Washington and Beijing; Trump and Xi

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Today in Doonesbury:


The framed Sinograph on the wall is qi (Hanyu Pinyin) / ch'i (Wade-Giles).  In Japanese it would be pronounced ki, in Korean gi, in Cantonese hei3.

The character in Garry Trudeau's cartoon is the traditional form 氣, the simplified form would be 气, the Japanese form 気.

Definitions:  "air; gas; breath; atmosphere; weather; vital force; life force; energy of life; material energy; smell; odor; angriness; get angry; annoy; quality; character; spirit; feeling; mood; mettle; condition; sign; state".

Does any of this, especially the third balloon of the last panel, helped to explain why, according to the manifesto attributed to him, the ecofascist mass murderer (Christchurch, New Zealand [3/15/19]) declared:  "The nation with the closest political and social values to my own is the People’s Republic of China"?


[h.t. Ross Bender]


  1. John said,

    March 17, 2019 @ 6:27 pm

    Sorry, is that Uncle Duke's ex-girl friend 'Honey'?

  2. Jenny Chu said,

    March 17, 2019 @ 6:36 pm

    It seems to be the first character in a phrase. What might the second character be? What famous sayings would you put on a wall that started with 氣?

  3. Jenny Chu said,

    March 17, 2019 @ 6:37 pm

    @John sure is!

  4. AntC said,

    March 17, 2019 @ 8:28 pm

    I am shocked an appalled by your glib comparison to events so raw. Remove that paragraph, then you can delete this comment.

    I am speaking from Christchurch, as somebody who frequently walks/bikes past the mosque of the first attack, on my way from the next-door suburb, which has a halal butchers and Afghan restaurant (several of whose staff are now dead). In other words as somebody who in very imaginable circumstances could be killed/injured by the madman as he sped through the streets firing at random.

    Christchurch is a small town; NZ is a small country. There has been an immediate outpouring of grief and support for the whole muslim community. We are one with them, as our Prime Minister said at her first public remarks.

    I find your gratuitous remarks giving the oxygen of publicity to a deranged murderer offensive to those families who have not yet been able to bury their dead, contra Muslim practice; and to the dozens still in intensive care in our hospitals.

    Perhaps in the U.S. mass shootings are now so commonplace that you 'move on' within a few days. Perhaps because in the U.S. your political leaders find it contentious to express common decency and humanity. Not so here in the civilized countries. (I note the government here is immediately moving to tighten gun laws, and with overwhelming support; which laws are already considerably more strict than in the U.S.)

  5. David Morris said,

    March 18, 2019 @ 12:06 am

    Why 'ecofascist mass murderer'? Why not just 'mass murderer'? Does that make it any more acceptable?

  6. Yalensky said,

    March 18, 2019 @ 3:14 am

    David Morris: It is a matter of politics. "Ecofascist mass murder" highlights a guiding political motivation to his murders. Such a political motivation is relevant in light of his statement about the PRC. In other words, the possible connections between "ecofascism" and PRC neo-colonialism might not be apparent to the reader of the blogpost had the word been omitted.

  7. Philip Taylor said,

    March 18, 2019 @ 3:14 am

    Ant, I am not entirely sure what point you are seeking to make. Professor Mair did not suggest for one second that the New Zealand people are not one with the Muslim Community, but rather that, according to a manifesto attributed to Tarrant [1], it is possible that the People's Republic of China does not fully share the views of the New Zealand nation w.r.t. Muslims.
    [1] (who, incidentally, is still a "murder suspect" rather than a murderer, in that he has not yet been found guilty of that particular crime, although he is indisputably a mass killer)

  8. David Marjanović said,

    March 18, 2019 @ 6:09 am


    Does he have "protection of Woden's holy grove" somewhere in his manifesto? Or what does that mean?

  9. Victor Mair said,

    March 18, 2019 @ 8:20 am


    Ching "Honey" Huan (January 22, 1976) – Originally Duke's translator when he was Ambassador to China during the Nixon era, she fell in love with him (a feeling that was never reciprocated) and became his constant companion until 2006 when she grew disillusioned with him. Inspired by Tang Wensheng (Mao's interpreter when meeting with Nixon) and partially Marcie of Peanuts. Following her return to China, she is currently the Minister for Transportation for the Chinese government (March 17, 2019).



  10. NSBK said,

    March 18, 2019 @ 8:39 am

    I think the idea AntC is referring to is that the shooter should not be named and remembered, nor his ideas given publicity, at least not without an overwhelming presence of names, remembrance, or publicity of the victims.

    Professor Mair refers to the manifesto and even names the shooter in his paragraph, but does not follow up with any content about the victims. I believe Professor Mair is simply trying to be objective (as we know, this is Language Log and not XYZ OtherThing Log), but to some readers comes across as uncaring.

    I say some readers because I am also a US citizen and over the past several years I have certainly become callous to the mass shootings that occur in our country. I see the news and regrettably I think "there goes another one" and wonder what to eat for lunch in the same breath.

    Shootings by homegrown terrorists (particularly with xenophobic motivation) have become very commonplace in our country. Or they have always been commonplace and the media reports more on them now. Either way, we have become callous to them. We name the attackers, publish their manifestos, delve deep into who they were and why they did what they did…. but we spare little time in comparison for the people whose lives they destroy.

    I believe the latest death toll in this shooting has risen to 50 or more. And for a NZ/Christchurch resident like AntC, this is a massive event. Why name the attacker and talk about him? Why exclude the 50+ names of the victims and not talk about them, either also or instead?

    I will "concede" that in my country I lean to the left on politics and I hate how readily available deadly weaponry is to the average nutcase. But I really do think that my country as a whole has a weapon culture that is highly damaging, and we need to move away from that as soon as possible.

    Professor Mair — I agree with AntC. Please do not name the shooter. If we are discussing a linguistic curiosity that links into his manifesto's mention of PRC, sure, go for it. But 50+ human lives were lost because of this nutjob and they deserve to be remembered far and above any thoughts given to the shooter. Why should we care about why he says he did it? Sometimes people kill because they have the resources to do so and they are crazy. And that has little to nothing to do with linguistics.

    In any case, this is your web log and you may post what you please. But you will lose readers / commenters with valuable input on other, more purely language-related posts if you fall into the trap of spotlighting a perpetrator over his victims.

    [VHM: Your statement is rational and reasonable; I have removed the attacker's name (I had long hesitated to include it in the first place). Thank you.]

  11. Victor Mair said,

    March 18, 2019 @ 8:42 am

    @Jenny Chu

    In response to your question about what character(s) might be on the wall next to the big 氣, here are some possibilities. Bear in mind that, since 氣 is the traditional form of the character and may have been written by a famous calligrapher, the writing might run from right to left in the traditional orientation as well, since high officials have a predilection for such pretensions.

    xiángyún ruìqì 祥雲瑞氣 ("auspicious clouds")

    qìshì 氣勢 ("momentum; imposing manner")

    yīgǔzuòqì 一鼓作氣 ("all at one go; to press on to finish without letup; to get something done in one vigorous effort; to brace oneself [for a challenge, a difficult task, etc.); at one fling") — to enforce / implement the BRI / OBOR?

    yīshēn zhèngqì 一身正气 ("thoroughly upright / righteous")

    dōngláizǐqì 東來紫氣 ("auspicious premonition")

    jiǔsè cáiqì 酒色財氣 ("four cardinal vices: booze, women, avarice, pride; debauchery and riches")

    Maybe it's just qì 氣 ("anger" — Honey's mood?)

  12. Alex said,

    March 18, 2019 @ 8:43 am

    @ antc

    Its clear you are hurting, however I think the point is very relevant and bringing attention to another area while its in the news cycle, lest we slowly forget what's going on in other parts of the world.

    Lets move beyond the parochial and think exactly why he mentioned the PRC and his attack. As Phillip Taylor alluded to above: 50 multiplied by 20,000 is BT's reason for admiration.

    "Perhaps because in the U.S. your political leaders find it contentious to express common decency and humanity. Not so here in the civilized countries."

    As an American hopefully NZ speaks up after this event about whats going onto Muslims in other parts of the world.

  13. James Wimberley said,

    March 18, 2019 @ 9:15 am

    "Eco-fascist" appears to be a term the terrorist used of himself in his manifesto (which I have not read). Lacking context, it comes across as a mere insult to the environmentally minded. The adjective should be explained or dropped,

  14. Alex said,

    March 18, 2019 @ 10:50 am


    "Shootings by homegrown terrorists (particularly with xenophobic motivation) have become very commonplace in our country. "

    Perhaps i parse this sentence incorrectly.

    Yes, there has been more mass shootings, that said the US has a population many magnitudes larger than other countries.

    Second, most mass shootings in the US has nothing to do with xenophobic motivations.


    in fact many of the recent mass shooting has been the opposite where foreign born or natives attack in retaliation due to US policy.

    I do not like bringing in politics and usually only respond to things when incorrect assertions have been made.

    As for naming and shaming the actions of individuals rather than trying to erase history is in my opinion the appropriate response.

    Quisling Hitler Stalin Idi Amin Kaczynski Manson are perfect examples.

    Sure there may be fringes who feel these people are special in a good way but would you ask the Jews to forget Hitler or to erase from history?

    No, you remember these people for what they are. Most people which I include myself in that most category react to those names with abhorrence and bring nothing but shame to them and a negative reaction of which I teach my kids these people are terrible people. I don't brush it aside as if these evil people don't exist.

    Finally the way to remember those who died is to mark his name with shame.

    A friend just came back from Cambodia and they remember and have tourist sites where people can remember. Unlike other countries where they try to wipe parts of their history as if it didn't exist. Its better to let people know if you do these things you will forever be remembered in a deeply negative light.

    If I were to explain to my sons I would say x y z was an evil man who had alot of hatred in him. Don't ever be like him.

    I will finally speak my mind on this one

    "In any case, this is your web log and you may post what you please. But you will lose readers / commenters with valuable input on other, more purely language-related posts if you fall into the trap of spotlighting a perpetrator over his victims."

    I would take that as a bullying virtual signaling comment.

    When I read Professor Mair's post I would never think for a second he would take the event lightly. In fact if I were him Id feel insulted one could even think that of him.

  15. Jonathan said,

    March 18, 2019 @ 10:54 am

    In brief: it's way too soon to be playing intellectual games with the text of the Christchurch terrorist's manifesto, and you're being way too credulous of of any assertions he made therein. I'm sure you have some valuable insight into China's current global political strategy, but by trying to use one of the world's current greatest tragedies to make a point you've made me not really care about anything you're trying to say here.

    I haven't (and am not ever going to) read the manifesto, but I highly doubt any claims the terrorist made about ecological concerns were made in good faith. The classic definition of 'trolling' (in the networked computer sense) is to make claims you do not believe in order to get a reaction from people. It's disappointing to see you fall for such classic trolling.

    I'd suggest, at a minimum, dropping the word that contains 'eco-' in it; you're only helping the terrorist by propagating his claims. Better, I think, would be to remove from your post any reference to the Christchurch tragedy — it makes your writing look like that of a sophomore using sensationalism to mask a lack of knowledge or insight and I'm much more used to seeing the latter from you.

  16. Ross Bender said,

    March 18, 2019 @ 11:57 am

    When I forwarded this cartoon to Victor, I was only interested in Doonesbury's use of Chinese characters. During the Bush 2 years Gary Trudeau employed an interesting variety of signs and symbols to designate the then-President. In my "Doonesbury and the Sumerian Dingir" series I examined some of these.



  17. Yalensky said,

    March 18, 2019 @ 1:56 pm

    Jonathan: Why call Victor credulous if by your own admission you haven't read any parts of the manifesto itself? Yes, a lot of it is trolling nonsense full of copypasta and outlandish claims (I recall jokes about Fortnite, and sarcastic high praise for Candace Owens, and a general confusion of political terms), but under all the memes there is a sincere core to what he wrote, as evidenced by the mass killing itself. But even without the killer's using the word, his expressed ideology is ecofascist insofar as he is describing a world in which fascism maintains racial/ethnic segregation as a natural or ecological balance, something like Timothy Snyder's analysis of Hitler's fascism as ecological in his book Black Earth. I think you might be also be interpreting "ecological" as "environmentalist"–there's nothing there about recycling!

    And I think you're being uncharitable in claiming that use of the word is "propagating his claims".

    I'm always highly skeptical of claims that it's too soon to talk about anything. In my country that's often an excuse to sweep an examination of issues under the rug. Instead, the victims' memory demands we talk about it. How can we stand against it if we have an twentieth-century image of white supremacy as marching Klansmen, while it's actually rocketing itself into the internet age on a fuel of memes as real ecological disaster–the real to the white supremacist's imaginary–looms for everyone?

    PS. And to Victor's main point: is the PRC then ecofascist? How worried should we be, if it is? (I'm skeptical the label fits, however)

  18. NSBK said,

    March 18, 2019 @ 3:16 pm

    Thank you for your input. I mean that sincerely.

    I do not wish to make incorrect or even emotionally-charged statements. So please allow me to address some of what I have said.

    I stand by what I said about homegrown terrorists in the US. My intended meaning was that in general these shootings have become more commonplace, but also that specifically shootings involving xenophobic motivations have been on the rise [1]. I don't believe I asserted anything about the percent of shootings that were motivated by xenophobia.

    I do not think I am advocating erasure of history. I am simply of the school of thought that individuals who commit mass killings out not to be given any great amount of media coverage, and that instead of focusing vast amounts time on the criminal themselves, the media ought instead to focus on remembering the victims and the heroes who helped stop the perpetrator. For example, I mean to say that if we only remember one name from this horrific incident, it should be that of Naeem Rashid, who died trying to take down the gunman [2]. That article does in fact mention the shooter's name, but it is buried in the article once, while Rashid's name appears 7 times. The "contagion effect" and the role of the media in encouraging mass shooters can be explored in [3], which references [4].

    I want to emphasize that I absolutely do not think that Professor Mair takes this event lightly. As I said in the second paragraph of my original comment:
    "I believe Professor Mair is simply trying to be objective (as we know, this is Language Log and not XYZ OtherThing Log), but to some readers comes across as uncaring."

    And I am truly not sure how the last statement in my comment could come across as bullying or virtue-signalling. Professor Mair and the other authors of LL have all of the power here, not me or any regular commenter, and I respect that. They pay the bills here, not me. The only supposed threat I can make is "I won't come back if you do XYZ", and if that makes me a terrible person then it is no loss to them and everyone else if I leave. In any case, Professor Mair has removed the name and kindly continues to allow my comments, and I really do love the content and discussions that I find on LL — those which relate to linguistics, at least — so I don't think that I can be as coercive with that as you think.

    I greatly respect Professor Mair and the other authors here. Please let me know if there is anything else anyone finds troubling with my comments. I can't please everyone, but I can try to explain my position with less ambiguity.

    1. https://www.pbs.org/newshour/world/what-the-new-zealand-shootings-tell-us-about-the-rise-in-hate-crimes

    2. https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/pakistani-man-who-tried-to-stop-new-zealand-shooter-to-be-given-national-award/2019/03/17/582667fa-48af-11e9-8cfc-2c5d0999c21e_story.html

    3. http://www.dontnamethem.org/

    4. https://asunow.asu.edu/20151005-contagion-effect-mass-shootings

  19. Alex said,

    March 18, 2019 @ 6:15 pm

    @NSBK s

    Thanks for the clarification.

    There is a passage from the TV series John Adams that I love. It seems appropriate for some of the other comments that have been posted.

    Benjamin Franklin "What did you get by opposing the motion? It was carried with our without you. All you did was make enemies and make yourself feel better, of course.

    John Adams: "Do you not believe in saying what you think?

    Benjamin Franklin No, I'm very much against it."
    "Thinking aloud is a habit responsible for much of mankind's misery. St. Thomas à Becket might have lived to a ripe old age if he
    You insulted Mr. Dickinson. You insulted him in public."

    John Adams: "Would you have me insult him in private?

    Benjamin Franklin: "It's perfectly acceptable to insult someone in private.
    Sometimes they might even thank you for it afterwards.
    But when you do it in public, they tend to think you are serious.

    Professor Mair's email is public, it isn't hard to find. If person had a major issue with what was written and felt that Professor Mair might have unintentionally caused grief to others then the person could reach out directly to him and explain rather how they felt.

    To craft long winded paragraphs seems kind of self serving. In the time it takes to do so, one could have easily have found his private email.

    If I were the editor and received a private email and felt what the interlocutor had to say made sense, then I would add an addendum.

    As for my own long winded rambling it was meant to be public as a response to the posted comments, furthermore I don't have access to the emails.

  20. Eidolon said,

    March 18, 2019 @ 6:51 pm

    "PS. And to Victor's main point: is the PRC then ecofascist? How worried should we be, if it is? (I'm skeptical the label fits, however)."

    I think the PRC certainly *looks* eco-fascist from the perspective of certain internet political communities, which shall remain unnamed. But I think this "meme" grossly misinterprets the CCP's political motivations. Environmentalism was not why the PRC imposed the one-child policy nor the primary driver for its recent green energy push, and in terms of ethnic policy, the PRC is aggressively assimilationist, rather than obsessed with ethnic purity and autonomy. The shooter, in this respect, is simply following a particular brand of contemporary radicalism, the effects of which are magnified by the internet's tendency to create echo chambers. I will respect the requests of law enforcement to refrain from talking in more detail about his personal philosophy and manifesto, however, except to say that they are manifestly misguided.

  21. Alex said,

    March 18, 2019 @ 7:37 pm

    @ Eidolon

    I was also curious about the term eco fascist. I haven't heard it before. I have not read in detail his manifesto.

    If we use this part of the definition of wiki

    "characterized by dictatorial power, forcible suppression of opposition, and strong regimentation of society and of the economy"

    Id say concerning the environment China fits. Unlike in the US, China can mandate the putting up of wind towers and by pass eminent domain protests.

    Contrary to popular belief and the media, China and local Chinese also don't like pollution. With almost 4 times the population of the US and a mandate to grow at 6 percent a year, they need to make a rational trade off. Electricity and modernization or clean air. Many countries have chosen to make the same decision they have chosen.

    Id have to say I am impressed by the gains they have made. Here in Shenzhen within a short amount of time almost all taxi's are electric (sure they might ultimately be powered by coal) and they have installed many charging stations in office parking lots. Many buses are also going green,

    There are many reasons for the green energy push here. economic commodity independence, building up exportable industry, and pollution are key drivers.

    I would think that the banning of straws in the US within certain cities is a form of eco fascism.

    Given the above definitions it seems to me the term is short and to the point and would soon go mainstream. The term i grew up with was eco warrior. Like the Green Peace boat people.

  22. Rodger C said,

    March 19, 2019 @ 6:58 am

    I thought "ecofascist" meant "someone who disagrees with the ghost of Murray Bookchin."

  23. Jonathan said,

    March 19, 2019 @ 11:45 am

    New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern (via AP story): "He obviously had a range of reasons for committing this atrocious terrorist attack. Lifting his profile was one of them. And that’s something that we can absolutely deny him."

  24. ktschwarz said,

    March 19, 2019 @ 1:33 pm

    I apologize for introducing yet another tangent, but in AntC's sentence

    I note the government here is immediately moving to tighten gun laws, and with overwhelming support; which laws are already considerably more strict than in the U.S.

    I can't help noting the unusual which construction, called out as archaic by Geoff Pullum (2018) and previously discussed at Language Log (2008) (as noted in comments, it's still current in legal writing). Maybe it's not quite as obsolete as Pullum would have it.

  25. Philip Taylor said,

    March 19, 2019 @ 4:13 pm

    "which laws" is certainly a normal part of my idiolect (formal writing register), although I would not introduce the phrase with a semi-colon. Can't think why GP regards the idiom as archaic. I can't be certain whether I would use the phrase orally, 'though — I suspect not, but more introspection needed.

  26. Rodger C said,

    March 20, 2019 @ 6:48 am

    Which faith unless every one do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly.

  27. ktschwarz said,

    March 20, 2019 @ 12:31 pm

    Yes, liturgy is an excellent niche for archaic language to survive in. That's a 16th-century English translation from Latin. As discussed in the 2008 Language Log, the construction might derive in English from imitating Latin, where it's a lot more common; although in this case the original Latin, Quam nisi quisque integram inviolatamque servaverit…, uses only quam 'which' and not 'faith'.

  28. David Marjanović said,

    March 20, 2019 @ 7:34 pm

    Yes, there has been more mass shootings, that said the US has a population many magnitudes larger than other countries.

    One magnitude I'll give you, but there's not even a need to compare the US to other individual countries. The US has a population of a bit over 320 million; the EU as a whole has over 500 million, and yet there's not a mass shooting every year…

    a world in which fascism maintains racial/ethnic segregation as a natural or ecological balance

    …that doesn't make any sense…?
    Full disclosure: I'm a biologist.

    I would think that the banning of straws in the US within certain cities is a form of eco fascism.

    Not everything that isn't direct democracy is fascism. I can't believe I have to spell that out.

  29. Philip Taylor said,

    March 21, 2019 @ 11:27 am

    "a world in which fascism maintains racial/ethnic segregation as a natural or ecological balance" — I'm not sure where fascism comes into this (perhaps because I have never really understood what "fascism" actually means) but I can certainly see that racial/ethnic segregation (or separation) could be ecologically beneficial. If two competing species/races/ethnicities compete for a scarce resource, the weaker is likely to lose out; far better, it would seem to me, if each focusses its scavenging/hunting/whatever activities on its home territory and allows other species/races/ethnicities to do likewise without inteference.

  30. julie lee said,

    March 21, 2019 @ 1:23 pm

    "The nation with the closest political and social values to my own is the People’s Republic of China."

    I was puzzled by this statement of the New Zealand mass murderer until Professor Mair called him "eco-fascist". Isn't the present PRC's
    policy of internment of large numbers of Uighur, Muslim citizens in Sinkiang in concentration camps an act of eco-fascism— an effort to wipe out Muslims from Sinkiang, if not physically then culturally , if not genocide then ethnocide—by forcing them to give up their native Uighur language and Uighur Muslim religion and culture? The mass murderer of NZ Muslims confesses his affinity with China's anti-Muslimism.

  31. Philip Taylor said,

    March 21, 2019 @ 1:45 pm

    More "asserts" than "confesses", I feel — a confession is (normally) accompanied by a sense of guilt, something singularly lacking in Mr Tarrant or so it seems to me.

  32. Andrew Usher said,

    March 22, 2019 @ 7:39 am

    I agree with Philip in that 'fascist' seems mostly to be devoid of any real meaning; 'eco-fascist' is hopelessly ambiguous to an even greater degree. I'm not entirely sure why the connection with the NZ mass shooting had to be even brought up, but I'll always defend free speech; it is understandable that certain people would be offended by it now, but that shouldn't stop discussion of it.

    Even in the US there's, I believe, an over-reaction to mass shootings; it's far from the case that we just accept them, at least not all of us, and move on immediately. We are a big country and as a result have a lot of crime; and really, a mass shooting (unless it's part of an organised terrorist campaign) is just a species of crime, though I suppose a particularly heinous one esp. as most victims are completely innocent.

    But in perspective mass shootings don't even comprise a significant portion of gun homicides. To make policy based on that would not be sensible at all. And the anti-American criticism is really tiresome – to be honest, it seems that every other first world country has to define itself by moral superiority to America, as if they were jealous. I'm the first to admit America has lots of problems, but not bowing to the so-called worldwide consensus on every social issue is not one.

    k_over_hbarc at yahoo dot com

  33. Philip Taylor said,

    March 25, 2019 @ 3:40 am

    Returning (briefly) to the "which laws" discussion, I found myself using an identical construction in an e-mail to colleagues only two minutes ago :

    The Porphyrogenitus lexicon now successfully typesets (with minor variations) using all version of TeX Live from 2008 to 2017; the first year to provoke an error is 2018, which problem I am currently investigating.

  34. Peter Grubtal said,

    March 25, 2019 @ 1:11 pm

    With Philip Taylor, I'm totally used to "which laws" etc in the context of legal and para-legal documents, but have always regarded its use in everyday speech as archaic. Those of us who got used to it in our work sometimes found it seguing into "normal" conversation.

    As he says, a question of register.

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