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Play a big game of chess

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下一盘很大的棋 (xià yī pán hěn dà de qí): play a big game of chess

This phrase comes from an article written in 2008 entitled, “Understanding China's Strategy: Playing a Big Game of Chess” (解读中国战略:下一盘很大的棋!). (Here, the word "chess" (棋) refers generally to any chess-like game, including chess, checkers, xiangqi, or weiqi.)

In the article, the author likens the strategy of America to the strategy of someone playing international chess, while the strategy of China was more akin to the strategy of someone playing weiqi (围棋) (sometimes called go). The author contends that strategy in the Chinese game involves more cooperation between opposing players. Weiqi is more about spreading influence over a certain territory than it is about annihilating one's opponent. The article ends with the phrase, “It would be a great blessing to the world if competition followed the manner of weiqi and not the manner of international chess” (以围棋而不是国际象棋的方式进行竞争,才是人类的大幸). The article has been used to justify inaction or seemingly incorrect decisions by the government as being part of some larger strategy.

Netizens were skeptical of the article with its metaphorical leaps and latched onto the phrase, “play a big game of chess.” This phrase is usually used sarcastically by netizens to mock the article's categorical justification of whatever the government is doing. For example, "Why does China keep on loaning vast sums to America? Well, I guess it's all just part of their 'big chess game.'" Or, "Why are housing prices so low? I guess it's all just part of their 'big chess game.'"


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