Heart China

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I asked a former student of mine who has been working in China for many years the following questions:

What's the atmosphere like in China these days? Is it at all evident that there is a huge amount of tension between China and virtually the rest of the world over what's been happening in Tibet and Xinjiang, the arrests of dissidents in the heartland itself, and the intrusive way the government has been orchestrating the torch relay through many countries?

Here's his answer:

I have not talked to a single person among my friends and colleagues in China who has any sympathy for Tibet, Xinjiang, or the protests. Their reactions are as offended and irrational as those of the Chinese government.

In the past few days my Windows Live Messenger (an instant messaging program) contacts list has seen numerous Chinese changing their "personal message" that follows their name and is displayed to all their contacts to some version of a heart picture and China. See attached image.

I have severely cropped the photograph (below) to protect the identity of my student and his correspondents, but what remains is sufficient to show several very interesting linguistic phenomena. First of all, my student's correspondents are Chinese, but many of them are using English names or pinyin acronyms. Second, they invariably write the name of their country as "China," not Zhongguo or 中國. Third, and most obvious, they are using a rebus for AI4 or 愛 (and I suspect that many of them are actually thinking "love," not AI4 or 愛).

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