Can't work because of the Ukraine crisis

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Article by Manya Koetse:

"Chinese Term ‘Wuxin Gongzuo’:

Can’t Focus on Work Due to Russia-Ukraine Crisis

Chinese netizens are so focused on the Russian attack on Ukraine that nobody can focus on work (wuxin gongzuo)."

What's on Weibo (2/24/22)                                                                         

Here's the new expression that has gone viral:

wū xīn gōngzuò


lit., "U[kraine] heart-mind work"

This is word-play for:

wúxīn gōngzuò


"don't have a mind to work; not in the mood for work")

where wū 乌 is short for "Wūkèlán 乌克兰" (transcription of "Ukraine") and stands for "wú 无" ("no; not; without; do not have"), hence "wúxīn gōngzuò 无心工作" ("do not have the mind for work")

The article goes into considerable detail about the parallels between Russia and Ukraine on the one hand and China and Taiwan on the other hand, with the development of memes depicting Taiwan apprehensively looking on at what's happening in / to Ukraine.

One meme making its rounds showed a pig called “Taiwan” watching another pig called “Ukraine” being slaughtered. One top comment said: “Pay attention little Taiwanese, Ukraine is demonstrating the speed of modern warfare. Sending troops in the morning, unifying by noon, in the afternoon we’re doing nucleic acid tests and IDs, in the evening watching the news together and the next day we’re raising the flag and singing the anthem!”

One Weibo commenter wrote: “I resolutely support the Russian military action! This is the evil result of Ukraine following the Yankees (Měiguó lǎo 美国佬). We should seize the opportunity to liberate Taiwan and to recover the Diaoyu Islands.”

That may be what some people in China are thinking, but the situations in Taiwan and in Ukraine are, as we say in Mandarin, "liǎngmǎshì 两码事" ("two [quite] different things").


Selected readings


  1. Terpomo said,

    February 25, 2022 @ 7:13 pm

    It's tragic, but it seems preferable to nuclear war, which doesn't seem entirely impossible if other major powers get involved in the situation.

  2. Victor Mair said,

    February 26, 2022 @ 7:39 am

    "Mockery of West, Warnings to Taiwan Fill Chinese Social Media After Ukraine Invasion

    Official state media stays restrained despite voracious interest, a sign of Beijing’s caution in taking a stance"

    By Sha Hua
    WSJ, Feb. 25, 2022 9:16 am ET

  3. Philip Taylor said,

    February 26, 2022 @ 9:01 am

    Just spoken to a Ukrainian friend — he is confident, but says that what his country needs most is not more people to fight but more arms with which to fight.

  4. Andreas Johansson said,

    February 28, 2022 @ 1:54 am

    I guess Wūkèlán is adapted from English (or French?), given the lack of final -a?

  5. Andrew Thomas said,

    March 1, 2022 @ 10:11 am

    Those Chinese people who crow about Russia invading Ukraine as a paralle to China invading Taiwan have got the logic completely backwards (as usual).

    Russia is supporting the INDEPENDENCE of Donetsk and Luhansk, which want to breakaway from Ukraine. If we were to extending this logic, it means Russia would also support Taiwan desire to breakaway from China. I don't think that's something the Chinese should crow about!

  6. wanda said,

    March 1, 2022 @ 10:32 pm

    Russia is using its status as a nuclear power to take territory that it wants to take. I don't want to live on a planet in which that becomes routine.
    Taiwan was watching Hong Kong. And it is definitely watching Ukraine, and how China responded by buying Russian wheat.

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