Word of the Week: Take a Walk

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. 散步 (sànbù): take a walk
“Walking” in central Beijing, February 2011. (Jordan Pouille)
Along with “sightseeing,” “taking a walk” is a new form of resistance in China. Striking is difficult, applications for protests are routinely denied, and petitioning the government often brings dire consequences. Workers and citizens have adopted new methods that tread the fine line of legality. In February 2011, an online source attempted to stage a “jasmine revolution” by organizing groups to “walk” in the central Beijing shopping district of Wangfujing. Yu Jianrong, a researcher at China’s Academy of Social Science, gives a vivid description of this method: Workers’ methods of resistance include petitioning higher levels of government, sit-ins, strikes, demonstrations, and blocking traffic. Two extremely important recent methods of resistance include “taking a walk” and “going sightseeing.” [PowerPoint slide] Take a look, these are workers from Baoding “taking a walk” to Beijing on April 3, 2009. It is 137 kilometers from Baoding to Beijing. When I learned the news [of the workers’ “walk”] and rushed over, they were almost at the Xushui County toll station. At the time Beijing was very tense; Shijiazhuang was very tense; Baoding was very tense. A lot of people and workers were sent to negotiate; they said, “You can’t go to Beijing like this.” The workers answered by saying, “Is there a problem with us going to Beijing to go sightseeing? There’s nothing wrong with it. What law says we can’t go to Beijing to do some sightseeing?” Those [sent to] persuade ...
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