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Don't understand the actual situation

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不明真相 (bù míng zhēn xiàng): don’t understand the actual situation

Invented character combining the four characters in the phrase “don’t understand the actual situation.”

This stock phrase is often used by the government and official media to describe participants in “mass incidents” (群体事件 qúntǐ shìjiàn), such as riots and protests. It suggests that those who participate in mass incidents do so not because of any real grievances, but because they have been duped by a few schemers with “ulterior motives.”

Even state-run media have questioned this demeaning term. In July 2009, Xinhua ran an editorial suggesting that this phrase should not be the immediate explanation for all mass incidents. The Southern Metropolis Daily commented in August of that year:

Whenever there is a mass incident, some government agencies will always issue statements to the effect that “people who didn’t understand the actual situation” were incited by “those with ulterior motives.” But this pretext is lifeless and unconvincing


Netizens have since co-opted the phrase.

“Braving a complex electromagnetic environment, a group that doesn’t understand the actual situation arrives at a strange maritime space to surround and watch. Currently, the mood is stable.”
A group that doesn’t understand the actual situation surrounds and watches.