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100 Terms the Communist Party Wants You to Know for the 19th National Congress

100 “must-know” terms for the 19th National Congress, propagated by People’s Daily.

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These are the 100 terms to know for the 19th CPC National Congress – propagated by People’s Daily, the mouthpiece of China’s ruling Communist Party, on Weibo.

It is the week of the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC), better known as the “19th Party Congress.” This meeting, that takes place from October 18 to October 24, is a major event that takes place every five years.

On Chinese social media, Communist Party newspaper People’s Daily (@人民日报) presented a vocabulary list for people to know before the huge political event.

During the 19th Party Congress approximately 2280 delegates from across the nation officially come together to select the party’s top leadership for the next five years. The event is also called a “celebration of decisions that have already been taken,” as the key points of the meeting have mostly already been settled behind closed doors.

It is these key decisions for China that will be discussed during the CPC National Congress and then officially announced, representing “new governance concepts, thoughts and strategies proposed by the CPC Central Committee with Xi Jinping at its core” (Xinhua).

In a recent report by APCO Worldwide, Gary Li summarizes what to look out for during the 19th National Congress, writing that it is likely for President Xi Jinping to “consolidate his power further by making changes to the party apparatus,” influencing regulators in various sectors from finance to trade and cybersecurity.

Posting the 9-page list of a total of 100 terms on Weibo, People’s Daily (@人民日报) writes:

“Study time! We want to teach you the translation of 100 hot terms for the 19th CPC National Congress (..) Do you know how to say these things in English? This is how to avoid using Chinglish and to express [these terms] in a more authentic way. They are all useful for CET-4 & CET-6 [national English level tests in China] and other exams. Let’s learn these!”

By October 18, the list was shared 19000 times on Weibo and received many comments.

One netizen said: “With these 100 words you can understand a new China.” Others complained that they still think the English translation of these Chinese terms “sounds like Chinglish.”

 

Relevant Words: Policy Trends & Digital Focus

 

The vocabulary list, which was selected from China Daily‘s “Little Red Book of Hot Words” (热词红宝书), is an interesting combination of terms that says a lot about the focal points of the National Congress and the trends that are emphasized for the coming five years.

In the recent APCO report, Gary Li mentions Ideological Tightening as a crucial policy trend. This promotion of “Chinese values” is clearly visible in the vocabularly list, that includes terms such as “the Chinese Dream” (中国梦), “Stay true to the mission” (不忘初心), and “cultural confidence” (文化自信).

Another important policy trend on the government agenda is Anti-Corruption, which is represented by the term “anti-corruption TV series” (反腐剧).

The list also includes some Internet slang terms such as “give a like” (点赞) or “phubber”/”bowed head clan” (低头族), referring to people who constantly look down to their smartphone.

It also includes a catchphrase that became especially popular on Chinese social media in 2016 when it was used by Chinese swimming champion Fu Yuanhui during an interview about her winning medal during the Olympics – (“用了洪荒之力”), which can be translated as “I’ve used my primeval powers!”, basically meaning “to give one’s full play.”

Swimmer Fu Yuanhui went viral in 2016 when she introduced a new catchphrase that is still a hot online sentence.

The inclusion of some typical internet catchphrases is especially noteworthy because in 2014, Chinese state media published that programs and commercials should not use Internet language to preserve traditional expressions.

The entire list has a clear Digital Focus when it comes to different industries, including government, media, finance, and traveling, introducing words such as “in-flight Wifi services” (空中上网服务), “face scan payment” (扫脸支付), 5G era (5G时代), and taxi-hailing app (打车软件).

The Belt and Road initiative and China’s role in the world is an important point on this year’s agenda.

The list also includes words that emphasize the Belt and Road Initiative and China-centric Relations for Economy and Trade, such as the “New type of major-power relationship” (新型大国关系).

 

The List: 100 Hot Words for the 19th National Congress

 

This is the full list of the 100 terms as shared by the People’s Daily through screenshots, typed out by What’s on Weibo. The pinyin and tones are also provided by What’s on Weibo.

1. 中国梦
Zhōngguó mèng
China dream

2. 不忘初心
Bù wàng chūxīn
Stay true to the mission

3. 两个一百年
Liǎng gè yībǎi nián
Two centenary goals

4. 新常态
Xīn chángtài
New normal

5. 中国制造2025
Zhōngguó zhìzào 2025
Made in China 2025

6. “双一流”
Shuāng yīliú
Double First-Class initiative

7. 工匠精神
Gōngjiàng jīngshén
Craftsmanship spirit

8. 中国天眼:500米口径球面射电望远镜(FAST)
Zhōngguó tiānyǎn:500 Mǐ kǒujìng qiúmiàn shèdiàn wàngyuǎnjìng (FAST)
China’s Eye of Heaven: The 500-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope

9. 歼-20战斗机
Jiān-20 zhàndòujī
J-20 Stealth Fighter

10. 国产航母
Guóchǎn hángmǔ
Domestically built aircraft carrier

11. 国产客机
Guóchǎn kèjī
Homemade passenger jet

12. 可燃冰试采
Kěrán bīng shì cǎi
Sampling of combustible ice

13. 量子卫星”墨子号”
Liàngzǐ wèixīng “mò zi hào”
Quantum satellite “Micius”

14. 北斗卫星导航系统
Běidǒu wèixīng dǎoháng xìtǒng
Beidou navigation system

15. 风云四号A星卫星
Fēngyún sì hào A xīng wèixīng
Fengyun-4A satellite

16. 重型运载火箭
Zhòngxíng yùnzài huǒjiàn
Heavy-lift Carrier Rocket

17. 沪港通
Hù gǎng tōng
Shanghai-Hong Kong Stock Connect

18. 深港通
Shēn gǎng tōng
Shenzhen-Hong Kong Stock Connect

19. 京津冀一体化
Jīng jīn jì yītǐ huà
Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei integration

20. 雄安新区
Xióng ān xīnqū
Xiong’an New Area

21. 自贸实验区
Zì mào shíyàn qū
Pilot Free Trade Zones

22. 医疗改革
Yīliáo gǎigé
Medical Reform

23. 供给侧改革
Gōngjǐ cè gǎigé
Supply-side reform

24. 扫脸支付
Sǎo liǎn zhīfù
Face scan payment

25. 二维码支付
Èr wéi mǎ zhīfù
Two-dimensional barcode payment

26. 人工智能
Réngōng zhìnéng
Artificial intelligence

27. 虚拟现实
Xūnǐ xiànshí
Virtual reality

28. 5G时代
5G shídài
5G era

29. 分享经济
Fēnxiǎng jīngjì
Sharing economy

30. 互联网金融
Hùliánwǎng jīnróng
Online finance

31. 亚投行
Yà tóuháng
Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank

32. 低碳城市
Dī tàn chéngshì
Low-carbon cities

33. 一小时通通勤圈
Yī xiǎoshí tōng tōngqín quān
One-hour commuting circle

34. 蓝色经济
Lán sè jīngjì
Blue economy

35. 纵向横向经济轴带
Zòngxiàng héngxiàng jīngjì zhóu dài
North-south and east-west intersecting economic belts

36. 众创、众包、众扶、众筹
Zhòng chuàng, zhòng bāo, zhòng fú, zhòng chóu
Crowd innovation, crowdsourcing,crowd support and crowdfunding.

37. 战略性新兴产业
Zhànlüè xìng xīnxīng chǎnyè
Emerging sectors of strategic importance

38. 香港回归祖国20周年
Xiānggǎng huíguī zǔguó 20 zhōunián
The 20th anniversary of Hong-Kong’s return to China

39. 点赞
Diǎn zàn
Give a like

40.自媒体
Zì méitǐ
We-Media

41. 实名认证
Shímíng rènzhèng
Real name authentication

42. 精准扶贫
Jīngzhǔn fúpín
Targeted poverty reduction

43. 精准医疗
Jīngzhǔn yīliáo
Precision medicine

44. 利益共同体
Lìyì gòngtóngtǐ
Community of shared interests

45. 轨道交通
Guǐdào jiāotōng
Rail traffic

46. 动车
Dòngchē
Bullet train

47. 城际列车
Chéng jì lièchē
Inter-city transport

48. “一带一路”倡议
“Yīdài yīlù”chàngyì
Belt and Road Initiative

49. “丝绸之路经济带”
“Sīchóu zhī lù jīngjì dài”
The Silk Road Economic Belt

50. 21世纪海上丝绸之路
21 Shìjì hǎishàng sīchóu zhī lù
21st- Century Maritime Silk Road

51. 古丝绸之路
Gǔ sīchóu zhī lù
The Ancient Silk Road

52. 互联互通
Hùlián hùtōng
Establish and Strengthen Partnerships/Connectivity

53. 文化自信
Wénhuà zìxìn
Cultural confidence

54. 新型大国关系
Xīnxíng dàguó guānxì
New type of major-power relationship

55. 可替代能源汽车
Kě tìdài néngyuán qìchē
Alternative energy vehicle

56. 可载人无人机
Kě zài rén wú rén jī
Passenger-carrying drone

57. 空中上网服务
Kōngzhōng shàngwǎng fúwù
In-flight Wifi services

58. 海外购外
Hǎiwài gòu wài
Overseas shopping representative

59. 海淘
Hǎi táo
Cross-border online shopping

60. 多次往返签证
Duō cì wǎngfǎn qiānzhèng
Multiple entry visa

61. 散客
Sǎn kè
Individual traveler

62. 自由行
Zìyóu xíng
Independent travel

63. 跟团游
Gēn tuán yóu
Package tour

64.深度游
Shēndù yóu
In-depth travel

65. 自驾游
Zìjià yóu
Self-driving tours

66. 免税店
Miǎnshuì diàn
Duty-free store

67. 无现金支付
Wú xiànjīn zhīfù
Cashless payment

68. 旺季
Wàngjì
Peak season

69. 淡季
Dànjì
Offseason

70. 反腐剧
Fǎnfǔ jù
Anti-corruption TV series

71. 合拍片
Hépāi piàn
Co-production

72. 打车软件
Dǎchē ruǎnjiàn
Taxi-hailing app

73. 代驾服务业
Dài jià fúwù yè
Designated driver business

74. 单双号银行
Dān shuāng hào yínháng
Traffic restrictions based on even- and odd-numbered license plates

75. 共享汽车
Gòngxiǎng qìchē
Car-sharing

76. 绿色金融改革新试验区
Lǜsè jīnróng gǎigé xīn shìyàn qū
Pilot zones for green finance reform and innovations

77. 超国民待遇
Chāo guómín dàiyù
Super-national treatment

78. 现代医院管理制度
Xiàndài yīyuàn guǎnlǐ zhìdù
Modern hospital management system

79. 机遇之城
Jīyù zhī chéng
Cities of opportunities

80.直播经济
Zhíbò jīngjì
Live stream economy

81. 互联网+政府服务
Hùliánwǎng +zhèngfǔ fúwù
Internet Plus government services

82. 创新型政府
Chuàngxīn xíng zhèngfǔ
Pro-innovation government

83. 无人机紧急救援队
Wú rén jī jǐnjí jiùyuán duì
UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) emergency rescue team

84. 二孩经济
Èr hái jīngjì
Second-child economy

85.父亲假;陪产假
Fùqīn jià; péi chǎnjià
Paternity leave

86. 带薪休假
Dài xīn xiūjià
Paid leave

87. 低头族
Dītóu zú
Phubber

88. 副中心
Fù zhōngxīn
Subcenter

89. 用了洪荒之力
Yòngle hónghuāng zhī lì
Give one’s full play

90. 营改增
Yíng gǎi zēng
Replace business tax with value-add tax (VAT)

91. 创新型人才
Chuàngxīn xíng réncái
Innovative talent

92. 积分落户制度
Jīfēn luòhù zhìdù
Points-based hukou system

93. 混合所有制改革
Hùnhé suǒyǒuzhì gǎigé
Mixed-ownership reform

94. 税收减免
Shuìshōu jiǎnmiǎn
Tax reduction and exemption

95. 生态保护红线
Shēngtài bǎohù hóngxiàn
Ecological wealth

96. 网约车
Wǎng yuē chē
Online car-hailing

97. 宜居城市
Yí jū chéngshì
Habitable city

98. 移动支付
Yídòng zhīfù
Mobile payment

99. 电子竞技
Diànzǐ jìngjì
E-sports

100. 双创人才
Shuāng chuàng réncái
Innovative and entrepreneutrial talent

By Manya Koetse

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us.

©2017 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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Manya Koetse is the editor-in-chief of www.whatsonweibo.com. She is a writer and consultant (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends in China, with a focus on social media and digital developments, popular culture, and gender issues. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

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China Insight

How China’s New Anti-Crime Policy Made a Hunt for Two Jailbreak Fugitives Go Viral

The CPC actively involves and rewards citizens in their new policy on combatting crimes.

Gabi Verberg

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In early October of 2018, a major manhunt on two jailbreak fugitives from a Liaoning prison dominated the news for days and caused a sensation on the Chinese internet. With the 100,000 yuan (US$14,500) reward notice going viral, it marked the first grand online exposure of the Chinese government’s policy to involve its citizens in combatting crime actively, but many netizens question how safe it is for citizens to meddle in criminal affairs.

News about a prison escape of two convicted criminals captured the attention of netizens for days in the first week of October, with the fugitives’ background information, the thrilling chase, and the 100,000 yuan (US$14,500) reward notice all turning out to be the perfect ingredients to keep people hooked on the story, that also happened to occur during the National Day holiday.

The incident was extra special because it was the first major case in which the Chinese government’s ‘new’ method on battling crime by actively involving the public, received massive attention.

 

Timeline of the Chase

 

* Thursday, October 4th, morning:

News comes out that two prisoners have managed to escape from Lingyuan Third Prison in Liaoning province. According to the Beijing Youth Daily, the two criminals stole prison guards’ uniforms and used the attached security cards to get out of the building.

The fugitives, two men by the names of Zhang Guilin (33, 张贵林) and Wang Lei (39, 王磊), were both sentenced to life imprisonment for, respectively, armed robbery and the involvement in kidnapping and murder of an 11-year-old child. Zhang, also nicknamed “Flying Zhang,” gained a reputation for previous prison escapes in 2011 and 2012; the October jailbreak marks his third successful prison escape.

Fugitives Wang (l) and Zhang (r).

*October 4th, morning:

Soon after the criminals escaped from prison, the Lingyuan Municipal Public Security Bureau issues a notice sharing the identity of the fugitives, asking the public to provide clues about their whereabouts. They also announce the clue leading to their arrest will be rewarded with a staggering US$14,500.

The news quickly spreads on Chinese social media, and within no time, the hashtag “Two heavy criminals escaped from prison” #两名重刑犯逃脱# goes viral and receives 170 million views.

*October 4th, 11 am:

The first tip-off: Beijing News publishes crucial surveillance camera footage that was given to police by a small shop in Songzhangzi, only 20 kilometers away from Lingyuan Third prison. It shows the two fugitives buying some food, beverages, and cigarettes, just hours after their escape from prison.

*October 4th, 5 pm:

Wang is spotted at another shop in a village in Pingquan County, in neighboring Hebei province, where he stays for about 10 minutes to buy liquor, beer, mineral water, and sausages.

Police rush to the kiosk shortly after. According to China Daily, about 800 police quickly arrive and nearly 1,000 villagers assist in the manhunt, searching the area from north to south.

*Friday, October 5th:

On the second day of the nationwide manhunt, a fatal crash occurs with a police car involved in the chase for the fugitives. The police car, with four police officers from the Hebei Police Department, was on its way to catch the breakers when it crashed into a tree. Two police officers did not survive the crash.

On Friday night, 430 officers are dispatched to Pingquan, along with 100 prison guards.

*Saturday afternoon, October 6th:

Within 50 hours of their escape, Wang and Zhang are captured. Police in the Hebei city of Chengde dispatch drones to scour the area and spot the convicts in the village of Taitoushan.

According to news reports, Zhang is arrested when he stops to ask a villager for directions. His fellow escapee is caught 20 minutes later.

The hashtags “Two escaped criminals from Liaoning are caught” #逃犯落网视频曝光# and “Video showing arrested fugitives” 逃犯落网视频曝光 are viewed millions of times.

Authorities in Liaoning launch an investigation, and the warden of Lingyuan Prison is dismissed from his position.

 

“Public Reporting on Crime”

 

The Lingyuan jailbreak fugitive case is the first example of a reward notice going viral since the PRC government launched a new trial policy in combatting corruption and other illegal practices earlier in 2018.

The ‘new’ policy is called “Public Reporting on Crime” (群众举报黑恶势力违法犯罪), and aims at actively involving and rewarding citizens in providing information about the whereabouts of criminals.

A state media illustration that propagates public reporting on criminal affairs.

The policy was featured in various media reports in summer of 2018, as a method introduced by the State Council of the People’s Republic of China, the Supreme’s People’s Court, Ministry of Public Security, and the Ministry of Justice.

The policy defines 11 categories in which citizens can report illegal practices, including the misuse of (political) power, illegal gambling practices, fraud in various industry sectors, and extortion.

“Reporting is Awarded” (image via sohu.com).

The official document in which the role of the public in the combat of illegal activities was especially stressed, was already issued by authorities in February of 2018 (“关于依法严厉打击黑恶势力违法犯罪的通告”, see Pkulaw.cn).

Amongst the first provinces to experiment with the police are, among others, Henan province, Hainan, and Liaoning province, where the method seems fruitful. In August, the Hainan Police department issued a notice asking for the public’s help in finding 17 fugitives. Attached to the notice where their names, addresses, and photographs. Within two days, 11 of these 17 fugitives were caught by the police.

Award ceremony in Henan for people providing clues to police (https://www.henan100.com/news/2018/805020.shtml).

In Liaoning province, the police started a campaign providing digital and non-digital information about the new policy and the criminals they were looking for. According to local media, they soon received 300 clues and 158 fugitives who turned themselves in.

Possibly as a result of the first successes of the trial policy, the Ministry of Public Security of the People’s Republic of China, wrote an extension on the policy concerning drugs. On the official website of the Ministry, they published a list of rewards for providing information about ‘drugs practices’. On the list, it says precisely what people can earn for providing clues about several kinds of drugs, where clues relating to soft drugs such as marihuana will receive a lower reward than those relating to hard drugs such as heroin.

Award ceremony (http://sc.people.com.cn/n2/2018/0706/c345167-31785050.html).

State media have been actively propagating the measure in 2018, also reporting on occasions where people are rewarded for giving clues to the police. To protect their identity, these people will commonly wear masks – sometimes even cute panda ones.

 

Scepticism on Safety

 

Wearing panda masks or not, there is ample skepticism online on whether or not providing information to the police is a dangerous move for those involved.

In the case of the Liaoning fugitives, many worried about the identity of the shopkeepers who provided the police with clues and security footage after the fugitives had visited their shops.

After the first sighting of the two criminals in the small store in Songzhangzi, Chinese media reported details on the shop and its owner, which led to much criticism on Weibo. Some commenters wrote: “You brain-dead media, how can you bring out information like this, and who is going to take responsibility when people retaliate against this man?”

Many others expressed their worries, saying: “Isn’t is dangerous to expose the boss [of the shop] like this?”, and “Please do protect this shop owner, thank you!”

Other netizens wrote: “After seeing this news, I know for sure, I will never report on crimes. It’s too dangerous, I don’t want to die.”

The public reporting policy states that the personal safety and confidentiality of ‘whistleblowers’ is guaranteed and that those who turn against these people will be punished severely. According to a post on Weibo by Beijing News, the small shopkeeper in question also received 24-hour police protection in front of his shop.

Concerning the case of the two escaped prisoners, so far, it is not yet clear if the main reward has been given out to citizens for giving the main clue that led to their recapture.

What does seem evident in this case, is that people, despite some worries about their safety, are more than willing to report illegal practices to the police when they know there might be a big reward waiting for them.

By Gabi Verberg and Manya Koetse

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us.

©2018 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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Backgrounder

Beyond Four Walls: ‘Home’ and ‘Unhomeliness’ in a Rapidly Transforming China

About changing concepts of home in China: from ‘home is where my pig is’ to ‘has your frog returned home yet?’

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First published

A new global research report by IKEA has found that, increasingly, the feeling of home is no longer restricted to the four walls of residential buildings. In China, the study finds, approximately one-third of people in cities feel more ‘at home’ at other places than the space they live in. How can we translate these findings into present-day China? An overview by What’s on Weibo editor Manya Koetse.

According to a global research report released by IKEA Group this week, traditional ideas of where people “feel at home” are drastically changing. The annual study on international living trends found that 35% of people feel more at home elsewhere than the place where they live, with a staggering 29% of people not feeling at home where they live at all.

The findings show remarkable changes associated with “feeling at home” compared to earlier annual reports, indicating that demographic, technological, and cultural forces are rapidly transforming conceptions of “home” in various places across the world.

China is part of this trend. The report, undertaken by London-based agency C Space, is based on studies that were conducted from March to August of 2018. Besides China, a large-scale survey was undertaken in 21 other countries among 22,854 respondents (11,325 from urban areas), and qualitative research was conducted in China, US, Germany, Denmark, Italy, and the UK.

The results of the study might resonate with what many experience in Europe and the US, but also with the societal changes they have seen in China over the past decade – although the reasons for these developments are different between these places.

These are transformations that do not only become clear from the trends on Chinese social media, but, for me personally, also from the lives of friends and social circles in Beijing and Shanghai, and the rapid pace in which I have seen them moving from residence to residence, from neighborhood to neighborhood, and sometimes even from city to city, often with seemingly little emotional attachment to the houses where they have lived for years as urban dwellers. Where is that place called ‘home’?

 

Going “Home” in China

“‘Home’ is much more than the place where people sleep at night: it is there where the (grand)mother cooks.”

 

Every year at the time of China’s Spring Festival, there is one hashtag that always goes trending on Chinese social media platform Weibo: “Return Home”, #回家, Huíjiā.

For many people, the Spring Festival is the only time of the year they can return to their hometowns to celebrate the new year with their family and friends. As many now know, the travel season leading up to the Festival, the chūnyùn (春运), is the biggest annual mass migration of the world. Many of China’s urban areas become deserted as people return to their native provinces to be ‘home.’

Image via China news

The word for ‘home’ in Chinese, ‘家’ jiā, means both ‘home’ and ‘family.’ The character has a history of some 3000 years; first depicting a house with a pig inside, as this article explains, and then evolving into the character it is today (see image below). In its earliest meanings, the ‘home’ was simply there where pigs were raised and where family activities took place; there where the family house was situated.

Via zhihu.com

This duality in the concept of jiā still plays an important role in how the meaning of ‘home’ is understood in China today. In a small-scale survey that was done for the dissertation research of Wei Zhao (2015), for example, participants had various answers to the simple question of “what is jiā?”, some describing it as a space or place, some seeing it as an abstract concept (representing, amongst others, ‘harmony’), with others understanding it as the (extended) family itself (Zhao 2015, 125).

A simple search for the words ‘going home’ (回家) on Chinese social media today comes up with dozens of photos of mostly food, with Weibo users describing ‘home’ as that place where they eat the traditional home cooking from their family, also suggesting that ‘home’ is much more than the place where people sleep at night: it is there where the (grand)mother cooks, it is there where the land is, it is there where the family residence might have been situated for decades.

According to Wei Zhao’s research, people from Yanxia, a town in the Zhejiang region of China, often associate ‘home’ with the various forms of land, both in the present and past, that is tied to where their families live or lived. It is a “place-bound relationship,” Zhao writes (2015, 123), “enriched with social meanings,” where the land incorporates those places that “support various kinds of daily activities, help construct social relations, and sustain cultural performances.”

Many people who have moved from outside their family homes or villages to far away places or cities are no longer physically connected with this concept of ‘home’, drastically impacting how people experience “feelings of home” and how it relates to the places where they actually reside.

 

Unhomeliness and the City

“36% of Chinese renters get a sense of “belonging” from other spaces outside their residential home.”

 

Due to many different factors, including the privatization of farmland, surplus of rural labor, and increased labor demands in the city, China is currently seeing the largest rural-to-urban migration in human history.

Rural residents who have lived in the same homes for decades are being relocated to new settlements, old houses are being demolished, and China’s so-called ‘ghost cities‘ are rapidly coming to life.

For the first time in Chinese history, more people are living in China’s cities than they do in the countryside. In 2020, it is expected that 60 percent of the Chinese population will be permanent urban residents (Xinhua 2018).

A significant percentage of China’s population is what is called a “floating population,” China’s internal migratory population; those who are living as temporary residents or ‘migrant workers’ in the cities (without changes in their ‘hukou‘ or household registration). According to data provided by Chinese state media, that number of people is expected to hit 291 million in 2020 (Xinhua 2015).

As described by Yang et al (2014) in their article in Transforming Chinese Cities, there is a gap in living conditions between household residents and the ‘floating’ population, with the latter holding an 11,4 square meter size residence per capita, compared to 27.1 square meter per capita for the household population. Besides size, the ‘floating’ population also has less access to the more basic necessities in a home such as a kitchen (more than 45% has no kitchen) or flushing toilet (nearly 75% have to do without) (Yang et al 2014, 71).

In cities such as Beijing, underground nuclear bunkers from the Cold War era still serve as a residence to many urban dwellers. According to some sources, there are still one million people living in this underground world in Beijing alone, often dealing with poor air circulation and tiny living spaces with no daylight.

Via http://projects.aljazeera.com/2015/01/underground-beijing/.

Although the nuclear bunkers are an extreme example, the living conditions of many people in Chinese cities, whether they are migrant workers, students, or those who have restricted access to urban housing, are far from ideal; think of overcrowdedness and a lack of what many would consider basic conditions for comfortable housing.

So, without even considering the idea that the perfect concept of “home” might always be a place outside of one’s (urban) residence, it perhaps does not come as a surprise that many people do not always feel at home at all in their own house.

In China, the IKEA-commissioned study* found that 32% of those surveyed felt more at home outside their residential home, and that 36% of Chinese renters get a sense of “belonging” from other spaces than where they actually live (in other physical and/or virtual environments).* Since 89% of those surveyed lives in an urban location, these sentiments are especially telling about experiences of ‘home’ in the city.

 

A Sense of Belonging

“I felt that my house was the place I rented, but it was not my ‘home’.”

 

When residences are experienced as “unhomely,” it could mean many things. There might be a lack of comfort, a lacking sense of community, a feeling of security/privacy that is not there, or a missing feeling of ‘rootedness’ in the place where one lives.

The findings of IKEA’s study in China perhaps makes more sense when one considers the study’s results that found that 62% of those surveyed believe that community is an extension of the residential home. This strengthens the idea that ‘home’ is not the four walls one lives in, but an emotional landscape that is influenced by all kinds of factors.

An interesting 2013 study by scholar Xiaobo Su argues that ideas of ‘home’ are made through social and emotional relationships, and that ‘houses’ in China are often perceived as exchangeable commodities to which one does not necessarily have these emotional connections, whereas ‘home’ is a sphere where one feels free and at ease.

People, therefore, go looking for that ‘experience of home’ through other ways; it might be through friends and social events, through (digital) communities, or through tourism: traveling to those places where people do get that sense of home. Su (2013) suggests that Chinese domestic tourists consume the idea of ‘home’ by visiting (heritage) tourist sites that embody that image for them.

Earlier this year, the huge success of the mobile ‘Travelling Frog’ game in China became a media hype. The game revolves around the travels of a little frog who lives in a stone cave and goes on frequent trips. Although perhaps far-fetched, some Chinese media tied the success of this game to a need for belonging and family, saying that higher house prices, intensive jobs, and the collapse of the pyramid family structure had led to a decline in young people starting their own family and homes; and started looking to these type of games or digital communities to fill the gap. “Has your frog returned home yet?” even became somewhat of a common question among young people in January of 2018.

The Traveling Frog at home.

Besides the rise of various online communities, the rapid digitalization of China has also made it easier for families and friends to stay in touch through social media and messaging apps. This also brought about that physical proximity to relatives has become less of a priority now than in earlier (nondigital) times (Tao et al 2014, 197).

A China Merchants Bank commercial that went viral in late 2017 titled ‘The world is no bigger than a fried tomato omelette’ (“世界再大,大不过一盘番茄炒蛋”) shows how a mother helps her son to cook a home-made dish via mobile video while he is studying abroad. The viral campaign hit home for many exchange students.

Despite the fact that the dwellings of many people in present-day China lack space, privacy, or comfort, it does not necessarily mean that those living in these houses are dissatisfied. An interesting study by Li Tao et al (2014) on residential satisfaction of migrant workers in China found that kinship, family, friendship, and mobility, all play a significant role in how people feel about how they live. Additionally, instead of a focus on the sizes of their houses or the privacy they have, there is also a heightened focus on the low costs and transportation convenience of where one lives.

The fact that ‘home’ is an ever-changing and hot topic also becomes evident from the many posts on Chinese social media dedicated to this issue. As said, food is a recurring topic in these posts. On October 9, one Weibo netizen named Zhang Xizi (@张西子) wrote:

What do you think is ‘home’? For me, at one time, I felt that my house was the place I rented, but it was not my ‘home’. If I was hungry, I would just order something, and I hardly touched my stove at all. But then I started feeling that although I rent my home, it is still my life. Home should be a place with character. And then I started to enjoy cooking, especially when other people enjoy the food with me, is when I feel happy. So feel welcome to come to my home.”

Another Weibo user nicknamed ‘I love rabbits’ (@我爱兔子) writes:

What is home? It’s a person’s most private space. What is happiness? It is the warmth one feels with every dish at the dining table after returning home.”

A person named Sofo concludes: “What home is? If the people I love are there, then even a tent on the beach could be my home.”

Interested to read more relating to this topic?
* Viral Merchants Bank Commercial Hits Close to Home for Chinese Students Abroad
* Chinese Ghost Cities Coming to Life
* Chinese Media Ascribe ‘Traveling Frog’ Game Hype to China’s Low Birth Rates
* “I Am Fan Yusu” – Beijing Migrant Worker’s Writing Takes Chinese Internet by Storm

Find the IKEA Life at Home report here.

By Manya Koetse

* Note that not all of the market specific results have been publicly issued by IKEA. What’s on Weibo author has access to the market-specific results. Please email us if you have further questions about this data and the report’s findings or contact IKEA.
* The report says that “36% of renters look to other physical spaces or even virtual environments for a sense of belonging”; for Chinese home-owners, this is 22%.

References

IKEA. 2018. Beyond Four Walls: Life at Home Report 2018. October. https://lifeathome.ikea.com/home/ [9.10.18].

Su, Xiaobo. 2014. “Tourism, Modernity and the Consumption of Home in China.” Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 39(1): 50-61.

Tao, Li, Francis K.W. Wong, Eddie C.M. Hui. 2014. “Residential Satisfaction of Migrant Workers in China: A Case Study of Shenzhen.” Habitat International 42:193–202

Xinhua. 2015. “China’s floating population to hit 291 million in 2020: report.” China Daily, Nov 12. http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/business/2015-11/12/content_22438127.htm [9.10.18].

Xinhua. 2018. “Urbanization rate of China’s agricultural province exceeds 50 pct.” Xinhua, March 5. http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2018-03/05/c_137017957.htm [9.10.18].

Yang, Shangguan, Chunlan Wang and Mark Y. Wang.2014.”Synergistic Evolution of Shanghai Urban Economic Development Transition and Social Spatial Structure.” In Transforming Chinese Cities, Mark Y. Wang, Pookong Kee, and Jia Gao (eds). London: Routledge.

Zhao, Wei. 2015. “Home Beyond the House: The Meaning of Home for People Living in Yanxia Village, Zhejiang Province, China.” Dissertation / Degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Architecture, Graduate College of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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What’s on Weibo provides social, cultural & historical insights into an ever-changing China. What’s on Weibo sheds light on China’s digital media landscape and brings the story behind the hashtag. This independent news site is managed by sinologist Manya Koetse. Contact info@whatsonweibo.com. ©2014-2018

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