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“Witness to China’s Diplomatic History” – Netizens Commemorate Diplomat Wu Jianmin

Chinese diplomat Wu Jianming was killed in a car accident on June 18, at the age of 77. Although Wu has been criticized to be a “dove diplomat”, netizens generally remember him as a sincere and truthful man. His death is widely commemorated on Chinese social media.

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Chinese diplomat Wu Jianming was killed in a car accident on June 18, at the age of 77. Although Wu has been criticized to be a “dove diplomat”, netizens generally remember him as a sincere and truthful man. His death is widely commemorated on Chinese social media.

Wu Jianmin (吴建民) was a prominent Chinese diplomat in China. He was trained in French language and literature in Beijing Foreign Studies University, and has since then played an important role in Chinese diplomacy.

During the 1971-1977 period, Wu was one of the first Chinese diplomats residing in the United Nations. He worked at the Chinese Embassy in Belgium, and was ambassador to the Netherlands and France. He was the first Asian president to the International Exhibition Bureau.

Wu was killed in a car accident on his way back home from the airport in Wuhan. The accident was believed to have been caused by driver fatigue. Wu was scheduled to have a meeting the next day for the publication of China’s Peaceful Development White Paper 2016.

Wu’s Diplomatic Ideas

As a diplomat, Wu was an advocate of China’s non-conflictual interaction with the world. Acknowledging that the world’s knowledge of China is asymmetric to China’s knowledge of the world, Wu believes that the proper manner to increase mutual understanding lies in sincere communication. China should also stick to its ancient philosophy of harmony and peace.

A list of Wu’s quotations by People’s Daily provides a brief look into Wu’s diplomatic thoughts:

  • “We should not jump with rage at foreign criticism.”
  • “There should be no calculation of petit interests in foreign aid. If one wants something, one needs to offer first.”
  • “From 5m dollars to 550 billion, how could this be possible without mutual trust between China and America?”
  • “The world today runs no longer on ‘jungle rule'”
  • text

    His Death is a Loss to the Country

    Wu was particularly anxious about the rise of nationalism combined with popularism in China. He believed both trends to be deceptive, as they could potentially lead China and its people back to an inward looking, self-centered worldview – a perspective that would not benefit China’s role in the international society.

    [rp4wp]

    Wu’s take on China’s role in the world was also why some criticized him. Some deemed him a “dove diplomat” with a naive believe in peace and too soft to stand up to the world. Wu himself reacted to such criticism by stating that those who view global politics as dangerous and confrontational no longer understand the world today. This view has brought Wu to the centre of the national debate on China’s diplomatic strategies.

    Although not everybody agreed with his views, most netizens see Wu as a truth-speaking diplomat. Many lit candles for the deceased diplomat under the Sina Weibo topic “Wu Jianmin Killed in Car Accident” (#吴建民车祸去世).

    “Mr. Wu was a witness of Chinese diplomatic history. He had a rational and distinct view of the world. He was an excellent diplomat and his death is a loss to the country”, writes one netizen.

    wujian

    Some netizens show sympathy with Wu’s diplomatic ideas and worry that China’s future foreign policy will become less peaceful: “Does the death of Ambassador Wu suggest the end of a diplomatic époque? Must the national discourse be diverted to international fractures in a time of economic pressure? Now many are propagating war on line. This is not a good phenomenon.”

    Netizens Show Concern over China’s Diplomacy

    This is not the first time Chinese netizens express concerns over China’s diplomatic strategy. Last month, Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi sharply berated a journalist during a state visit in Canada.

    When the journalist questioned why Canada pursued closer ties with China despite the PRC’s human rights situation, Wang Yi interrupted and criticized the journalism for being too prejudiced: ““I have to say that your question is full of prejudice against China and arrogance … I don’t know where that comes from. This is totally unacceptable,” he said. He also stated that only Chinese can comment on its human rights situations.

    Wang Yi’s reaction triggered much discussion on Chinese social media. While some felt proud that Wang spoke out against foreign criticism, there were also those who did not agree with the manner in which he did this. A video clip of Saudi Arabia Minister of Foreign Affairs Adel Al Jubeir was widely shared as a contrasting example to Wang Yi. Al Jueir, when confronted with a journalist’s statement that Islam and terrorism cannot be separated, answered with grace and reason.

    “A man is a true man not because he persists he’s right even when he knows he is wrong”, says one netizen, “he is a true man because he has the courage to own up to his mistakes. Look at our foreign minister. Patriotism is horrible; it can deprive a nation of its sense of right and wrong”.

    Many Chinese netizens are increasingly concerned about China’s diplomacy in the world today. Their stance is different from the public sentiment that was reported on some years ago when China’s Foreign Ministry claimed they were under pressure of the public and frequently received packages of “calcium tablets”, allegedly intended to “strengthen their spine against foreign pressures” (Shambaugh 2013, chapt 3).

    Although many Chinese might have believed the diplomatic strategy of their country was far too soft, the foreign minister declared in 2014 that they’ve been receiving far less packages of calcium tablets.

    The growing online discussions and lessening calcium deliveries might be an indication that China’s public opinion is slowly changing into questioning a too assertive tone in China’s foreign affairs.

    – By Diandian Guo 

    Shambaugh, David. 2013. “Chapter 3: China’s Diplomatic Pressure”, in China Goes Global: The Partial Power. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press (Google Books).

    ©2016 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

    Diandian Guo is a China-born Master student of transdisciplinary and global society, politics & culture at the University of Groningen with a special interest for new media in China. She has a BA in International Relations from Beijing Foreign Language University, and is specialized in China's cultural memory.

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    China Brands & Marketing

    About Lipstick King’s Comeback and His ‘Mysterious’ Disappearance

    After Li Jiaqi’s return to livestreaming, the ‘tank cake incident’ has become the elephant in the room on social media.

    Manya Koetse

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    Earlier this week, the return of China’s famous livestreamer Li Jiaqi, also known as the ‘Lipstick King’, became a hot topic on Chinese social media where his three-month ‘disappearance’ from the social commerce scene triggered online discussions.

    He is known as Austin Li, Lipstick King, or Lipstick Brother, but most of all he is known as one of China’s most successful e-commerce livestreaming hosts.

    After being offline for over 100 days, Li Jiaqi (李佳琦) finally came back and did a livestreaming session on September 20th, attracting over 60 million viewers and selling over $17 million in products.

    The 30-year-old beauty influencer, a former L’Oreal beauty consultant, rose to fame in 2017 after he became a successful livestreamer focusing on lipstick and other beauty products.

    Li broke several records during his live streaming career. In 2018, he broke the Guinness World Record for “the most lipstick applications in 30 seconds.” He once sold 15000 lipsticks in 5 minutes, and also managed to apply 380 different lipsticks in another seven-hour live stream session. Li made international headlines in 2021 when he sold $1.9 billion in goods during a 12-hour-long promotion livestream for Alibaba’s shopping festival.

    But during a Taobao livestream on June 3rd of this year, something peculiar happened. After Li Jiaqi and his co-host introduced an interestingly shaped chocolate cake – which seemed to resemble a tank, – a male assistant in the back mentioned something about the sound of shooting coming from a tank (“坦克突突”).

    Although Li Jiaqi and the others laughed about the comment, Li also seemed a bit unsure and the woman next to him then said: “Stay tuned for 23:00 to see if Li Jiaqi and I will still be in this position.”

    The session then suddenly stopped, and at 23:38 that night Li wrote on Weibo that the channel was experiencing some “technical problems.”

    But those “technical problems” lasted, and Li did not come back. His June 3rd post about the technical problems would be the last one on his Weibo account for the months to come.

    The ‘cake tank incident’ (坦克蛋糕事件) occurred on the night before June 4, the 33rd anniversary of the violent crackdown of the Tiananmen student demonstrations. The iconic image of the so-called ‘tank man‘ blocking the tanks at Tiananmen has become world famous and is censored on China’s internet. The control of information flows is especially strict before and on June 4, making Li’s ‘tank cake incident’ all the more controversial.

    But no official media nor the official Li Jiaqi accounts acknowledged the tank cake incident, and his absence remained unexplained. Meanwhile, there was a silent acknowledgment among netizens that the reason Li was not coming online anymore was related to the ‘tank cake incident.’

    During Li’s long hiatus, fans flocked to his Weibo page where they left thousands of messages.

    “I’m afraid people have been plotting against you,” many commenters wrote, suggesting that the cake was deliberately introduced by someone else during the livestream as a way to commemorate June 4.

    Many fans also expressed their appreciation of Li, saying how watching his streams helped them cope with depression or cheered them up during hard times. “What would we do without you?” some wrote. Even after 80 days without Li Jiaqi’s livestreams, people still commented: “I am waiting for you every day.”

    On September 21st, Li Jiaqi finally – and somewhat quietly – returned and some people said they were moved to see their lipstick hero return to the livestream scene.

    Although many were overjoyed with Li’s return, it also triggered more conversations on why he had disappeared and what happened to him during the 3+ months of absence. “He talked about a sensitive topic,” one commenter said when a Weibo user asked about Li’s disappearance.

    One self-media accountpublished a video titled “Li Jiaqi has returned.” The voiceover repeatedly asks why Li would have disappeared and even speculates about what might have caused it, without once mentioning the tank cake.

    “This cracks me up,” one commenter wrote: “On the outside we all know what’s going on, on the inside there’s no information whatsoever.”

    “It’s tacit mutual understanding,” some wrote. “It’s the elephant in the room,” others said.

    Some people, however, did not care about discussing Li’s disappearance at all anymore and just expressed joy about seeing him again: “It’s like seeing a good friend after being apart for a long time.”

    By Manya Koetse 

    Elements in the featured image by @karishea and @kaffeebart.

     

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    Backgrounder

    More Than Just a Visit: Explaining the Chinese ‘Cuànfǎng’

    ‘Cuànfǎng’ became a popular word on Chinese social media and in official Chinese discourse this year. But what is it?

    Jin Luo

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    Since Pelosi’s stopover in Taiwan, the word ‘cuànfǎng’ has been all over Chinese social media to refer to this controversial visit. But ‘cuànfǎng’ is more than just ‘visiting’ alone. Jin Luo explains.

    It was a sleepless night for many Chinese people when U.S. House Speaker Pelosi flew to Taiwan on August 2nd of 2022. A new Chinese word created in recent years, cuànfǎng (窜访) appeared in the official statement that was issued by the Chinese Foreign Ministry at 11 pm that night, and subsequently it appeared all over social media.

    Meanwhile, a pop song released more than 30 years ago titled “Tonight, Are You Coming or Not” (“今夜你会不会来”) suddenly became a Weibo hot topic before it was taken offline. What is this word lost in translation, and why did people suddenly get nostalgic over an old romantic song?

     
    Cuànfǎng: A ‘Sneaky Visit’
     

    Here is the original wording in Chinese and the official translation to English from the statement of the Chinese Foreign Ministry on the evening on 2 August:

    In disregard of China’s strong opposition and diplomatic discontent, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi visited China’s Taiwan region” (“美国国会众议长佩洛西不顾中方强烈反对和严正交涉,窜访中国台湾地区.”) The word ‘visited’ in Chinese that is used here is “cuànfǎng” 窜访.

    While the English verb “visit” is a neutral word by itself, the Chinese “cuànfǎng” 窜访 has much stronger connotations. According to the Wiktionary, the word is a derogatory, officialese way to say “to visit.” But it is not an easy word to translate, as there is no direct equivalent in English, and both the literal and implied meaning of the word need to be understood.

    Cuànfǎng is actually a compound word: cuàn 窜 refers to fleeing, escaping, hiding, or running away; fǎng 访 refers to inquiring, seeking, or visiting.

    Cuan as a compound character (Sohu).

    To make matters more complicated, cuàn by itself is also a compound character. It is written as ‘竄’ in traditional Chinese: the top radical ‘穴’ means ‘hole,’ and the lower part is the character ‘鼠’ which means ‘mouse.’ The character, having the shape of a mouse hiding in a hole, therefore has the meaning of ‘hiding’ and ‘escaping.’

    The origins of the character ‘cuan’ explained, image via Sohu.com.

    The mouse or rat is an animal that is more often associated with negative things in Chinese culture. They are often considered sneaky, dirty, running around everywhere, and able to reproduce quickly. With mice so often carrying a negative association, cuàn ‘窜’ also refers to a kind of hiding and escaping that is negative or objectionable.

    The second character fǎng 访 is a neutral word that simply means “to visit.”

    At the New York Times, Chris Buckley captured the underlying meaning of this word in writing: “The Chinese word used in the official statements for ‘visit’ — cuanfang — connotes a sneaky or illicit encounter, not an aboveboard meeting.”

     
    The Evolution of Cuànfǎng
     

    Although it is a relatively new word, cuànfǎng already existed before the Pelosi incident and was not created in light of this controversial visit.

    Since the word’s first appearance, translators have had some difficulties in properly translating the term into different languages.

    Research papers in translation studies and international relations in China suggested that cuànfǎng is a “new derogatory term invented in recent years, specifically for the purpose of maintaining national security and unity, and condemning and exposing the national separatists” and “demonstrated the big wisdom of Chinese diplomatic discourse users; vividly described the image of the separatists, that they go on the run sneakily, just like thieves and mice” (source, in Chinese).

    Other sources interpret it as “the unjust, improper visit conducted in order to reach hidden political agenda, to agitate and peddle the separatist ideas,” and:

    1. You went somewhere where you were not supposed to go;
    2. The visit was not accepted or welcomed by the (Chinese) government;
    3. The purpose is to shake justice and create conflicts
    ” (source, in Chinese).

    Cuàn was mainly meant to add an emotional aspect to the term and shows the contempt of the person who uses it.

    Image via Wainao.

    The word was first prominently used in Chinese official discourse when the Foreign Ministry in 2006 referred to the Dalai Lama’s visit to Israel. Since cuàn has the meaning of fleeing, it is especially suitable when referring to political dissidents who went into exile overseas.

    Since then, it has been used again for further visits of the Dalai Lama to other countries (US 2014, Mongolia 2017), as well as for Rebiya Kadeer, Lee Teng-hui, Shinzo Abe, Joshua Wong, and others.

    Although it is clear that the term is not only applied to Chinese dissidents, it is generally applied to those who conducted visits that were perceived to be hostile towards China, with Nancy Pelosi’s Taiwan visit serving as a clear example.

    Since the Dalai Lama has been living outside of China and conducted numerous visits to other countries, cuànfǎng was previously mostly used in this context until Pelosi’s visit, which ended up being good for more than 80% of the search results of cuànfǎng on the Chinese Foreign Ministry website.

    If cuànfǎng is a word with such strong emotional connotations, why was it simply translated as “visit” in official English-language documents? Some say it is because of the mere difficulty to translate this word, while others say it is the routine sanitization of English translations by the Foreign Ministry.

    David Gitter, president of the Center for Advanced China Research based in Washington D.C., said that the external goal of Beijing can be different from the internal goal towards the nationalist domestic audiences, and that “more accurate yet counterproductive translations … [often] breach normal diplomatic language.”

    At this point, it remains up for debate whether this is a linguistic constraint or a political choice.

     
    Tonight, Are You Coming or Not?
     

    While the term cuànfǎng has been widely used in official discourse, it has also become a popular online word. Chinese netizens seemed to be as passionate as the Chinese Foreign Ministry – and perhaps even more so –  in condemning Pelosi’s Taiwan visit and demanding radical countermeasures.

    Chinese netizens were watching the entire event unfold with mixed feelings – on the one hand, there was a strong sense of patriotism and anger, on the other hand, the massive attention to the event also turned it into something that was almost as exciting as a celebrity drama.

    On that specific evening of Pelosi’s nearing arrival in Taipei, Chinese netizens were doing two things: watching real-time tracking of Pelosi’s flight, and listening to a classic pop song released in 1991 titled “Tonight, Are You Coming or Not” (今夜你会不会来) (video). Back in the previous century, Hong Kong singer Leon Lai expressed the emotions of someone waiting for his lover to arrive in this melodic song, singing:

    “你是否愿意为我停留

    Would you be willing to stay for me

    今夜你来告诉我

    Tonight, you tell me

    你是否愿意陪我走过我的梦

    Are you willing to accompany me through my dream?

    我的所有

    My everything

    (Chorus)

    今夜你会不会来

    Tonight, are you coming or not?

    你的爱还在不在

    Is your love still there or not?

    如果你的心已经离开

    If your heart has left already

    我宁愿没有未来

    I would rather not have a future

    今夜你会不会来

    Tonight, are you coming or not?

    你的爱还在不在

    Is your love still there or not?

    别让我所有的等待

    Don’t let all my wait

    变成一片空白

    Go all in vain

     

    In the middle of the uncertainty about whether Pelosi would come to Taiwan or not, this song served as entertainment for netizens and became a “collective carnival” of people jokingly applying the song to Pelosi, turning her into a ‘mysterious lover’ that might or might not show up. (Later, some were unable to play the song anymore, although it remains unclear if this was due to geographic restrictions or because the song was actually taken offline by censors.)

    “Taiwan has been preparing for your cuànfǎng ‘sneaky visit’, are you coming or not tonight?” some netizens wrote, combining the title song with the cuànfǎng term. In doing so, Pelosi became both a ‘sneaky mouse’ and ‘mysterious lover’, both a target of condemnation and subject of fun and banter.

    All jokes and cuànfǎng references aside, Pelosi did end up realizing that visit, and its aftermath, including a second Taiwan visit by a U.S. congressional delegation, has had a substantial impact on U.S.-China relations that were already strained before the move.

    Will there be more cuànfǎng to Taiwan? It’s likely not an issue of if, but when. For next time, at least we’ve got cuànfǎng covered.

     

    By Jin Luo 

    Featured image by Alexa from Pixabay

     

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    Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

    ©2022 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.
     

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