The U.S. State Department’s 2010 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices seems to have been the inspiration for a page on Baidu’s online encyclopedia coining a new word: 人权教师爷 rénquán jiàoshīyé. Renquan means “human rights,” jiaoshi means “teacher,” and ye literally means “grandfather.” It is commonly used in martial arts, and in its extended meaning of someone who tells others what to do like a martial art master barking commands to his students. So the sense is that the U.S. is arrogantly and condescendingly “teaching” the rest of the world about human rights.
Jiaoshiye is not a common word: The reason I looked it up is because General Secretary Xí Jìnpíng 习近平 used it in his speech (in Chinese) today celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Third Plenary Session of the Eleventh Central Committee of the Communist Party. That was the meeting — according to the Party’s simplified narrative — that launched the reform and opening-up policy.
In the speech, Xi says, per the translation of the Associated Press and other media, “that no one can ‘dictate’ China’s economic development path.” The Chinese phrase is:
méiyǒu kěyǐ duì zhōngguó rénmín yízhǐqìshǐ de jiàoshī yé
“Nobody can be the teacher master of the Chinese people.” Although the U.S. is not explicitly mentioned even once, the word jiaoshiye sends a very clear message to a domestic audience: Xi is going to stand up for China against America.
But that was not the focus of the speech — Chris Buckley and Steven Lee Myers of the New York Times characterized it as “an unabashed defense of his policies” in this story titled China’s leader says Party must control ‘all tasks,’ and Asian markets slump.
- “Some analysts and investors” had hoped that Xi would indicate “clearer priorities to counter economic headwinds and trade tensions that have flared with the United States,” says the Times, but they were disappointed: “Instead, he used the meeting, broadcast live on Chinese television, to stress that only the party’s dominance would allow China to continue its stunning transformation into the decades ahead.”
- That the Party is large and in charge is the only clear message running throughout the speech. Aside from that, Xi made many “rhetorical swerves,” such as “promising both greater openness and assertiveness, both strong state companies and prospering private businesses.”
- Stock markets dropped in Asia “even as Mr. Xi spoke,” says the Times, and the speech is likely to dampen investors’ hopes for trade tensions to ease: Ryan L. Hass, a former director for China at the National Security Council, told the Times that his Chinese contacts had “described the speech as the place where Xi would send a signal to Trump on his own terms about the market openings and other reforms on the horizon.” However, he added: “If those messages were embedded in the speech, they appear to have been well concealed.”
Here are some other highlights of the speech (the translations are my own):
- Xi says that China is “the only civilization in human history that has not been interrupted for more than 5,000 years, which means that change and openness are generally the historical norm.” Elsewhere, he says reform and opening up have “a long history and profound cultural roots in China.”
- “Reform and opening up is not easy,” says Xi, so China must be prepared for “all kinds of obstacles, risks, and even perilous storms that are difficult to imagine” (难以想象的惊涛骇浪 nányǐ xiǎngxiàng de jīngtāohàilàng).
- “We must dare to be number one in the world; dare to forge ahead; dare to try, but we must also be dependable; charging ahead at a steady pace; uniting reform with development and stability.”
- “We’re a huge country. Comrade Máo Zédōng 毛泽东 said: ‘This is only the first step of the Long March. If we’re proud of this step, it is completely insignificant compared to what is coming in the future… We are not only good at destroying the old world, we also will be good at building a new world.’”
More coverage of Xi’s speech
The speech was something of a Rorschach test for news editors:
- China’s Xi urges implementation of reform but offers no new measures / Reuters
- China’s leader seeks to assuage concerns over its growing influence / NBC
- Xi Jinping: China to stick to Communist rule and its own path to cope with ‘unimaginable’ perils / SCMP
- Highlights of Xi’s speech at a conference celebrating 40 years of reform, opening-up / China Daily
- Four takeaways from Xi Jinping’s speech / NYT (porous paywall)
- Xi Jinping’s story of reform / China Media Project