A Linguistic Analysis of the “Go China” Recital

The Tuluotuo Blog published a linguistic analysis of the “Go China 2009” (or zhongguo jia you, “2009, 中国加油!”) recital on December 30. While an encounter with the video can be scary, it is also a good piece of work in terms of rhythms and probably better than many so-called “new poems”, says the blogger – and while the content is also very rich, the same might be said about the devil himself. The blogger states his thoughts one by on after reading the recital. The recital video he discusses is here. The following is my translation of the Tuluotuo post.

1. Who wrote it?

There are people who suppose it is the product of brainwashing education. This assumption is probably wrong.

a) Our party has always promoted the position of hiding ones capacity (韬光养晦) *). This recital is too sharp – it attacks “Western values” right at the beginning, ridicules French president Sarkozy, and this is by no means a brainwashing style. The party doesn’t favor this, and the teachers aren’t that daring either.

[Update: Please read C.A.’s suggestion 1 in the comments underneath, concerning the CCP’s position.]

b) The recital’s style is much more colorful than the language those working in the field of brainwashing use. The images the recital uses are quite complex and shows a strong sense of beauty. A talent with this aesthetic ability and creativity is unlikely to be a rural primary or secondary school teacher. Even if someone with these talents worked in the brainwashing industry, they’d lose their characteristics very soon and would hardly have the energy to waste on this piece which is no breadwinner after all.
[Update: Please read C.A.’s suggestion 2 in the comments underneath.]

c) Brainwashers are usually left-leaning, but where this recital leans left, it isn’t serious. The rhymes tossed here breathe nationalism and patriotism, and hardly any collectivist or socialist values. Even chairman Hu’s Three Don’ts – don’t sway back and forth, relax our efforts or get sidetracked (不动摇不懈怠不折腾) – can be interpreted from a nationalistic position. It has no strong linkage with a left-leaning position. The recital even uses the word “celestial” [or “dynasty”]. That doesn’t go down well anymore. It makes people think of a haughty, careless, ivory-tower Qing-Dynasty official. What is really funny is that the recital is using the word exactly as a compliment, just in the way of national pride a century ago. I haven’t heard this wording for a long time. So it seems the backside of Chinese spirit is being recovered to some extent.
[Update: Please read C.A.’s suggestion 3 in the comments underneath.]

d) Based on the video and the above language analysis, I tend to believe that this is a prank played by angry youth (fenqing, 愤怒青年). They cheer China and excoriate France and Japan at the same time. France had caught the attention of China’s media because of the Olympic Games and the Dalai problem, and they have been the villains in the eyes of some young people for many years. Japan, because of history, is viewed as an enemy by many young people with a shallow understanding of the world.

e) The most likely scenario I see is that this video was made by university students who did support work for primary and secondary schools in the countryside.  They don’t care too much about the political left and right – that’s outdated vocabulary from previous generations. What really moves them is nationalism, pride in China’s changes, and anger at impediments by other powers. One can also see this from vocabulary like “jia you / Go China”. We’ve heard them shouting this before, after the torch had passed France, and those who – sometimes tearfully – shouted it were mainly college and university students. This would also suggest that the initiators of the recital were young students who had come to a rural school.

2. Who recited it? (A phonetical analysis)

Their [update: the childrens’] stature isn’t small; I think they should be first- or second-year students. That said, sixth-form can’t be completely ruled out either. Where are they? Their clothes and the classroom suggest that it is a rural school. From where?

Their pronunciation may answer this question. The childrens’ retroflection is very much in place, without the wittiness of the Northeasterners, or the [??] of Tianjin or surrounding Hebei. Every retroflection is simple, robust, and full, with a lot of resilience and tension. This can only come out of “our celestial” capital. Therefore, these children can only come from a school from Beijing’s rural hinterland.

[Update: Please read C.A.’s final suggestion in the comments underneath.]

The blogger then suggests that “human-flesh searchers” should leave the school alone. The schoolkids had only done what they were told to, they’d study when told to study, and farm when being told to farm. They themselves probably had very little contact with the internet. A search could only do them harm.


*) This phrase can be explained in an idealistic and religious way such as at baidu.com:

This is language from Taoist culture. Tao guang (韬光) means restraining ones own radiance. Yang hui (养晦) means paying attention to the inner self-cultivation and practice.

On the other hand, you an also see a more worldly meaning in it. Globalsecurity.org and  peopledaily.com.cn had differing interpretations.


Suggestions, corrections and improvements concerning this translation are welcome

12 Responses to “A Linguistic Analysis of the “Go China” Recital”

  1. Just some suggestions for you to consider:

    # 1 我党向来提倡韬光养晦,这个朗诵过于尖锐.

    In international relations, our Party often prefers not to show off her full potential. This recital is too incisive …

    (Here additional information is required in order to put the expression 韬光养晦 in an appropriate context, since, as you say, the expression has multiple meanings)


  2. Suggestion #2:


    Even those with talent would have learnt to be more world wise after they have worked in the brainwashing industry. They will seldom waste time and energy on activities (or endeavours) that are unlikely going to earn them prestige, money or promotion prospect.


  3. Suggestion #3:


    They even use an expression such as “celestial dynasty” in the recital. We have to understand that this expression no longer carries a positive connotation, as it used to do more than a century ago. The spirit that supported China’s national pride had been tossed around and turned up-side-down by our Westernised elite since the New Culture Movement. Nowadays, the mentioning of the phrase “celestial dynasty” will only conjure up an image of a proud and arrogant Qing Dynasty Mandarin, whose existence is no long relevant to the modern world. However, I am pleasantly surprised to find that the phrase seems to have carried a positive connotation in this recital. It is even more unusual that the phrase has been uttered with a sense of national pride, as if the spirit that sustains China has been some what restored.


  4. Final suggestion:

    侉味儿 can be translated as “non-standard” or “sub-standard” when it is used to describe someone’s accent


  5. Hm… this post needs a lot of refurbishing. I think I’ll start with it tonight. Happy new year!


  6. Happy New Year!

    I’m glad that you’ve translated this article. I think Tuluotuo’s analysis is good and is worth translating. You’ve made a really good effort. In fact this piece of writing is more difficult to translate than Zeng Jinyan’s.


  7. Sounds like it is a brainwashing went wrong.

    BTW, the brainwashed and the brainwasher don’t always say the same thing. It takes very special skill to have the brainwashed synchronized with the brainwasher, especially when the brainwasher is changing its tune. And the brainwasher don’t always do what they say.


  8. I think I agree that this piece of brainwashing went wrong – and that it is a product of brainwashing. Sometimes wondering however if nationalism is a mob’s tool to openly speak their minds on issues that are usually the CCP’s monopoly (at least on patriotic issues), or if nationalism is the CCP’s tool to manipulate (or brainwash) the people. Maybe it works in two directions?


  9. The word “celestial dynasty” (天朝)has been quite popular recently among Chinese netizens. In mitbbs.com, one of the forums websites for overseas chinese scholars, students and professionals, I’ve seen this word being used numerous times, often in a positive way, maybe with a little sarcastic tone added.


  10. My understanding is that slang such as “celestial dynasty” has been invented to circumnavigate the GFW radar. It was initially used among netizens at portals such as douban and club2.cat898 and had created a sense of community and/or solidarity among those who shared a similar political view. The hijacking of the expression and the injecting of a positive connotation to the expression suggest to me there is a deliberate attempt to infiltrate these Internet communities. The appearing of this expression at mitbbs.com with a positive connotation may also indicate (1) there is an overlap in membership between this oversea discussion forum and those at douban and club2.cat898; (2) there is a very deliberate effort to harmonize these members.


  11. Hi Goodlifester. I think the Celestial stuff sort of reflects the party line, too. It’s a fine line between rejecting inglorious feudalism and celebrating 5000 years of celestial culture. With the three represents being part of the doctrine, what else can a propaganda department do but to revisit and re-use history?



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