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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 comes from the 2008 article “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 qí) refers generally to any chess-like game, including chess, checkers, 象棋 xiangqi and go, also called 围棋 wéiqí.) The article likens U.S. strategy to international chess, while Chinese strategy is more akin to 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.'"