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“What’s Modernisation?” – Chinese State Media Explain China’s ‘New Era’ With a Rap

No three-and-a-half-hour speech, but a three-and-a-half minute video explains China’s new strategies in this latest propaganda clip on social media.

Alice Mingay

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No three-and-a-half-hour speech, but a three-and-a-half minute video – Chinese state media explain China’s new strategies through catchy rap music and trendy graphics.

The much-anticipated 19th Party Congress opened last Wednesday in Beijing with Xi Jinping’s three-and-a-half-hour speech on “Thoughts on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era” (新时代中国特色社会主义思想), which presented the Party’s new concepts, thoughts and strategies – with Xi himself at its core.

Shi-jiu-da (十九大, ‘big 19’) is the popular abbreviation for the 19th Congress of the Communist Party of China. This Plenum is held once every five years and is the highest level political meeting in the Chinese calendar. The meeting is also a big topic on Chinese social media; the Weibo hashtag for the ‘big 19’ event #十九大# was viewed over 3,6 billion times on Friday.

As with previous major political gatherings, speeches and rhetoric are not the only means by which the Party and state media seek to convey their message to the wider population. A video titled “What is modernization? Let us tell you in a rap!” (“现代化”是什么化?一段嘻哈告诉你!) is the latest in a series produced by state broadcaster CCTV. The video is being spread through social media.

The clip (click link or see embedded video below), that lays out the government’s stategies for China’s ‘new era’ through rap music with bright graphics, was widely distributed on Chinese social media this week by various media platforms and institutions, from the Economic Observer (@经济观察报) to the Ministry of Public Security.

The translation of the video’s full text* is as follows:

Let’s go!
This October in Beijing
…will all be arriving!
The time has come for 十九大(shi-jiu-da)
Listen out for the important voices
十九大 (shi-jiu-da) let’s say a little about it

There is a lot of information here
So, listen out carefully and I’ll speak slowly
In the past, China has always advanced courageously
As we have said before,
When difficult problems are solved then great things can be established!
Our nation is full of vigor and vitality!

Anti-corruption efforts are strong
Many tigers have been taken down
From rocket lift-offs to submarine exercises,
Technology is changing our lives
Haha, Haha, Haha,

As I’m going to show up next, we have plans going forward…

[Xi Jinping’s voice speaking:]

By the time we reach the middle period of this century, we will have built a modern socialist state which is rich and powerful, democratic, civilised, and harmonious. In this way, we will have realized the great rejuvenation of the Chinese people.

[Rap continues:]

But, building in accordance with the needs of modernization
What even is modernization?

Let me tell you:

[End of rap, start of explanation by lecturer:]

100 years ago, Sun Yat-sen set out a blueprint for modernization in ‘Strategy for Building a Nation’: build train tracks, repair the roads, construct large ports. At that time, this was still considered fantastical and unrealistic.

But today, train lines criss-cross the whole nation! They run N-S between Beijing-Guangdong-Shanghai, as well as across the well-trodden route of Lanzhou-Chengdu-Chongqing. The length of the journey on the bullet trains just keeps reducing!

Again, at the time the People’s Republic was founded, not even a tractor could be built! Thus, building a modern, industrial socialist nation became our aim.

In 1954, the first National People’s Congress was held.  This was the first time the aim of achieving the Four Modernizations was clearly referenced. In just the next few years, factory after factory was built, including those of Anshan Steel works and Changchun car manufacturers.
Our workers are powerful!

This was a song I would listen to when I was young, and hearing it I would know my dad would soon finish work for the day and so I would quickly pack away all my marbles. Entering the period of opening and reform, Deng Xiaoping named the Four Modernizations as the way to ‘Chinese Modernization’, as well as wanting to become a middle-income nation.

In the 1970s, when people married, the three major durable consumer goods were still watches, bicycles and sewing machines. In the 80s, this became fridges, color TVs, and washing machines, and by the 90s changed again into air conditioning, cameras, and camcorders.

[Xi Jinping’s voice:]

Now, information technologies such as the internet are changing with each passing day. This is leading a new revolution in society and bringing new dimensions into human lives.

[Presenter continues:]

A report from the 18th Party Congress, published on 8th November 2012, mentioned the ‘4 New Modernisations.’ This has led to the implementation of an innovation-driven development strategy. Over the last 5 years, the major technological developments we have made have accumulated further and further. The computing in the Sunway Taihu Light is the most advanced in the world.

The quantum satellite Mozi Hao is unparalleled. The Tiangong 2 satellite has been sent off smoothly. Each of these wondrous engineering projects is a feat of its own! What a country!

In 2013, General Secretary Xi Jinping then added one more modernization into the fold, that being to ‘continue to advance the nation’s governing system, and to modernize our governing capabilities.’

Modernisation as a whole is very impressive. Frankly speaking, only this modernization of the inner qualities of officials and organizations will enable them to govern the country and change the civilized norms.We don’t take a break from modernization!

[Rap continues:]

Yeah, now that we have become a middle-class society
We have reached the most important section of our reform agenda
What are the issues that affect the lives of the middle class?

At this stage in the development of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics,
People are heading in the direction of a better life
The Party must remember
This is a new beginning!

In what direction is the bullet train heading?
After 200 years, will the Chinese dream have been realized?
What expectations do Chinese families have for their future?
Will the 十九大 (shi-jiu-da) answer these questions for you?
Of course!

Both the design and the genre of the new clip show some resemblance to clips launched during the Belt and Road Summit earlier this year.

On Weibo, a platform that is heavily controlled during the 19th National Congress, the video was shared hundreds of times. Although discussions on the video are limited due to current restrictions, one surprised netizen just posted: “Can I actually comment on this?!”

By Alice Mingay

* Full Text:
Let’s go!
在十月里的北京
。。。。都到这里 (3-4)
十九大要来了
听听到重要的声音
十九大,说点嘛?

这里信息有点多
你听我慢慢说
过去砥砺奋进
也我们互相说过
难提解决大事办成
祖国朝气蓬勃
反腐力度很大
打掉的老虎很多
胖五升空,蛟龙下水
科技改变生活
哈哈,哈哈,哈哈
接下来,我们还有个目标

[习近平的声音:]
到本世纪中叶建成富强民主
文明和谐的社会主义现代化国家,
实现中华民族伟大复兴。
–中共中烟总书记、国家主席、中央军委主席习近平

建设现代化
那现代化是什么?
来,听我跟你说
百年前,孙中山在[建国方略]里描绘了现代化的蓝图
建铁路、修公路、建造水平大海港
这些的当时,还被认为是‘空想’
而如今,京广、京沪穿南北
兰渝铁路通蜀道
复兴号路途时间再修短

再说,新中国刚成立时
一台拖拉机都不能造
建成社会主义现代化工业国就是我们的目标

1954年,第一届全国人民代表大会
第一次明确提出要实现四个现代化
随后的几年里,鞍山无缝钢管厂、长春第一汽车制造厂一个厂接一个厂
咱们工人有力量

‘咱们工人有力量’
小时候一听到这首歌就知道爸爸要下班了,赶紧把玻璃球收起来
迈入改革开放新时期,邓小平把实现四个现代化的目标称为‘中国式的现代化’,也就是‘小康之家’。
70年代,人们结婚, ‘三大件’还是手表自行车缝纫机
80年代,冰箱、彩电、洗衣机
90年代变成空调、音像、录像机

现在以互联网为代表的信息技术日新月异
引领了社会生产新变革
创造了人类生活新空间

2012年11月8号的中共十八大报告提出了 ‘新四化’
实施创新驱动发展战略
这五年,祖国的科技发展硕果累累
超级计算机“神威-太湖之光”世界第一
量子卫星‘墨子号’世界独一无二
‘天宫二号’顺利发射
奇迹工程一个个,厉害了,我的国

2013年习近平总书记又给这新四化加了一化
不断推进国家治理体系和治理能力现代化

整个现代化,有点厉害了
说白了,就是国家机构官员素质的现代化是治理国家变得文明规范
建设现代化,我们不放假

Yeah, 如今全面建成小康社会
到最关键的议程
小康心内还是什么事关你我的生活
中国特色社会主义进行的发展阶段
人民群众向往的美好生活
党中要记得
这是一个新的起点
复兴号驶向哪儿?
两个一百年后,中国梦实现了吗?
对于祖国家庭未来,还有那些期待?
来过这十九大,还为你来解答?
必须的

Edited 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.

Alice Mingay is a final year undergraduate Chinese Studies at the University of Oxford. She has spent over a year in Beijing and has a particular interest in Chinese Internet and Chinese Law. She is currently researching the development of China’s e-courts.

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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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China and Covid19

“We Want To Be Trending” – Online Cries for Help from Locked Down Yili in Xinjiang

Yili residents wonder: “We’ve been in this epidemic for three years already, how can the measures still be so poor?”

Manya Koetse

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While all eyes have been on Chengdu as the city of 21 million has been in semi-lockdown since September 1st, netizens from locked-down areas in Yili, Xinjiang, are begging for help and are reaching out via social media.

Since July 30, Yili has had 1290 Covid cases. A total of 23 cases were added on Saturday, September 10.

Yili, or Ili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture, is part of northern Xinjiang near the border of Kazakhstan. Its primary city, Yining (also known as Ghulja), is home to some 500,000 people and has been locked down since at least August 11. People complain about a lack of food, “outrageous” commodity prices, and a lack of much-needed medical care.

On September 7, one woman wrote: “I’m 41 weeks + 1 day pregnant and nine days past my due date. I’ve been bleeding today. I already was at the Xinhua Hospital for five hours when they told me they were closing the hospital. There are 8 to 9 pregnant women waiting here. Where are we supposed to go, what are we supposed to do?”

As the woman’s story attracted some online attention, Weibo later added an update to the woman’s account saying she had received medical care and that both mother and baby were doing well.

But her story is just one among many. On September 8, one Weibo netizen posted an “SOS” post saying that local people who had been in lockdown for 36 days were becoming “desperate” as some families were unable to receive medical care for sick children or elder family members.

One audio recording (video) featured a conversation between medical staff and family members, who had come to the hospital by ambulance with their ill (grand)father but found he could not be admitted due to new Health Commission orders. “He’s starting to vomit blood again,” one of the women can be heard crying out: “Don’t you care? There’s blood, he has difficulty breathing, what are you doing?! It doesn’t matter what the Health Commission says, what can we do? Doctor! Doctor! Doctor, are you there?!”

Other families were dealing with food shortages and allegedly had gone without food for days on end. “This is really happening during the Yili epidemic, the locals have tried many things to let the outside world know about our circumstances here. I beg of you, look at us, help us in this little border town, we’re locked inside and don’t have enough supplies, yet they opened the tourist scenic areas, help us, help us here, help the Yili common people!”

The post attracted over 60,000 likes, was reposted over 11,000 times and received thousands of comments, with some saying: “We need to get this trending, how is this possible, the outside world doesn’t know anything about this!” “It’s all true, thanks for speaking up for us,” one Xinjiang-based Weibo user wrote.

Later, another netizen posted: “We’ve already been in lockdown for 39 days, I don’t have the words to express everything that’s going on here. We want to be trending!”

“We’ve been locked in for 40 days and yet they opened up the tourist areas,” one local posted the next day: “Children who have a 40 degree fever can’t even see a doctor, pregnant women can’t even get into the hospital, we really can’t take this anymore.”

Wit its beautiful grasslands and amazing views, Yili is a popular travel destination in Xinjiang.

On September 9, Yili authorities held a press conference during which deputy governor Liu Qinghua (刘庆华) confirmed that there had been problems in access to medical care and supplies and that local authorities were working on ensuring public’s medical needs during this period.

But on social media, the complaints and cries of despair are still ongoing. Some people share screenrecordings of local community Wechat groups where mothers are crying out of worry for their children, there are people saying they are hungry and that they have not been provided with any food.

Close contacts and those testing positive for Covid who were taken to local fangcang or quarantine locations also complain about the conditions there. One makeshift quarantine location was set up in August on a sports field where people were made to sleep in tents despite the blistering heat, followed by wind and rain.

“We’ve been in this epidemic for three years already from 2020 to 2022, how can the measures still be so poor?” some wonder.

“I’m patriotic and I love my hometown,” one Xinjiang-based netizen wrote on Weibo: “After graduating I had no second thoughts about returning home to work here. But I’ve become desperate over the past few years (..) I know the government is just a state apparatus and it can’t be perfect everywhere and it can even be heartless, but the people behind it should at least have a heart. I’ve really become so numb.”

“Here in Xinyuan County in Yili, I’ve been in lockdown for 31 days, how about you?” one person asked in the ‘Yili Supertopic’ group on Weibo. “It’s my 42nd day,” one person answered.

Another person also wrote: “When can we go out, it’s been 42 days.” “When will the lockdown be lifted?” others wondered.

There is also online discussion about which posts are true, what is being censored and why, and how to distinguish rumors from what is actually happening.

Some stories circulating online suggested an older resident in Yili hung himself out of hunger and despair, another story suggested there was a family with three children who had a high fever but could not get any help. These stories were later denied by local authorities, who claimed they were “lies made up by people with ulterior motives” (link) – the three children did receive medial help and the suicide story was allegedly fabricated.

“What is real, is that the entire city has been silent for 41 days,” one Weibo commenter responded, with another saying: “First they say it’s fake news, then they apologize.”

Others also wondered why Yili still was not trending on Weibo, with many suggesting the topic was purposely kept out of the hot lists.

As rain is pouring down in Yili, some are worried about the patients in the tent quarantine camp, while others welcome the showers: “I hope the rain can wash away all of the virus, so that we can finally go out again.”

By Manya Koetse 

With contributions by Miranda Barnes

Featured image via Weibo user @渣男90702.

 

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