Read China’s official media these days and you could be forgiven for imagining that senior Communist Party officials have only recently learned to speak like actual human beings. Scarcely a day goes by without a prominent paean to the popular utterances of General Secretary Xi Jinping.
In his own inimitable style, we are told, the approachable “Uncle Xi” (习大大) peppers his “important speeches” with colourful metaphor. Hipper than your average leader of the world’s most populous nation, he tosses out web slang like, well, “like” — that buzzword popularised by Facebook, a service banned in China.

xi like
Xi Jinping: Do you “like” him?
Much of Xi’s likability, of course, is a concerted campaign by state media to reshape the popular sense of the Party’s own popularity and legitimacy — to close the gap, as it were.
And we can see this campaign at work in a great many pieces in the state media that read like fan pages — as though Xi Jinping is not just the CCP’s top dog, but also the country’s top trend setter. And, goodness, what will he say next?
Our latest example is a piece that ran today on at the top of People’s Daily Online, the website of the Party’s flagship People’s Daily newspaper. With a titter of seriousness, we provide our translation below.

HOT PHRASE 1: The Chinese Dream (中国梦)
Xi: “Every person has ideals they pursue, their own dreams. Right now, everyone is discussing the Chinese dream. I think that the realisation of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese people is the modern era the great dream of the Chinese people.”
Background: On November 2012, as Xi Jinping attended an exhibition on “The Road to Revival,” he fully explained the “Chinese dream” for the first time.

Xi at Road Exhibition
Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum? No, indeed. This is the real Xi Jinping and other standing committee members visiting the “Road to Revival” Exhibition in 2013.
HOT PHRASE 2: Bottom-line thinking (底线思维)
Xi: “the method of properly applying bottom-line thinking is about preparing for the bad points and working at the same time to obtain the best possible results. It’s about being prepared, not panicking, and firmly grasping the initiative.”
Background: According to the Study Times, Xi Jinping first emphasised [this phrase] at an important meeting in 2013. Since the 18th National Congress [in 2012], Xi Jinping has often emphasised using bottom-line thinking to advantage.
HOT PHRASE 3: Tigers and flies (老虎, 苍蝇)
Xi: “For the strict administration of the Party, the punitive hand must not go soft. We must persist in striking both ‘tigers’ and ‘flies,’ resolutely investigating violations of the law and of discipline by leading cadres. . .”
Background: On January 22, 2013, Xi Jinping spoke these words in an important speech during the second full session of the 18th Central Discipline Inspection Commission. From the 18th National Congress to now, 61 officials at the vice-ministerial level or above have fallen, underscoring the unprecedented strength of the anti-corruption campaign and illustrating the determination of the Central Party led by General Secretary Xi Jinping.
HOT PHRASE 4: Look in the mirror, attend to your wardrobe, wash yourself clean, and cure your ailments (照镜子、正衣冠、洗洗澡、治治病)
Xi: “In carrying out our second group of education practice movements, we must adhere to the subject at hand, with the chief demands that we look in the mirror, attend to our wardrobe, wash ourselves clean, cure our ailments — that we oppose the ‘four winds’ with strict standards, strict measure and strict discipline, promoting the further elevation of our thinking and understanding. Our work style must be further transformed, the relationship between the Party and the masses made ever more intimate, so that our clean and practical image among the people is further established, and that our grassroots foundation is further solidified.”
Background: On January 20, 2014, Xi Jinping made an important speech at a . . . conference for the Party’s Mass Line Education Practice movement.
HOT PHRASE 5: Where has the time gone?
Xi: “You know, in taking up the kind of work I do, you basically have no time for yourself. During Spring Festival this year, there was a song in China called, ‘Where Has the Time Gone?’. For me, the question is, Where has my personal time gone? And of course it’s all gone to work.”
Background: Xi sighed these words during an interview in Sochi on February 7, 2014. Xi Jinping is deft at using popular common-folk language, giving a feeling of earnestness tinged with humour. . .
HOT PHRASE 6: The button of life (人生的扣子)
Xi: “This is like buttoning up when you get dressed. If you get the first button wrong, all the subsequent ones will go wrong too. In life, you need to get the buttons right from the start.”
Background: Xi Jinping said this in a discussion with students at Peking University on May 4, 2014. Xi Jinping said that the values young people hold define the value orientation of an entire society. Young people, [he said], must grab this important period for the formation of their values.
HOT PHRASE 7: The New Normal (新常态)
Xi: “Our nation’s development stands at an important era of opportunity. We must increase our confidence, departing from the point of our present phase and its particularities, adapting to the new normal, and maintaining a normal state of mind in terms of strategy.
Background: In May 2014, Xi Jinping first spoke of the “new normal” on an inspection tour to Henan. Giving a speech the APEC Business Leaders summit on November 9, 2014 . . . Xi Jinping said the crux of whether or not [China] could adjust to the new normal was a question of the strength of the comprehensive deepening of reforms.” After this, the “new normal” expanded to the realms of politics and foreign relations, and it was echoed at the local and regional levels [in China] and hotly talked about in the international media.
HOT PHRASE 8: One Belt and One Road (一带一路)
Xi: “We must make overall layouts for the One Road One Belt [program], determining the schedule and road map for the next few years as soon as possible. We must have a plan and scope for our objectives in the early stage.”
Background: On a visit to Kazakhstan in September 2013, Xi Jinping spoke of building a “Silk Road economic belt.” In October the same year, hosting the APEC Leaders Summit in Beijing, Xi Jinping expressed the wish to build a “maritime Silk Road for the 21st century” along with ASEAN countries.
Xi:: “Some people say that right now Beijing’s blue sky is ‘APEC blue,’ [because extreme measures were taken ahead of the APEC meeting to deal temporarily with pollution], something beautiful but fleeting, that will be gone after this moment. I hope and trust that through tireless efforts ‘APEC blue’ will be here to stay.”
Background: These words were spoken in November 2014, as Xi Jinping hosted a banquet for the APEC Leaders Forum. Xi Jinping has dealt head-on with the pollution problem, calling it a “development annoyance” and saying that, “Dealing with pollution is a direction we’re working in, and clear water and green vistas are an important part of the Chinese dream.”
la time on pollution
A report from the LA Times shows Beijing air on January 15, 2015, two months after Xi Jinping hoped ‘APEC blue’ would stick around.
HOT PHRASE 10: “roughing through it”, and to “like”(蛮拼的, 点赞)
Xi: “In order to do this work well, our cadres at various levels have roughed through it. Of course, without the people giving their support, it’s hard to do this work well. So I want to ‘like’ our great people.”
Background: Xi Jinping spoke these words from his office in his year-end address on December 31, 2014. [The term “roughing through it” (也是蛮拼的), which means to try hard but not quite succeed, is internet slang in China, as of course is the term “to like,” the same meaning as to “like” a post on Facebook.]
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Xi Jinping gives a year-end address from his office on December 31, 2014.
HOT PHRASE 11: Young people don’t need to pull all-nighters.
Xi: “In those days when I was young, when I wanted to do something well, I would get good and sick about once every month. Why was that? Pulling all-nighters. I was often working through to daybreak. Later I felt that if I kept it up there was no way I would make it to adulthood. First settle your frame of mind, so that while you feel passion inside, you remain outwardly composed.
Background: On January 12, 2015, Xi Jinping spoke with around 200 county-level Party leaders attending a training session at the Central Party School. He spoke about his own experiences as a country-level secretary, and said that “young people don’t need to pull all-nighters.” This heartfelt and natural sentiment was enthusiastically shared [on the internet] . . .
HOT PHRASE 12: knife handle (刀把子)
Xi: “[We must] foster and create a politics and law corps that respects the Party, respects the nation, respects the people and respects the law, ensuring the knife handle is grasped firmly in the hand of the Party and the people.”
Background: on January 20, 2015, Xi Jinping said these words at the National Conference on Politics and Law. The “knife handle” is an expression used by Mao Zedong in 1926 to address the question of who should bear weapons and who they should be used against.

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David Bandurski

CMP Director

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