The Word of the Week 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.
Tongue-and-cheek reference to China’s political system. The phrase “truth of the universe” first appeared in the PLA Daily in the May 22, 2013 article “Where Is Confidence in the Chinese Dream?” (中国梦的自信在哪里), written by the paper’s assistant chief editor, Sun Linping:
Faced with today’s complex and variable international environment, the task of formidable and complicated domestic reform and development, and the real trials and dangers confronting the Party, serious strengthening of our single-minded cooperation in building faith in the Chinese dream first requires holding fast to our belief in socialism with Chinese characteristics and sincere faith that “the doctrine in which we trust is none other than the truth of the universe.”
“Truth of the universe” gained cultural currency as it stood in contrast to Fudan University professor Su Changhe’s declaration in the May 28 edition of the Guangming Daily, “Western Democracy Must Be Demoted from Universal Idea to Local Theory” (需将西方民主从普世知识降级为地方理论):
Western democracy is already showing signs of decay. This should put on guard those developing countries still searching for a path to building a political system… We must pull apart the language of Western democracy. To have a truly free spirit and an independent national character, we must first take the idea of democracy promoted by a minority of Western countries and demote it from universal to local.
Netizen “Chenli701” summed up the reasoning of the state press: “We have the truth of the universe. Isn’t everything else just local theory? (我们都有宇宙真理了，其他还不是地方理论). These two contradictory pieces of propaganda gave rise to the sardonic use of “truth of the universe” in online discussions of China’s political system.
Want to learn more subversive netizen slang? Check out Decoding the Chinese Internet: A Glossary of Political Slang. Available for $2.99 in the Kindle, Google Play, and iTunes stores. All proceeds from the sale of this eBook support China Digital Times.