Gathering of the Week: Stupid Sessions

The  comes from the Grass-Mud Horse Lexicon, a glossary of terms created by Chinese netizens and 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.

Èr Huì 二会

Jackie Chan wept at the 2013 National People’s Congress, his first. He admitted that he did not know what he was supposed to be doing. (Source: N100819.blog.163.com)

Tongue-in-cheek reference to the National People’s Congress and Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, which entered widespread usage in 2013. The annual meetings of the legislative and advisory bodies are known collectively as the “Two Sessions.” The Chinese numeral “two” is èr 二 , but Chinese grammar dictates that in most situations involving quantity the word liǎng 两 is used instead (thus the are Liǎng Huì 两会, not Èr Hui 二会). In slang,  èr 二 is a short and jocular stand-in for “stupid,” from èrbǎiwǔ 二百五 (literally “two-hundred fifty”).

Many netizens view the “Stupid Sessions” as a pointless, bizarre pageant, where movie stars and other celebrities are brought to Beijing to “represent” the Chinese people and “vote” on legislation they barely understand. The term “Stupid Sessions” appears to have gained currency during the 2013 Two Sessions. That year was ’s first appearance as a delegate to the . The movie star, already then known to cause massive backlash with contoversial statements, was criticized online after admitting to reporters that he didn’t know what he was supposed to be doing at the meetings.

Other celebrity delegates displayed a similar lack of preparation in 2013: author Mo Yan, whose pen name means “Don’t Speak,” told reporters that he had “nothing to say” at the Congress. Actress Song Dandan, explained that she “still didn’t understand” her role and was “here to learn.” When the media approached director Chen Kaige, he simply said, “I haven’t prepared any motions. I’m going to lunch first.”

With the 2017 Two Sessions set to begin this week, the South China Morning Post reports on what is likely to be on the agenda, including military spending, the upcoming leadership transition later this year, and how to deal with U.S. President Trump and the fallout from Brexit. Meanwhile, as Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign continues, Reuters examines the massive wealth of the richest 100 delegates to the Two Sessions, a topic that has been the target of official censorship and netizen disdain in years past. Political tensions are generally high amid the meetings in Beijing, and last year central propaganda authorities released a list of 21 rules for covering the Two Sessions.

See also soy sauce delegate.