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.
- yīqiē dōu shì gāngang kāishǐ! 一切都是刚刚开始!: All of this is only the beginning!
- dào guózéi 盗国贼: thief who is plundering the nation
- zūnjìngde wǎngyǒu, nǐmen jīntiān jiànshēn le mǎ? 尊敬的网友，你们今天健身了吗? : Respected netizens, have you all gotten your exercise today?
These phrases, regularly used by Guo Wengui (郭文贵) on Twitter and in his daily personal video updates, are being echoed by Chinese netizens in Weibo comments and shared in graphic memes. While English-language news coverage of Guo’s accusations has been relatively sparse in recent weeks, his words continue to receive intense attention among Chinese-speaking social media users, both on Western platforms and, as these catchphrases’ presence shows, on their censored counterparts within the Great Firewall.
Based in the U.S. since 2013, Guo Wengui in March levied allegations suggesting that the official corruption targeted by Xi Jinping’s ongoing anti-graft campaign is more serious and pervasive than previously known, implicating high-ranking CCP officials such as Wang Qishan, Meng Jianzhu, and Fu Zhenghua. Guo’s allegations—for which he claims to have evidence that will be unveiled in an upcoming “global news conference”—would validate long-running theories that Xi’s anti-corruption campaign is actually a means for the president to level his political opponents.
The allegations from Guo—who is known to have connections to the Ministry of State Security—unsurprisingly irked the CCP leadership. Beijing responded by waging a media war against the billionaire, successfully lobbying for Interpol to release a “red notice” for his arrest, and issuing repeated censorship directives forbidding unsanctioned commentary on Guo. As Guo’s battle with Beijing has been heating up, the politically-connected tycoon has been posting daily video updates on Youtube since May 3, and sharing them on Twitter where he has a substantial and growing number of Chinese followers. In addition to sharing his daily videos, he has also used his Twitter account to flaunt his wealth, showing off his private jets, yachts, and lavish properties; and to share his exercise photos and urge his followers to work out.
With propaganda authorities promising “serious consequences” for unsanctioned news commentary and social media discussion about Guo, a Weibo search for his name returns only state news stories portraying him in a negative light. (Guo’s name “郭文贵” is currently the #1 “hot search” on FreeWeibo, where many censored Weibo posts on Guo can be seen.) However, Weibo searches for the above listed phrases, all regularly used by Guo, reveal results and are being used widely by netizens. This suggests that many Weibo users are also following Guo’s YouTube videos or his Twitter account, and are hence being exposed to his side of the story.
Even verified official media Weibo accounts have gotten in on the action. CDT Chinese editors yesterday compiled knowing and supportive netizen reactions to a post from China Youth Magazine (@中国青年杂志) which mimicked Guo’s call to fitness, and also included another recently coined subversive meme:
While many responses to the post referenced the netizen-created term “donkey people,” some replied by using different Guo Wengui catchphrases. Others offered support with thumbs-up and burning-candle emojis. When “big-V” user SeSeHou (@色色猴) used two of the phrases in a post, he received similar responses. Since he apparently purposely botched the first phrase slightly, a follower was there to help him out:
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.