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Demolish it

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拆哪 (chāi nǎ) demolish it; literally “Where to demolish?”


Chāi nǎ mimics the sound of the English word “China.” Chāi 拆, “demolish,” has a special meaning in China. Demolitions, often forced on tenants with little or no compensation, are one of the major sources of social instability in China. 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 means “where” or “which.” Hence, chāi nǎ also sounds like the question, “Demolish where?” 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 chāiqiānhù 拆迁户.

Victor Mair has a collection of nicknames for China, including chāi nǎ, at Language Log.


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Bulldozer with the character “demolish” written on it depicted as the extension of the bureaucratic arm.
The “God of Wealth” is the head of demolitions, wearing a robe emblazoned with the character “corrupt.” He is awarding a contract to a developer in exchange for a gold ingot.
This man’s salary lays atop a large “demolish” character.