Word of the Week: The New Five Black Categories

Editor’s Note: The Word of the Week comes from China Digital Space’s Grass-Mud Horse Lexicon, a glossary of terms created by Chinese netizens and frequently encountered in online political discussions. These are the words of China’s online “resistance discourse,” used to mock and subvert the official language around censorship and political correctness.  If you are interested in participating in this project by submitting and/or translating terms, please contact the CDT editors at CDT [at] chinadigitaltimes [dot] net.

新黑五类 (xīn hēi wǔ lèi): the new five black categories

The new five black categories depicted as the 2008 Beijing Olympics mascots.

During the Cultural Revolution, the five black categories referred to five political identities: landlords, rich farmers, anti-revolutionaries, bad-influencers and right-wingers.

On July 31, 2012, a People’s Daily overseas edition editorial simultaneously called for internal reform and warned against U.S. efforts to undermine China from the grassroots. Netizens latched on to this passage in particular:

With ‘Internet freedom’ as its slogan, they [the Americans] will attack ‘top down’ governance in order to push forward the traditional model of liberal democracy; through the use of ‘rights lawyers,’ underground religion, dissidents, internet leaders and disadvantaged social groups as the core forces, they will push for a ‘bottom-up’ approach to Chinese governance from the grassroots to lay a foundation for changing China.


Activists immediately picked up the five groups listed in the People’s Daily article and named them “the new five black categories.”