Vicious smears, part 2

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The CCP's favorite word for characterizing opinions with which they disagree seems to be "smear", which I wrote about here:  "Vicious smears" (9/10/20).

Recently, for whatever reason, we now have a plentiful new crop of "smearisms" in official Chinese media, for examples of which see here, here, here, here, and here (all from Global Times, CCP's major ideological mouthpiece, whose Chinese and English versions have since 2009 been under the editorship of the formidable firebrand, Hu Xijin; in recent months Hu has repeatedly said that he would be stepping down as editor-in-chief of GT, but, judging from his still frequent interventions, he evidently continues to wield enormous power in the propaganda apparatus).

"Smear" is an integral element in the lexicon of Chinese English, as it is written by the party organs of the CCP.  This PRC CCP English is not at all the same thing as Chinglish, with which we at Language Log have been intimately familiar for the past two decades, though decreasingly so in recent years because of the soaring quality of overall English ability in China since the beginning of the new millennium.

Here was my capsule description of "Chinese English" two years ago ("Vicious smears" [9/10/20]):

Just as we sometimes speak of "Indian English", which has its own rich assemblage of vocabulary items and pronunciation patterns, so is there "Chinese English" with its own usages, idioms, and emphases, which sometimes become firmly embedded in the speech of China hands — e.g., "China's", "add oil", "deepen cooperation", "paper tiger", and "running dog".

Sometimes when I read or hear CCP, once I know the theme of the piece and get the flow of what they're talking about, I can almost predict more than half of what they will say in subsequent sentences, so highly formulaic are their lexicon and rhetoric.


Selected readings


[Thanks to Mark Metcalf]


  1. Joshua K. said,

    March 26, 2022 @ 11:47 am

    Let's not forget about "hurts the feelings of the Chinese people," a phrase that Victor has discussed on this blog before.

  2. Bloix said,

    March 26, 2022 @ 12:00 pm

    When I was in college we used to read about Mao Zedong Thought. Now there is Xi Jinping Thought. I don't know how many Thoughts there have been in between – I seem to remember that there was Liu Shaoqi Thought – maybe they all get to have Thought?

  3. AntC said,

    March 26, 2022 @ 4:12 pm

    @Bloix there is (or rather was) Deng Xiaoping Theory aka "Socialism with Chinese Characteristics", and promoting 'one country, two systems'.

    maybe they all get to have Thought?

    No, you have to be at the top for a long time before you get to have (or at least publish) Thought. And there were grumblings at first that Xi was equating himself to Mao. Nowadays, with Xi having dispensed with term limits for President, the grumblings are silenced.

  4. JPL said,

    March 26, 2022 @ 8:01 pm

    I've noticed casually, not as a result of any rigorous investigation, that, when responding to criticism about actions or policies from foreign governments (US, Japan, etc) China's official pronouncements never engage the question at issue, as in a normal argument (e.g., defending the policies or actions by giving reasons, explanations or opposing views, asking for evidential support, etc.), but only object to the act of criticising at all, by saying it is insulting, improper or has a negative effect on international relations, etc. Thus the formulaic response is completely predictable, and essentially meaningless. ("Those are vicious smears; you're being impudent; we'll do what we want; I don't want to talk about it.") Why do they bother doing that? If they conversed in a normal way at least they would, as a matter of diplomacy, be better understood, even if their reasons turn out to be not ethically sound and only a matter of realpolitik. (Demanding adherence internally to the idea of infallibility has probably contributed to Mr Putin's current problems.)

  5. JPL said,

    March 26, 2022 @ 8:20 pm

    BTW, if God were an infallible dictator, he wouldn't have made it possible for us to have free will. (We don't seem to be doing very well with it at the moment; but the alternative wouldn't have been worth the trouble of the whole experiment.)

  6. AntC said,

    March 27, 2022 @ 12:23 am

    In contrast to GT's "highly formulaic" prose, Taiwan Foreign Ministry's "Chinese text refers to China as “口國” (“mouth country”) rather than “中國,” poking fun at China’s censorship policy. In China, censored words or terms are replaced with characters such as empty boxes or asterisks"

  7. John Swindle said,

    March 28, 2022 @ 5:30 am

    Mao and Xi do get to have "Thought," but even they aren't entitled to -isms, despite the occurence of the word "Maoism" in other forms of English. For that they'd have to be even higher, like Marx or Lenin. It's a stepwise canonization process.

  8. 번하드 said,

    March 28, 2022 @ 7:34 pm

    @John Swindle: They might be right to worry about an emerging Xism.

  9. AntC said,

    March 29, 2022 @ 7:02 am

    Another example of gobbledygook — the word-salad is almost mesmeric in its not-quite-managing to mean anything.

    ""The Australian behaviour goes against the nature of people-to-people interaction and win-win cooperation," Wang said." [Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin ]

  10. Philip Taylor said,

    March 29, 2022 @ 8:44 am

    To this Briton, the meaning is clear (or at least he thinks that it is) — ignoring the initial and redundant "The" we have "(Australian behaviour) (goes against) (the nature of people-to-people interaction) and (win-win cooperation)". Is that not equally clear to other readers ?

  11. Philip Taylor said,

    March 29, 2022 @ 8:46 am

    And if not, do further levels of parentheses help ?

    (Australian behaviour) (goes against) ((the nature of (people-to-people interaction)) and (win-win cooperation))

  12. John Swindle said,

    March 29, 2022 @ 2:15 pm

    @Philip Taylor: I think Wang Wenbin meant "This Australian behaviour …", not Australian behavior in general. Apart from that, I agree that the meaning is clear. For English speakers outside of Asia it might have been even clearer if he had avoided the formulas. Google results suggest that "win-win cooperation" is Chinese English, while "people-to-people interaction" is South Asian, Chinese, and international agency (EU, UN) English.

  13. Philip Taylor said,

    March 29, 2022 @ 3:31 pm

    Yes, I agree, having now read the whole text — "The" used where "This" was required. The formulaic "win-win cooperation" and "people-to-people interaction" were clear to me, even if they were not the phrases that I might have chosen had I been authoring the text ex nihilo.

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