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River crab

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河蟹 (héxiè): river crab

River crab wearing three watches (带三个表 dài sān ge biǎo), alluding to Jiang Zemin’s Three Represents (三个代表 Sān ge dàibiǎo).

The Chinese government often uses its goal of constructing a “harmonious society” as a justification for censorship. Chinese netizens began to use “harmony” (和谐 héxié) as a euphemism for censorship. They then imagined a troublesome creature with a name echoing “harmony,” the “river crab” (河蟹 héxiè).

Both “harmony” and “river crab” can be used as verbs. Instead of saying something has been censored, one might say it has been “harmonized” (被和谐 bèi héxié) or “river-crabbed” (被河蟹了 bèi héxiè).

A “crab” is also a bully.

In Chinese Internet mythology, the river crab threatens the habitat of the grass-mud horse, also a symbol of online deviance. A popular cartoon illustrates this struggle.

“Harmonious” written with the insect radical (虫) to suggest “crab” (蟹).
Flag of the Republic of Rivercrabs.


Flag of the People’s Republic of China.

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