Spring 1999).

  2. Do Hsti said,

    December 9, 2017 @ 9:25 pm

    Mr Turnbull gets a reasonable amount of Mandarin practice, speaking to his son's family. Despite his public display of Sinophobia*, Mr Turnbull's daughter-in-law is a relative of Jiang Zemin and his grandchildren are Singaporean Chinese.

    * (Mandatory for politicians in xenophobic Australia)

  3. Toby said,

    December 10, 2017 @ 3:36 pm

    Do Hsti's comment exemplifies the nonsense that the Chinese authorities and fellow travellers are peddling around the world and in Australia. It is not "Sinophobia" (whatever that essentially meaningless term is meant to denote) to act against Chinese meddling in foreign countries via "Confucius" Institutes, spying, bribing local politicians and threatening and kidnapping Chinese nationals who are studying here.

  4. Do Hsti said,

    December 11, 2017 @ 4:48 am

    "The People's Daily, Chinese state-controlled media, published an opinion piece on Monday decrying the debate over Chinese government influence in Australia as racist and urged the Australian government and media on Monday to "discard their political biases and prejudices".

    But so far local Chinese media in Sydney – some of which have close links to the Chinese government – have largely avoided taking sides on the issue."

  5. Mat Bettinson said,

    December 11, 2017 @ 9:23 am

    I thought Mr Turnbull's pronunciation was interesting. I wasn't expecting much so I was surprised to hear some facsimile of the tones. Curiously he mangles the ao into ah, and inadvertently makes it sound a little like Taiwanese Mandarin (to me) by saying zan rather than zhan. It seems he's had some coaching here and I'm curious as to how that went down. I imagine someone would have researched the Mao quote for him.

    Also trying Chinese at all might be seen as something of an attempt to seem less Sino-ignorant, given former PM Rudd's reasonable command of Mandarin.

  6. Toby said,

    December 11, 2017 @ 2:45 pm

    @dohsti If the best evidence you have is an article in a Communist party propaganda organ then the threadbare nature of your assertions is exposed for all the world to see.

    Your activity suggests that you are one of those cyberwarriors paid by the Chinese government who posts false garbage online to try to obfuscate (like Russia does too). Alternatively you are one of those sleepers sent by China to foreign countries to keep expatriates and migrants in line through fear.

    None of us care what the Chinese government says.

    In any event this is the wrong forum for propaganda as it is people by people with brains.

  7. Jonathan Gress-Wright said,

    December 16, 2017 @ 1:49 pm

    I feel like there's a whole post or more to be written about famous misattributed quotes in politics. E.g. Carter's 1979 "malaise" speech in which he never uttered the word "malaise". It seems that if a speech or passage of a speech is famous enough it tends to be remembered by a paraphrase of the content rather than the original words.

    The distinction between "the Chinese" and "the Chinese people" is interesting. Translated into English, the two phrases appear synonymous to me (more evidence that languages are not as equally expressive as we teach in LING 101). I don't quite grasp the distinction, though. Is the idea that "zhongguo renmin" means particular classes of Chinese people while "zhongguo ren" means everyone of any class who is ethnically Chinese?

  8. Silas S. Brown said,

    December 18, 2017 @ 7:33 am

    Tony's response to @dohsti makes me want nothing more to do with Language Log. How can I delete every comment I ever made, or at least turn them anonymous? Get my name out of here please.

    I got involved in Language Log to talk about languages, not to take sides in politics. And now this Tony is saying "us" as if all of us agree with him against Do Hsti. I'm sorry but I never asked for Toby to be my representative; I do not wish to be part of the "us" if that's what the "us" is going to be used for.

  9. anon47 said,

    December 18, 2017 @ 8:33 am

    Translation: Silas read what Toby put about sleeper agents & thinks Language Loggers who use real names are now in danger if they don't distance themselves

  10. Silas S. Brown said,

    December 18, 2017 @ 3:08 pm

    To clarify, I objected to the implied use of my name (by association with Professor Mair and Wenlin Institute SPC whom he invites to selected threads) in the collective use of "us" in the political 'flame'. I've been on the receiving end of this (e.g. "none of us Chinese like you" when I accidentally annoyed one student), so I don't want anything to do with the sending end. I don't suppose Victor Mair or Wenlin want that image either, but I can speak only for myself.

    Sleeper agents take trouble to place, and every use of them is a risk. A country would be crazy to risk its intelligence assets on the likes of me. Of course IF one accepts the dubious premise that Do Hsti is a sleeper agent THEN it would be irresponsible to provoke him into adding all Mair fans to a hit list. But our "guilt by association" is more likely to be determined by a "big data" analysis than by a spy. Mine was probably recorded years ago in that incident with the student. So I was more worried about our professionalism than our safety from China's equivalent of James Bond.

    Any legitimate concerns about disruption of Language Log by agents of any description should probably be addressed to the editors who have power to delete and block. Flaming the suspected agent directly is at best unproductive and at worst hugely counterproductive.

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