Word of the Week: Fitting Shoe
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.
Homonym for harmonious (héxié 和谐) and river crab (héxiè 河蟹); derived from a speech Xi Jinping delivered in 2013 in which he compared different countries’ “paths to development” to different sizes of shoes—tailored to that country, not one-size-fits-all.
On his first trip abroad as China’s president, Xi Jinping delivered a speech at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations on March 23, 2013. Xi called for cooperation between Russia and China, emphasizing the two nations’ shared interests in peace and stability and countering international criticism of China’s “developmental path”:
We maintain that every country and its people ought to be respected. We must insist that countries are treated equally, regardless of size, might, and wealth. We must respect the right of each country’s people to choose their own developmental path. We must oppose interfering in the internal affairs of other countries, and defend international impartiality and justice. “Only the wearer knows if the shoe fits.” As for whether a country’s developmental path fits, only the people of that country have the right to say.
On Weibo, netizens quickly took Xi to task, noting that they have little say in China’s development. No matter how small or uncomfortable the “shoe,” ordinary Chinese can’t ask for one that truly fits. Commentator Wuyue Sanren wrote:
Wuyuesanren (@五岳散人): My take on the shoe-and-foot question: Whoever buys the shoes has the last word. The common people pay taxes, so they have the right to say whether or not the shoe fits, as well as the style they want. A well-chosen pair of shoes also comes with a warranty and the privilege to exchange or return the items. The shoes themselves don’t have the qualifications to say whether they fit or not. Shoes that do aren’t shoes, they’re shackles.
关于鞋与脚的问题我是这么想的：谁花钱买鞋谁说了算，老百姓纳税了，有权表达鞋是不是合脚，以及鞋子的款式。选好了鞋子还要有三包服务，也要有退换货的权利。鞋子本身没有说自己是不是合脚的资格，有这个资格的不是鞋子，往往都是脚镣 (March 25, 2013) [Chinese]
Over time, “fitting shoe” has been verbalized to “shoe-fit,” an alternate writing of “harmonize,” itself a euphemism for censorship. For instance, a photo of an income receipt for a retired cadre is accompanied by these words:
JohnnieWalker_qiangneiban (@JohnnieWalker_墙内版): #FromG+ From Weibo. It’s already been shoe-fitted.
#FromG+# 来自微博，已被合鞋。(August 20, 2015) [Chinese]
See also river crab.
Can’t get enough of subversive Chinese netspeak? Check out our latest ebook, “Decoding the Chinese Internet: A Glossary of Political Slang.” Includes dozens of new terms and classic catchphrases, presented in a new, image-rich format. Available for pay-what-you-want (including nothing). All proceeds support CDT.