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.”
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 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.
Bù wàng chūxīn
Stay true to the mission
Liǎng gè yībǎi nián
Two centenary goals
Zhōngguó zhìzào 2025
Made in China 2025
Double First-Class initiative
Zhōngguó tiānyǎn:500 Mǐ kǒujìng qiúmiàn shèdiàn wàngyuǎnjìng (FAST)
China’s Eye of Heaven: The 500-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope
J-20 Stealth Fighter
Domestically built aircraft carrier
Homemade passenger jet
Kěrán bīng shì cǎi
Sampling of combustible ice
Liàngzǐ wèixīng “mò zi hào”
Quantum satellite “Micius”
Běidǒu wèixīng dǎoháng xìtǒng
Beidou navigation system
Fēngyún sì hào A xīng wèixīng
Zhòngxíng yùnzài huǒjiàn
Heavy-lift Carrier Rocket
Hù gǎng tōng
Shanghai-Hong Kong Stock Connect
Shēn gǎng tōng
Shenzhen-Hong Kong Stock Connect
Jīng jīn jì yītǐ huà
Xióng ān xīnqū
Xiong’an New Area
Zì mào shíyàn qū
Pilot Free Trade Zones
Gōngjǐ cè gǎigé
Sǎo liǎn zhīfù
Face scan payment
Èr wéi mǎ zhīfù
Two-dimensional barcode payment
Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank
Dī tàn chéngshì
Yī xiǎoshí tōng tōngqín quān
One-hour commuting circle
Lán sè jīngjì
Zòngxiàng héngxiàng jīngjì zhóu dài
North-south and east-west intersecting economic belts
Zhòng chuàng, zhòng bāo, zhòng fú, zhòng chóu
Crowd innovation， crowdsourcing，crowd support and crowdfunding.
Zhànlüè xìng xīnxīng chǎnyè
Emerging sectors of strategic importance
Xiānggǎng huíguī zǔguó 20 zhōunián
The 20th anniversary of Hong-Kong’s return to China
Give a like
Real name authentication
Targeted poverty reduction
Community of shared interests
Chéng jì lièchē
Belt and Road Initiative
“Sīchóu zhī lù jīngjì dài”
The Silk Road Economic Belt
21 Shìjì hǎishàng sīchóu zhī lù
21st- Century Maritime Silk Road
Gǔ sīchóu zhī lù
The Ancient Silk Road
Establish and Strengthen Partnerships/Connectivity
Xīnxíng dàguó guānxì
New type of major-power relationship
Kě tìdài néngyuán qìchē
Alternative energy vehicle
Kě zài rén wú rén jī
Kōngzhōng shàngwǎng fúwù
In-flight Wifi services
Hǎiwài gòu wài
Overseas shopping representative
Cross-border online shopping
Duō cì wǎngfǎn qiānzhèng
Multiple entry visa
Gēn tuán yóu
Wú xiànjīn zhīfù
Anti-corruption TV series
Dài jià fúwù yè
Designated driver business
Dān shuāng hào yínháng
Traffic restrictions based on even- and odd-numbered license plates
Lǜsè jīnróng gǎigé xīn shìyàn qū
Pilot zones for green finance reform and innovations
Chāo guómín dàiyù
Xiàndài yīyuàn guǎnlǐ zhìdù
Modern hospital management system
Jīyù zhī chéng
Cities of opportunities
Live stream economy
Hùliánwǎng +zhèngfǔ fúwù
Internet Plus government services
Chuàngxīn xíng zhèngfǔ
Wú rén jī jǐnjí jiùyuán duì
UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) emergency rescue team
Èr hái jīngjì
Fùqīn jià; péi chǎnjià
Dài xīn xiūjià
Yòngle hónghuāng zhī lì
Give one’s full play
Yíng gǎi zēng
Replace business tax with value-add tax (VAT）
Chuàngxīn xíng réncái
Jīfēn luòhù zhìdù
Points-based hukou system
Hùnhé suǒyǒuzhì gǎigé
Tax reduction and exemption
Shēngtài bǎohù hóngxiàn
Wǎng yuē chē
Yí jū chéngshì
Shuāng chuàng réncái
Innovative and entrepreneutrial talent
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 email@example.com.
Best 30 Books to Understand Modern China (Recommended by What’s on Weibo)
The best books to understand modern China – from society and history to gender and (online) language.
In the What’s on Weibo inbox, we often receive messages from readers who are looking for recommendations of what books to read on various China-related subjects.
It led to a compilation of this list on our resource page of recommendations that readers of What’s on Weibo may also appreciate.
This list was compiled based on own preference and that of many readers whom we asked about their favorite sources within this category. If you think certain books are not here that should be here within these categories, please let us know in the comments below and we might compile a second list in the future.
There are many great books out there on modern China, and a lot of them are written in Chinese, Japanese, French, Spanish, Dutch, and many other languages – but for the scope of this particular list, we have chosen just to focus on the books that have come out in the English language.
by Rana Mitter, 2014
Rana Mitter is a British historian and political scientist who specializes in China’s history, and we’re a huge fan of his refreshing perspectives and selection of topics. In Forgotten Ally, Mitter notes that “In the West, (..) the living, breathing legacy of China’s wartime experience continues to be poorly understood.” Mitter’s focus is essential because a proper understanding of China’s wartime experience is also key to understanding the development of modern China. Interestingly, outside of the USA, this same book is sold under a different title: China’s War with Japan, 1937-45: The Struggle for Survival. This book became an Economist Book of the Year and a Financial Times Book of the Year.
by Frank Dikötter, 2017 (2011)
It is estimated that more than 45 million lives were claimed during the Great Leap Forward (1958-1961) – a project that was meant to make China a greater nation than the United Kingdom within a time frame of 15 years. It is a dark and important period in the history of modern China that is written about with great detail in this work by Frank Dikötter, in which he explains how such an ambitious plan could have turned out so catastrophic. Dikötter’s research is impressive and not be missed for anyone searching for deeper insights into China’s modern history.
Get on Amazon: Mao’s Great Famine: The History of China’s Most Devastating Catastrophe, 1958-62
Get on iTunes: Mao’s Great Famine – Frank Dikötter
Get on Book Depository: Mao’s Great Famine
Audiobook: Mao’s Great Famine
by Rana Mitter, 2008
Oxford University Press has a series of short introductions to over 200 different subjects, from Globalization to Foucault and from Shakespeare to Nothing. Well-written, compact, light-weight, and affordable, these books are the perfect starting point to any topic – and this edition is a great and concise introduction to Modern China; especially since it’s been written by the acclaimed Rana Mitter. (BTW the Introduction to Modern Japan by the excellent Chris Goto-Jones is also to be recommended.)
Get on Amazon: Modern China: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions)
Get on iTunes: Modern China: A Very Short Introduction
Audiobook: Modern China: A Very Short Introduction (Unabridged) – Rana Mitter
Get on Book Depository: Modern China: A Very Short Introduction
This is one of the works many of our readers recommend as a book that really helps to understand China. This is not a classical work on Chinese history – we were doubting whether or not to put in the ‘Chinese society’ section; it belongs in both. Through personal and historical narratives, Peter Hessler moves between present and history in this work, telling stories that go from the ancient oracle bones to modern-day urbanization.
Get on Amazon: Oracle Bones: A Journey Between China’s Past and Present
Get on iTunes: Oracle Bones: A Journey Between China’s Past and Present
Audiobook: Oracle Bones: A Journey Through Time in China (Unabridged) – Peter Hessler
by R. Keith Schoppa, 2000
If the Columbia Guide to Modern Chinese History is not on your bookshelf yet – it should be. It is the to-go book on China’s modern history that is recommended to every student when first getting into the modern history of China. Schoppa has a very clear and no-nonsense approach to Chinese history, explaining the importance of crucial events over the past century and how they came to form modern China.
by Jonathan Spence, 1991
Although this work, more elaborate than the aforementioned by Schoppa, is one of the recommended essential works on Chinese modern history, we’d also recommend to consider Jonathan Spence’s Gate of Heavenly Peace as a book of choice for an introduction to modern China.
Get on Amazon: The Search for Modern China
Audiobook: The Search for Modern China (Unabridged) – Jonathan D. Spence
Get on Book Depository: The Search for Modern China
by Jung Chang, 2003 (1991)
Practically every garage sale or thrift shop nowadays has a copy of Wild Swans lying around since its immense success in the 1990s. The book is an account of the tumultuous Chinese 20th century from the perspective of three generations of women. It is a personal account of Jung Chang, the author, but offers a glimpse into an incredible time in the history of China in a personal and captivating way that more formal history books could never do. An absolute recommendation for anyone who wants to know more about how the Cultural Revolution and the period before and after affected Chinese women, families, and society at large.
by Wade Shepard, 2015
Brand new skyscrapers and shopping malls, but silent streets and empty apartments. China’s so-called ‘ghost cities’ are a hot topic in the media nowadays. The city of Ordos, Inner Mongolia, is one of the most famous. In 2015, author Wade Shepard published this book about China’s ghost cities. Shepard’s account is refreshing in how he argues that the term ‘ghost cities’ is actually not that appropriate because rather than places that once lived and then died, these places are the future cities built by world luxury developers who are working on constructing new urban utopias all over China.
Get on Amazon: Ghost Cities of China: The Story of Cities without People in the World’s Most Populated Country (Asian Arguments)
Get on iTunes: Ghost Cities of China
Get on BookDepository: Ghost Cities of China
by Evan Osnos, 2014
Like Peter Hessler, whose work is also in this list, Evan Osnos is one of the names that recurringly comes up when asking people about their favorite books to understand China. In Age of Ambition, Osnos focuses on ‘aspiration’ as being one of the most important ‘fevers’ that characterizes the transformation of China – a country where, besides this force of aspiration, there is also that of a strong authoritarian rule. Through the themes of ‘fortune’, ‘truth’, and ‘faith’ – all of which were not accessible to China’s older generations due to poverty and the political climate – Osnos captures the country’s current situation through the stories of men and women who took the risks to change their lives.
Get on Amazon: Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China
Get on iTunes: Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China
Get on BookDepository: Age of Ambition
Tom Miller, 2012
The phrase “the biggest human migration the world” has almost become a cliche now when media talk about China’s urbanization. But in this work, Miller goes behind that phrase to explain China’s transformation from poor country to economic superpower, and gives insights into how China’s so-called ‘urbanization’ is actually “bogus”, because many of those living in the cities have no access to urban services and facilities due to China’s hukou household registration system. The situation of China’s ‘floating population’ is essential to understand; it plays a huge role in the everyday topics being discussed on Chinese social media, too.
by Florian Schneider, 2012
Florian Schneider, lecturer at Leiden University, is an expert in taking popular phenomena or events in China and analyzing the greater discourse behind them. In this work, that was awarded with the 2014 EastAsiaNet Award, Schneider focuses on Chinese TV drama series; with China being one of the largest producer and consumer of TV drama in the world, this form of entertainment plays a significant role in the popular culture of China and is a powerful tool to guide public opinion. Schneider gives a nuanced overview of the complicated processes involved in producing TV dramas in China, examining important and highly interesting questions relating to the major players in the TV drama market and how they influence drama discourses, the political-ideological frameworks of television series, and the role of TV entertainment in regulating Chinese society. There’s just one downside to this publication – which that it is not cheap. However, it is very worthwhile for any student of China Studies or anyone interested in popular culture and (media) politics in China, so if you can’t purchase yourself you could ask your library to do so.
by Yu Hua, 2011 (translated from the Chinese by Allan H. Barr)
“If I were to try to attend each and every aspect of modern China, there would be no end to this endeavour, and the book would go on longer than The Thousand and One Nights,” Yu Hua writes: “So I limit myself to just ten words.” By taking on ten different words and concepts, such as People (人民), Leader (领袖), or Revolution (革命), Yu takes readers through the social complexities and contrasts of modern China – its politics, history, society, and culture.
edited by Louise Edwards, Elaine Jeffreys, 2010
China has a booming celebrity culture, which plays an enormous role in the social media environment and popular culture in general. This is also the reason why this book in this list; it is the first book-length exploration of celebrities in contemporary China. In a collection of academic studies, this book goes explores a wide range of ‘celebrities’ in China, such as literary celebrities or online celebrities (who remembers Furong Jiejie, the first social media superstar?!).
by Daniel Bell, 2010 (2008)
What is it like to be a Westerner teaching political philosophy in an officially Marxist state? Why do Chinese sex workers sing karaoke with their customers? And why do some Communist Party cadres get promoted if they care for their elderly parents? These are some of the questions addressed in this book by Daniel Bell, drawing on personal experiences to explain how Chinese society is transforming so quickly while still sticking to old traditions – of which Confucianism is one of the most important ones.
by Kevin Latham, 2007
Pop culture in China changes faster than the chef’s special of the day, but nevertheless, this work is still very relevant; it might miss some of the more contemporary forms of popular culture, but goes deep into the roots of pop culture in China back to the early days of the 20th century, the Cultural Revolution, and the early years of radio and television. Anyone interested in pop culture in China cannot understand the current environment without understanding where it came from – and this book provides a full overview of that environment from 1919 to 2007.
Edited by Jacques deLisle, Avery Goldstein, and Guobin Yang, 2016
It is somewhat difficult to recommend any book on China’s online developments; the changes are happening so fast that any book on the topic is bound to be outdated from the moment it is published. This academic publication, however, is an insightful work that consists of a total of nine chapters in which the authors make sense of China’s online environment. Both Chapter 2, in which Marina Svensson explains the idea of connectivity and Weibo’s ‘micro-community,’ and Chapter 2, in which Zhengshi Shi and Guobin Yang write about new media empowerment in China, are especially relevant in this publication.
In this 2016 publication, Eileen Le Han looks at the development of microblogging platform Sina Weibo from the perspective of collective memory. The author notes that there is a strong desire to remember what is happening and an anxiety over forgetting on this platform. What is remembered for what reasons, and what is forgotten? This book gives a profound insight into how collective memory is made on Weibo, and the role of Chinese media and journalism in this process.
Edited by Stefania Travagnin, 2016
Okay, okay, there is some bias in recommending this book – as editor-in-chief of What’s on Weibo, I personally wrote one of the chapters in this book about the Confucian influences on the portrayal of women in China’s television drama (which actually all started with one of these very first articles ever published on What’s on Weibo). But the 15 different chapters in this book each give unique insights into the world of media and religion in China, such as that on Buddhism online or digital Islam, which will be helpful and refreshing to anyone interested in modern China and how it deals with religion and the media.
Get on Amazon: Religion and Media in China
By Michel Hockx, 2015
Chinese internet literature, wangluo wenxue (网络文学), is a unique and fascinating part of China’s online culture, and Hockx is the first one to provide such a comprehensive and well-written survey in English of this phenomenon. Not only does he describe and explain the (short) history of Internet literature in China, especially focusing on the 2000-2013 period, he also provides examples of the innovative nature of online literature and analyzes how it pushes the boundaries of China’s highly controlled publishing system.
By Liz Carter, 2015
Besides that Carter is a really fun and interesting person to follow on Twitter (@withoutdoing), she is also the author of this 2015 book that sheds light on China’s internet, censorship, government, and society in the Weibo era – with a focus on those years in which social media really flourished in mainland China.
Get on Amazon: Let 100 Voices Speak: How the Internet Is Transforming China and Changing Everything
Get on iTunes: Let 100 Voices Speak : How the Internet is Transforming China and Changing Everything
by Daniela Stockman, 2014 (2012)
Daniela Stockman is a Professor of Digital Politics and Media at the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin. In this book, she offers an in-depth introduction and exploration of the various market forces in Chinese media, going deeper into the existing polarisation in discourses on media marketizing in China – which is that they either emphasize growing liberalization or growing control. She argues that in the case of the PRC, market-based media promote regime stability rather than destabilizing authoritarianism. This is not a light read but a very well-researched and elucidating work on China’s marketized media relevant to anyone studying Media or China’s media environment in specific.
Get on Amazon: Media Commercialization and Authoritarian Rule in China
Get on BookDepository: Media Commercialization and Authoritarian Rule in China
by Duncan Clark, 2016
If you ever have been to a Chinese bookstore, you’ll know that there’s always an entire shelf or section dedication to Alibaba founder Jack Ma, the hero of post-socialist China. Hundreds of books have been written about him and his company. Because he plays such an important role in the business (and celebrity) culture of China today, we had to include at least one book about Ma in this list. According to Dutch China tech blogger Ed Sander, this book is worth reading for those who want to know more about the business side of how Ma created his empire. The initial chapters also focus on Jack Ma as a person, but generally dives deeper into the power of Alibaba and how the company was built, also creating more understanding on the scale and speed of China’s economic transformation in general.
By Clay Shirky, 2015
Little Rice is an easy-to-read case study that tells the story of the rise of one of the world’s largest mobile manufacturers – yet its name is still unknown to those less familiar with Chinese brand names: Xiaomi (literally meaning: ‘little rice’). So many books have already been written in the English language about the success of companies such as Apple or Samsung; Xiaomi does deserve more attention, and this account of the rise of this tech giant also shines a light on Chinese political power and how Chinese tech brands are shaping present-day economy in China.
Get on Amazon: Little Rice: Smartphones, Xiaomi, and the Chinese Dream
Get on iTunes: Little Rice: Smartphones, Xiaomi, and the Chinese Dream
Book Depository: Little Rice : Smartphones, Xiaomi, and the Chinese Dream
by Edward Tse, 2015
Tse’s book on some of China’s biggest and most relevant companies has become a very popular one within its category over the past few years. Tse does not just provide an oversight of the companies that are really changing the Chinese market and are impacting the world, but tells the story behind them and their motivations, with a focus on business strategies and China’s economic environment.
by Roseann Lake, 2018
What’s on Weibo already featured an article on Leftover in China: The Women Shaping the World’s Next Superpower and the author when it just came out earlier this year. Lake brings a deeply insightful and captivating account of China’s so-called ‘leftover women’ – the unmarried females who are shaping the future of the PRC. She does so in a playful way, telling the stories of China’s young, single females through the various women she has encountered during the years of living and working in China. For those familiar with the controversy about this book when it just came out with regards to Leftover Women by Leta Hong Fincher (also in this list), we recommend reading both books so readers can form their own opinion based on the texts at hand.
Get on Amazon: Leftover in China: The Women Shaping the World’s Next Superpower
Get on iTunes: Leftover in China: The Women Shaping the World’s Next Superpower
Get on Bookdepository: Leftover in China: The Women Shaping the World’s Next Superpower
Audiobook: Leftover in China: The Women Shaping the World’s Next Superpower
● Leftover Women: The Resurgence of Gender Inequality in China
by Leta Hong Fincher, 2014
Fincher’s book on Leftover Women is a refreshing work within the topic of China and gender, which argues that the labeling of women as being “leftover” is part of a state-sponsored media campaign that has created a greater disparity between men and women in China today – contrary to a popular assumption that women have benefited from the market reforms in post-socialist China. Fincher explores and explains the challenges women in China face when it comes to issues such as real estate, economic well-being, and gender inequality within marriage. In doing so, this book has become an important work for anyone studying gender relations in China today.
Get on Amazon: Leftover Women: The Resurgence of Gender Inequality in China
Get on Bookdepository: Leftover Women: The Resurgence of Gender Inequality in China
by Richard Burger, 2012
Burger, who once ran Peking Duck, one of the first English-language blogs on China, offers a colorful and different perspective on Chinese culture and society through the lens of how it deals with sex. As the author points out, there are some dramatic contradictions when it comes to sex in China; on the one hand, society seems to be very liberal on sexuality, on the other hand, it is extremely repressed. Burger discusses a variety of topics, from marriage, views on premarital sex and virginity to prostitution and homosexuality.
by Leslie T. Chang, 2010 (2008)
Chang’s work has become a classic within its field, not just because of the highly relevant topic of this book, but also because of the captive narrative voice of the author. With the book being divided into two parts of The City and The Village, Chang describes how the economic rise of China has transformed the lives of many women, who have come from the countryside to spend days on end working in one of China’s many factories. This book focuses on the factory life of various women in Dongguan, southern China, and the hardships and hierarchy they face in everyday factory life.
Get on Amazon: Factory Girls: Voices from the Heart of Modern China
Get on iTunes: Factory Girls: Voices from the Heart of Modern China
Get on Bookdepository: Factory Girls: Voices from the Heart of Modern China
by David Moser, 2017
Besides the fact that Moser’s writing style makes this a delight to read, A Billion Voices is just a work that any serious student of Chinese language should read as it provides great insights in how putonghua or standard Chinese came to be the common language of the PRC – even if approximately one third of the population does not even speak it. With so many languages and dialects alive in China today, Moser provides an essential and accessible linguistic history of China.
Get on Amazon: A Billion Voices: China’s Search for a Common Language
Get on iTunes: A Billion Voices: China’s Search for a Common Language
Get on Bookdepository: A Billion Voices: China’s Search for a Common Language
by Véronique Michel, 2015
China Online is a concise book by translator and multilingual netizen Véronique Michel, that offers an exploration into China’s rapidly changing society and its flourishing Internet environment, where new expressions emerge every day. Although any book on a topic such as this will inescapably be outdated from the moment it is published, Michels has nevertheless created an informative and entertaining introduction to China’s online language that will still be relevant as a reference to the popular expressions that once were (and some still are) – although it’s just a fun and really light read, it does help to understand the environment and the ‘feel’ of this online culture where new Chinese expressions come from.
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Chinese Real Estate Shenanigans – Bizarre Divorce & Remarry Scheme to Avoid Taxes Goes Trending
They divorced, wife-swapped, divorced, and remarried – all for tax evasion. Although Chinese media condemn the story, netizens applaud it.
A story about two couples in Jinan, Shandong, who faked their divorce and did a wife-swap in order to evade taxes during a property transfer has become a top story on Netease, one of China’s leading online (mobile) news platforms.
The story started when couple A wanted to buy a property from couple B. They each ‘divorced’, after which the wife of couple A remarried with the husband of couple B. When ownership of their property was transferred, they divorced again, and couple A and couple B both remarried their original wives.
The comical divorce shenanigans were exposed when the case recently ended up in court. The Netease story about the couples was read 55,500 times within hours after its publication.
People in China have been divorcing to skip property taxes for years. In 2013, Chinese authorities implemented tougher taxes on home sales, as much as 20%. At the time, (international) media already reported about the following surge in divorces in cities such as Shanghai (Sweeney 2013).
Many Chinese invest their wealth in real estate – especially because property prices have been skyrocketing for years. Since divorce allows couples to split ownership of their property and then sell without having to pay those high taxes, there are those who opt for a ‘quickie’ – a no-fault, uncontested divorce. Once divorce and the division of real estate is complete, and the property has been sold, they can remarry.
In the Jinan case, the property was over 400 square meters big and worth 12 million RMB (US$ 1.9 million) when couple A wanted to buy it from couple B in the summer of 2015. Due to the size and prize, the Sina News reports, high taxes need to be paid to apply for the property’s transfer procedures.
In order to obtain the property rights in the smoothest and cheapest way possible, couple A came up with the idea to ‘swap wifes’ for the time being. Couple B divorced, attributing the property to the husband – who then married the wife of couple A. After that, husband B transferred the property to the name of his new bride, wife A, and then divorced her again only to let the two remarry their original spouses again.
The deal was to transfer the first half of the money before the fake marriage, and then the other half when the ordeal was over. Eventually, however, their plan failed when husband B made a mistake in finalizing the paperwork before receiving the final 6 million. When wife A could not come up with the 6 million RMB, husband B took the case to court.
The court, however, was not sympathetic to the couples’ ingenious plans and revoked the transfer, and fined the couple 50,000 rmb (±$8000) each for their tax evasive ‘divorce and remarry’ construction.
Although the Netease news report, that was also (originally) published on Qilu Evening News (齐鲁晚报) and on Sina News, condemned the couples, saying that “marriage registration is no child’s play” and that “legal boundaries should not be crossed for one own’s immediate benefit”, commenting netizens unexpectedly applauded the story and sided with the creative couples.
“Is this illegal?”, a top commenter (8500+ likes) responded to the story: “This should not be called tax evasion, it should be called reasonable tax avoidance!”
Many commenters point out that since neither divorce nor remarrying is illegal, it is not the couples’ fault for making use of their legal rights – and that it is the Chinese property tax laws that are to blame.
Chinese authorities do not impose regular levies on homeowners just yet; individuals are only taxed when buying or selling property. Although China’s house property taxes, which are believed to tame the housing prices, will be pushed forward, it might take another three years before their implementation (Gopalan 2018).
“These couples are just as birds in the forest,” one Netease commenter writes: “They fly when the big tax comes.”
“What did they do wrong?”, many wonder.
Gopalan, Nisha. 2018. “Don’t Bet Your House on China’s Property Tax.” Bloomberg, March 8. https://www.bloomberg.com/gadfly/articles/2018-03-08/don-t-bet-your-house-on-china-s-property-tax-just-yet [11.4.18].
Sweeney, Pete. 2013. “Till taxes do us part: Chinese divorce to skip property tax.” Reuters, March 6. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-china-property-divorce/till-taxes-do-us-part-chinese-divorce-to-skip-property-tax-idUSBRE9250CY20130306 [11.4.18].
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