"I'm done with this", "setting the pace" - Chinese gaming words used in social media and politics
Slow Chinese 每周漫闻
Welcome to the Slow Chinese newsletter 每周漫闻.
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It’s week number 12
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Words from China’s gaming world (电竞圈用语) that have crossed over into politics and society, and some idioms from UN Chinese Language Day (联合国中文日).
Internet word of the week: 爷青结 (Yé qīng jié)
“I’m done with this!”
Speech of the week: Xi at Boao - a mistranslated gaming word
带节奏 (Dài jiézòu) - “set the tempo”
Video of the week: UN Chinese Chinese Language Day - favourite idioms of Britain’s Ambassador to China
雨过天晴 (Yǔguò tiān qíng) - ‘the skies will clear after the rain has fallen’
First, if you are following English language coverage of British parliament’s passing of a motion declaring China’s treatment of Uyghurs in Xinjiang as genocide, and you want to know how to say “cooked up” in Chinese, this is how:
鼓噪 (gǔ zào) - to cook up
A handful of British MPs cooked up this motion on Xinjiang
1. Internet Word of the Week: 爷青结 (Yé qīng jié) - I’m done with this
爷青结 (Yé qīng jié) is short for:
爷的青春结束了 (Yé de qīngchūn jiéshùle) - my youth has come to an end
It was originally used by Chinese gamers to say they had peaked in a game, their best was behind them.
Nowadays, netizens say it when they boycott celebs who have had a self-inflicted career car crash (翻车事件 - see 27 March newsletter):
I’ve had enough / I am done with this
This week, Chinese netizens had enough of actress-turned entrepreneur, Zhang Meng, who was a guest commentator on a dating show.
Zhang’s comments on “pulling an all-nighter” (熬夜 - Áo yè) were the problem - and will sound familiar to anyone who has worked in or with a Chinese company:
I'm still sending Wechat messages to my employees at 3 and 4 in the morning. But they don’t have to respond…. What they most fear is when I message them at 3 in the morning and I ask them at 7 in the morning: why haven’t you responded yet?
During the show her words were taken in good humour, with a few laughs from the audience.
But Weibo users were not so forgiving. Top comments included:
没有下班概念，真的是中国职场最大的悲哀。 老板可以在任何时候让你去做事 - You have no concept of finishing the working day. This is the saddest thing about the Chinese workplace. The boss [thinks she] can ask you to do anything at any time.
Zhang Meng eventually made what could just about pass as an apology on Weibo:
以后坚决改正，感谢广大网友的指正批评 - From now on I will commit to correcting [my mistakes]. Thank you to Internet users for your corrections and criticisms.
Not surprisingly that didn’t go down too well. With many saying they’ve had enough of her:
爷青结。而且大姐，大家是因为你资本家嘴脸才讨厌你，你不会以为我们关心你熬夜不熬夜吧? - I’ve had enough. Also, people hate because you are a selfish capitalist. You don’t really think we care about you pulling an all-nighter, do you?
More useful words
Self-harming work practices aside, grumpy comments from Chinese netizens are a great resource for picking up some new Chinese words.
Here are some three-character combos for the work place, or to criticise the latest apologising Chinese celeb:
打工狗 (Dǎgōng gǒu) - ‘working dog’, a variation of ‘working people’ (打工人) [see 10th April issue for more on this]
作为一个打工狗看到这种新闻都气出来了 - as a working dog, when I see news like this I get so angry
炒鱿鱼 (Chǎoyóuyú) - ‘fried squid’, fired
真想炒她鱿鱼 - I’d really like to fire her
没网感 (Méi wǎng gǎn) - ‘no Internet sense’, out of date or out of touch with the latest Internet trends; ‘no sense’ [this is a very new word - expect to hear it more as China’s cancel culture continues to grow]
她真的很没网感 - she really has no idea
代入感 (Dàirù gǎn) - immersive; “it’s like I am there” [another gaming word, meaning ‘immersive’ or realistic effects]
代入感很强，社畜已经在心脏加速了 - It’s like we are there [in her office], people’s heart rates are going up [社畜 - ‘the people’ was covered in the 10th April newsletter]
Weibo: #张萌凌晨3点给员工发消息# (video of Zhang’s comments and the Weibo comments that followed)
Weibo: 张萌 (Zhang’s ‘apology’ and the following thread of ‘you’re toast’ comments)
SupChina: Chinese celebrity apologizes for texting employees at all hours after social media backlash (good read for a an overview of the story in English)
2. Speech of the week: Xi at Boao
President Xi gave an opening speech at the 20th Boao Forum this week.
I’ve picked out one word from the official English translation which doesn’t fully capture the meaning:
带节奏 (Dài jiézòu) - “set the pace”
It’s another gaming word; this one has crossed over into politics.
This week’s Boao is first time that Xi has used it in a speech (as far as I know - please let me know if I’m wrong):
World affairs should be handled through extensive consultation, and the future of the world should be decided by all countries working together. We must not let the rules set by one or a few countries be imposed on others, or allow unilateralism pursued by certain countries to set the pace for the whole world.
带节奏 (Dài jiézòu) was originally used by Chinese gamers to praise experienced players with good leadership skills able to organise, and set the pace, to lead their teammates to victory:
带起一波节奏 (dài qǐ yī bō jiézòu) - “bringing up a wave of rhythm”
But ‘set the pace’ has been used in formal settings pejoratively by Chinese diplomats to mean something else in recent months.
It means something more like ‘misleading public opinion’ or leading other countries against the interests of China.
The earliest mention I’ve found is on 20 December last year when first used by Vice Minister, Le Yucheng (乐玉成).
A more recent example is in a press briefing with Zhao Lijian before the US-China meetings in Alaska last month (with my own translation):
试图搞“麦克风外交”、“带节奏”、拉帮结派对华施压的做法是枉费心机 [the US] in attempting ‘microphone diplomacy’, trying to mislead international opinion on, and form cliques to, pressure China will be in vain.
Another example from Chinese state media last week：
BBC本想带节奏，结果带到中国主旋律上了！The BBC has tried to mislead public opinion on China, but in doing so has actually further supported China’s narrative
So, while the official translation of ‘setting the pace’ is not entirely wrong, it certainly does not give the full blow of the Chinese.
For advanced learners, other ways to say the same thing include:
无中生有 (Wúzhōngshēngyǒu) - “create something out of nothing” [confusingly, this also means something like entrepreneurial “chutzpah” for ballsy entrepreneurs that talk a good game]
煽动惑乱 (Shāndòng huòluàn) - inciting confusion
煽风点火 (Shānfēngdiǎnhuǒ) - fanning the flames
Xinhua: 习近平在博鳌亚洲论坛2021年年会开幕式上的视频主旨演讲 (full speech)
Baike: 带节奏 (more background on ‘setting the pace’)
3. Video of the week: UN Chinese language day 联合国中文日
The 11th UN World Chinese Language Day was on 20 April.
British Ambassador to China, Caroline Wilson, recorded a short video sharing her favourite Chinese idioms - all useful for life in China.
Here are the idioms, and I’ve added an example sentence under each one:
和而不同 (Hé ér bùtóng) - a safe choice; Confucian classic and also a fave of Xi Jinping re China’s position on its non-interventionist place in the world and BRI. It means: “Harmony without uniformity” or “Harmony in Diversity”
子曰：“君子和而不同，小人同而不和 - Confucius said: “The gentleman aims at harmony, and not at uniformity. The mean man aims at uniformity, and not at harmony.”
欲速则不达 (Yù sù zé bù dá) - another Confucian one, similar to the English idiom, ‘haste makes waste’.
做事要一步一步循序渐进地做，否则欲速则不达 - things should be done step by step and gradually, otherwise if you rush you will not achieve the goal
雨过天晴 (Yǔguò tiān qíng) - ‘the skies will clear after the rain has fallen’
后来她又透过泪水现出一线微笑，就像雨过天晴后露出的太阳 - afterwards she flashed a smile through her tears; it was like the sun appearing after heavy rains
Here’s the vid:
Odds and ends
Finally, here’s a few things I’ve read or watched this week worth recommending:
FT: HSBC chief vows not to ‘flip-flop’ on China strategy // Readers of last week’s newsletter will know of the challenges of translating the word ‘flip flop’ which can be translated as 折腾, or vice versa. In this instance, HSBC “not flip-flopping” can be translated as 不要翻来覆去, but almost definitely also as 不折腾 as it also means to avoid causing unnecessary, self-inflicted troubles.
RFI: 王岐山博鳌开幕式自称为习近平“报幕” 有指战战兢兢？ // An obscure gossipy article about Wang Qishan’s unscripted remarks as MC at Boao this week. His off the cuff comments are always worth a read:
我领会呢，这个角色就是做一个临时主持人，临时主持人也很重要。我只是为我们的习近平主席的致辞做一个报幕。[报幕 Bàomù - ‘announce the screen’ is a self-deprecating way to say ‘kick proceedings off’]
Youtube: Chinese Language Day video. A slick one-hour show produced by Chinese Media Group with a polished, British presenter and one of China’s biggest influencers (Li Ziqi 李子柒) wheeled out for the occasion. It’s a bit stodgy in places, and the presenter does a remarkable job of mangling the Chinese names, but there are some good bits too.
2’55”: Li Ziqi video - no words at all just incredible images of the Chinese countryside and delicious food.
15’42”: Chen Xu, China Permanent Rep to the UN, speech - good for language learners as he has perfect pronunciation and speaks slowly, with a few good idioms about spring.
21’16”: Vlog following a climb to visit 悬崖村 (Xuányá cūn) - “cliff edge village” in Sichuan Province, which is perched at the top of a steep mountain with 1,800 steps to climb to get there. It’s also a poster-child village in China’s poverty alleviation efforts.
That’s it for this week.
Thanks for reading.
I’ll see you in your inbox around the same time next Saturday.
Finally, please do help share Slow Chinese with anyone who you think needs to brush up on their spoken, written, slang, idiomatic, poetic or classical Chinese language skills:
With colleagues and friends,
students you know from the past or present,
in Chinese language learning groups (Wechat, FB),
and on social media channels
Finally, finally, following feedback from dedicated readers of this newsletter, I am trying to keep it shorter, with less new words. Things I decide not to use I dump in a Word file and keep for myself.
If you need more new words than what’s already here, let me know and I’ll happily email you the extras that weren’t included.
This week there was a poem from Tang Dynasty poet, Wang Changlin, five idioms about China’s place in the world from Xi’s Boao speech, and some more obscure Internet slang for having a go at celebrities.