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拆哪 (Chāi nǎ) demolish it
拆哪 (chāi nǎ) demolish it

Revision as of 18:41, 20 August 2014

拆哪 (chāi nǎ) demolish it

Bulldozer with “demolish” written on it, the extension of the bureaucratic arm. (金羊网)

Chāi nǎ mimics the sound of the English word “China.” “Demolish” (拆 chāi) has a special meaning in contemporary China, as demolitions, often forced on tenants with little or no compensation, are one of the major sources of social instability. Developers and the local government profit greatly from forcibly evicting people from their homes to build on the land. Anger over forced demolition lead the people of Wukan, Guangdong to fight the local government, eventually laying siege to their village in December 2011.

哪 nǎ means “where” or “which.” Hence, Chāi nǎ also sounds like the question “Where/which should be demolished?” and mocks the ubiquity of demolition.

All over China, 拆 is spray-painted on the sides of buildings slated for demolition. People who have had their homes demolished are called 拆迁户 chāiqiānhù.

Linguist Victor Mair has a collection of nicknames for China, including chāi nǎ, on his Language Log blog.

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