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Emotionally stable

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情绪稳定 (qíngxù wěndìng): emotionally stable

New character combining components of “emotion” (绪) and “stable” (稳).

Stock phrase used by the media to describe people affected by a disaster. This phrase has drawn scorn from netizens for its premature application to catastrophic events and for its implicit suggestion that were it not for the government’s timely intervention, the victims would not be so emotionally stable. For example, in mining accidents the official account, often written just days after the accident, will read something like, “the relevant leaders rushed to the scene to comfort the families. The families are now all emotionally stable.” Or an account of an explosion might read, “The bodies have been taken care of and the families are all emotionally stable.” In the comment page of these stories, netizens will often remark sarcastically, “the deceased is now very emotionally stable” (死者情绪稳定).

The phrase is also applied to social unrest. For example, Foxconn factory workers in Fengcheng, Jiangxi Province protested low wages and unfair treatment in January 2013. A number of protesters were arrested. The Jiangxi Daily soon reported that the dispute had been settled, “the workers are emotionally stable, and the factory grounds have returned to order” (员工情绪稳定,厂区恢复秩序).

The word “emotionally stable” also resonates with the government’s emphasis on creating and enforcing [maintain stability|social stability]. When the official report suggests that people affected by the calamity are “emotionally stable,” the government is in a sense saying that social stability has prevailed when in fact it may be quite tenuous. Netizens who resent this facile application of the term “emotionally stable” speak of being emotionally stabilized (被情绪稳定 bèi qíngxù wěndìng).