Xi's peculiar vocabulary

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From another tweet / X-effusion by the Master Muckraker, Fang Zhouzi / Fang Shimin:

"Guǎnzǒng” zhè cí shì gǔdài báihuàwén, xiànzài jīběn bùyòng, yuányì shì zhǐ mǒu gèrén huò mǒu gè bùmén guǎn gè zhǒng shìwù,“yīgè wèntí” zěnme “guǎn zǒng”? Nǎge mìshū xiǎng chūlái de xīn yòngfǎ"


The word "manage multiple affairs" is an early vernacular expression and is rarely used nowadays. The original meaning is that a person or a department is in charge of various affairs. How can "a question" "be in charge of various affairs"? Which secretary came up with the new usage?

This questionable term occurred in the context of Xi's discussion concerning how to enable Chinese-America relations to make it safely through perilous times:

"Shǒuxiān yào huídá de shì, Zhōng-Měi dàodǐ shì duìshǒu, háishì huǒbàn. Zhè shì yīgè gēnběn de, yěshì guǎnzǒng de wèntí."


"The first thing that must be answered is whether China and America are rivals or partners.  This is a fundamental, manage various affairs [sic] question."

See Jìndài Hànyǔ cídiǎn 近代漢語詞典 (Dictionary of Middle Vernacular Sinitic), 4 vols. (Shanghai: Shanghai jiaoyu chubanshe, 2015), vol. 1, p. 700a.

My guess is that "guǎnzǒng 管总” in Xi's speech arose as a garbled or distorted version of some such expression as zuì guān zhòngyào 最關重要 ("most important").  I doubt that Xi or his speechwriter(s) were learned enough to know an early Middle Vernacular Sinitic (MVS) term.  In any event, no matter where they dug it up, they misused it in this Modern Standard Mandarin (MSM) sentence.

Selected readings

[h.t. rit majors]


  1. Jonathan Smith said,

    November 20, 2023 @ 6:58 pm

    " 会晤桌、宴会厅、石板小径,他们的话题广泛而深入"
    "From the meeting table, to the banquet hall, to the stone pathway, the topics [of their discussions] are broad and deep."
    nice topics :D

  2. magni said,

    November 20, 2023 @ 10:36 pm

    It seems that 管总 has been in the reservoir of military trope since 2019 (https://www.gov.cn/zhengce/2019-07/24/content_5414325.htm). And its use in party-speak is now seeing an increase, presumably thanks to the news coverage in question (https://news.sina.com.cn/zx/gj/2023-11-20/doc-imzvhhxs0578250.shtml#:~:text=%E5%92%8C%E2%80%9C%E6%B2%B3%E9%95%BF-,%E7%AE%A1%E6%80%BB,-%E3%80%81%E6%80%BB%E6%94%AF%E7%AE%A1).

    One of the most striking features of Chinese political discourse is the opacity involved in its production. Chinese students (myself included) are constantly exposed to an ever-evolving vocabulary of party rhetoric that spans across various levels of education, comprising millions, if not billions, of characters. The generation process of this swelling collection of distorted language, however, remains largely hidden to commoners. Curious novel usages will emerge, and we cannot even begin to pin down the producer of this particular innovative irritant.

  3. cliff arroyo said,

    November 21, 2023 @ 2:52 am

    "This is a fundamental, manage various affairs [sic] question.""

    Maybe the intention was something like multi-faceted?

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