The Chinese Communist Party’s stodgy house journal is the People’s Daily. For most of the time that I have been browsing it — since 1995 — it has been very restrained in its language about foreign countries, whether friendly or hostile, and about domestic enemies, whether dissidents or fallen officials.
During the Cultural Revolution (1966–76) and even in the 1980s, the People’s Daily published strong language — calling out reactionaries (反动派 fǎndòngpài), capitalist roaders (走资派 zǒuzī pài), Soviet Revisionists (苏修 sū xiū), paper tigers (纸老虎 zhǐlǎohǔ), and cows, ghosts, snakes, and demons (牛鬼蛇神 niúguǐshéshén).
Today’s top opinion piece (in Chinese) on the People’s Daily website does not quite match that level of hysteria, but the language in it is perhaps a sign of the agitation felt within the Party leadership about the trade war with the U.S.
Titled “America ratcheting up the trade war is a bullying provocation to the world,” the piece opens with the assertion that “White House trade policy has completely lost its rationality, and its bullying behavior has accelerated to the point where it shocked the world.” The piece argues that China is a defender of multilateralism and the global trading order, and that it is outrageous to expect Beijing to abandon its core interests and take irrational steps because of threats from the White House.
The language that made me recall earlier days — long before I lived in China — when the People’s Daily was full of salty invective about imperialists, was this question in the opinion piece: “Where do these lunatic ravings in the White House come from?” The Chinese is 白宫这种痴人说梦式的良好感觉从何而来? (báigōng zhè zhǒng chīrénshuōmèng shì de liánghǎo gǎnjué cóng hé ér lái?).
Many dictionaries define 痴人说梦 chīrénshuōmèng as “lunatic ravings,” but Baidu’s user generated dictionary would translate the People’s Daily’s question as “Where do these lunatic ravings in the White House come from?” SupChina’s Anthony Tao suggested a translation that’s perhaps closest in spirit to the original: “How do these White House idiots get off on this fanciful notion?”
It’s worth noting that despite the People’s Daily’s strong language, China’s media and internet censors are apparently all making sure that no one makes a fuss about the trade war in media reports.