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Don't understand the actual situation

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不明真相 (bùmíngzhēnxiàng): 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 “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. On Sina Weibo, a user comments on the lack of transparency associated with the scandals surrounding Guo Meimei:

中青报曹林: A Tencent user asked me whether I feel sorry for Guo Meimei. My answer is: I don't feel sorry for Guo Meimei. I feel sorry for those of us who don't understand the actual situation, who have been fooled this entire time. In the beginning, we were fooled by Guo Meimei. Now, despite the fact that some people are telling us the truth, many still feel like they are being fooled.


“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, they are emotionally stable.”
A group that doesn’t understand the actual situation surrounds and watches.

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