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That's one of the extreme nicknames for Xi Jinping that are being used to avoid censorship.  It consists of the three tones for his name, Xí Jìnpíng 习近平.

Likewise, netizens are referring to him as "2-4-2".  He is also called "N" because that reminds people of ↗↘↗. 

Another emerging Xi nickname is “n-butane,” whose chemical line-angle formula somewhat resembles the three tonal marks or an elongated “N.”

A diagram showing the chemical structure of n-butane, composed of four methylene (CH2) molecules connected by three lines, which resembles an elongated "N".

As the creatively piquant online nicknames of yesteryear—including such classics as Winnie the Pooh, Steamed Bun Xi, Foreskin Xi, and Xissolini—are censored and fall into disuse, they are replaced by ever more abstruse symbols and esoteric references. Xi nicknames continue to proliferate, with new incarnations (literally “new skin,” 新皮肤, xīn pífū) appearing constantly. Some joke that eventually these monikers will be reduced to blank spaces, much like the eloquently blank pieces of paper displayed by protesters during the 2022 White Paper Protests. That said, it seems likely that for as long as Xi Jinping remains in power, the busy trade in variant Xi nicknames will continue to boom.

Source:  "Words of the Week: Xi’s Obscure Nicknames, from ↗↘↗ to '2-4-2' to 'N' to 'n-butane'".  Cindy Carter, China Digital Times (98/25/23)

Another way to refer to ↗↘↗ is simply as "tā 他" ("he / him / his"), as in Tā méiyǒu cǎiqǔ rènhé cuòshī lái jiǎnqīng Covid de tòngkǔ 他没有采取任何措施来减轻Covid的痛苦 ("He did nothing to alleviate the distress of Covid").  That's how the protagonists of the Harry Potter novels referred to Voldemort (Fúdìmó 伏地魔), the antagonist.

PRC netizens are always one step ahead of the censors, who are continually one step behind, and forever shall be.


Selected readings



  1. magni said,

    September 5, 2023 @ 10:02 pm

    Me and my friends in college came up with several nicknames for him (Him!) that are more acoustically conspicuous than "↗↘↗" as to the object being referred to: 徐俊鹏 (xú jùn péng), 急聘型 (jí pìn xíng), 黎蔺玲 (lí lìn líng), etc. Formulating these misnames, we noticed how vital it is for tones and tones only to align with those of the original characters to be parodied, in order for the result to sound "alike". Consonants and vowels in these syllables can be reconfigured, but not tones. One can even force the Chinese tones (2-4-2 / ↗↘↗) to an arbitrary string of three English letters, e.g. DJT, ABC. The resulting tuples can often sound like the name of the unspeakable one.

  2. David Marjanović said,

    September 6, 2023 @ 5:52 am

    Reducing a language to its tones is also how whistled languages and talking drums work.

  3. Mark P said,

    September 6, 2023 @ 9:18 am

    A friend who spent some time in Cuba after his boat was lost on rocks, back in the early 1990’s, said that people did not say Castro’s name aloud. They would refer to him by stroking their chins as if they were stroking a beard.

  4. Ebenezer Scrooge said,

    September 6, 2023 @ 3:57 pm

    Chemist here. In chemistry, just like Chinese, we have radicals. n-butane is composed of two methylene (CH2) and two methyl (CH3) radicals. Not molecules.

  5. jwli said,

    September 7, 2023 @ 9:22 am

    Literally "He who cannot be named"

  6. John Swindle said,

    September 7, 2023 @ 6:25 pm

    Indian TV fires "Eleven Jinping" news anchor.

  7. Michael Watts said,

    September 8, 2023 @ 10:32 pm

    Does anyone ever compare this state of affairs to the traditional taboo on the name of the emperor?

  8. Rodger C said,

    September 10, 2023 @ 11:35 am

    "Eleven Jinping" reminds me of the old joke, "Who's this Malcolm the Tenth I keep reading about?"

  9. Rodger C said,

    September 11, 2023 @ 10:36 am

    And "Vi Guevara" reminds me of Pope Alexander VI (Rodrigo Borgia), whose seal read ALEXANDER PAPA VI, which Romans liked to read as "Alexander, pope by force."

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