Running from China

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The following image is from a guest post on the Tangle newsletter (3/3/23) that comes from a Chinese dissident who recently fled to the U.S.:

The political slogan on the sign glares:

xǐ yíng èrshí dà
wénmíng rùn wàn jiā


"Welcome to the20th National Congress
[The Party's] civilized [policies] enrich a myriad families"

The problem is that the Party hacks are ignorant of the reality that virtually all netizens under forty think of "rùn 润", not in its usual lexicographical meanings as "wet, moist, damp; sleek, glossy; to moisten, to wet, to dampen; to polish (a piece of writing, etc.), to touch up, to embellish, to enrich; profit (excess of revenue over cost)", but as a sarcastic, paronomastic borrowing from English "run".  In other words, "the Party's uncivilized policies are forcing a myriad families to run away from China."

Selected readings

[Thanks to Douglas Moyer]


  1. TIC Redux said,

    March 11, 2023 @ 8:33 am

    As the LL follower who brought this article to Dr. Mair's attention, I hope I'll be forgiven for adding a plug for the source, Tangle… I highly recommend it:

    "Tangle is an independent, non-partisan, subscriber-supported politics newsletter read by over 55,000 people in 55+ countries across the world.

    Every day, we tackle one big debate in American politics, then summarize the best arguments we can find from the right, left, and center on that debate."

  2. John Swindle said,

    March 12, 2023 @ 10:38 pm

    @ TIC Redux: At first I was trying to figure out whether “Tangle” was “唐乐” or “糖乐”. Oops.

  3. TIC Redux said,

    March 13, 2023 @ 7:01 am

    I have no doubt that that’s a very incisive and/or very funny comment, JS, but I’m entirely ig’nant in the subject area, so it’s entirely beyond my ken…

  4. John Swindle said,

    March 13, 2023 @ 7:45 am

    Probably neither incisive nor funny, sorry! I was trying to make sense of “tangle” (tang le) as a Chinese word. Tang Dynasty music? The joy of sweets? Oh, this is about American politics, I realized, so of course it’s an English word, and a common one at that.

  5. TIC Redux said,

    March 14, 2023 @ 6:37 pm

    Thanks, JS…

  6. Chris Barts said,

    March 18, 2023 @ 8:34 pm

    This article is a bit old, but it's related, and I don't see that you've commented on it:

    > At times, parsing propaganda for deeper meaning is difficult. At others, the (unintentional) message is hidden in plain sight. In October 2018, one bus passenger in Guizhou’s Nayong County realized that a roadside billboard quoting Xi Jinping said, “With me in charge, failure is guaranteed,” when the characters are read from right to left, as is common on banners.

    > The billboard was quoting a speech Xi had given to cadres in Hainan in April of that year, reminding them that “Today’s efforts will bear fruit after I’m gone,” which is how it reads from left to right. The phrase is often paired with another line to form a couplet touting the value of hard work in attaining revolutionary goals. The quote is a paraphrase of May Fourth Movement leader Hu Shih’s instruction to Peking University graduates in 1932. (Hu, an early Chinese Marxist-Leninst, was an opponent of the Chinese Communist Party and in the 1950s became the subject, in absentia, of a criticism campaign aimed at discrediting his writings.)

    > Today, both Xi’s quote and its misreading have become sensitive words subject to censorship. A recent test-search for “Today’s efforts will bear fruit after I’m gone” on the popular question-and-answer website Zhihu returned no results. The second line of the couplet returned dozens of results, an indication that censors are aware that the first line is ripe for misinterpretation. It has now become a standard example of “low-level red, high-level black” messaging that appears to parrot the Party line, but upon closer examination actually subverts it.

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