Phrase of the Week: Ulterior Motives

Phrase of the Week: Ulterior Motives

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.

biéyǒuyòngxīn 别有用心 

Former Foreign Ministry Spokesman Qin Gang: “Those who claim that the Chinese government supports hackers have ulterior motives.” (Tencent)

A phrase often used by the official media to blame foreign forces and domestic dissidents for social unrest and criticism of the Chinese government.

Netizens sometimes twist this phrase to mock the government.


Wengtao2015 (@翁涛2015): If you yell on the street, “Diaoyu Islands belong to China!” you are a patriot. If you instead yell, “Outer Mongolia and Vladivostok belong to China!” you may be arrested as a mad person or someone who has ulterior motives! Why is that? (February 14, 2015)

如果你站在街上喊:”钓鱼岛是中国的!” 你就是爱国者;你若喊:”外蒙、海参崴是中国的!”,你就是有可能被当作疯子或者别有用心抓起来!这是为什么? [Chinese]

In August of 2016, “ foreign hostile forces” with “ulterior motives” made multiple appearances in the apparently scripted confessions of the first round of trials for rights lawyers and activists detained in the 2015 “Black Friday” crackdown. The language being used in the courtroom confessions and echoed by state media coverage was suspiciously similar to that being used in a parallel propaganda campaign warning against foreign attempts to foment a “color revolution” in China.

See also foreign (hostile) forces.

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.

Open popup

Welcome back!

CDT is a non-profit media site, and we need your support. Your contribution will help us provide more translations, breaking news, and other content you love.