Editor’s note for Friday, July 2, 2021

A note from the editor of today's SupChina Access newsletter.

editor's note for Access newsletter

Thoughts today from Lucas, filling in for Jeremy this week:

The line that dominated coverage of Xí Jìnpíng’s 习近平 CCP centenary speech yesterday, at least in English-language coverage, was also the most difficult to translate.

  • Xi said, according to the official Xinhua translation, that the Chinese people “will never allow any foreign force to bully, oppress, or subjugate us. Anyone who would attempt to do so will find themselves on a collision course with a great wall of steel forged by over 1.4 billion Chinese people.”
  • We noted that “on a collision course” was an anodyne official translation for the original Chinese, 头破血流 tóupòxuèliú, an idiom describing a violent battering and utter defeat.
  • Many English-language sources, including the New York Times, chose a more literal translation for the idiom, implying that Xi directly threatened that bullying foreigners would “crack their heads and spill blood.”

A debate ensued on Twitter and elsewhere over how bloody the phrase was meant to be, but regardless of the exact translation, these are two things to note:

  • In Xi’s delivery of the line, he pronounces the idiom tóupòxuěliú — check the tape here. This appears to be an unintentional mash-up of the two ways to pronounce 血, either xuè or xiě.
  • When Xi says this passage of the speech, the idiom is clearly meant to be a militaristic applause line. The camera cuts to PLA soldiers, who roar in approval, turning heads elsewhere in the audience.

And on that note, our word of the day is intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) — 洲际导弹 zhōujìdǎodàn.

We will be off on Monday, July 5, for the Independence Day holiday here in the U.S. The Access newsletter will be back in your inbox on July 6.

—Lucas Niewenhuis, Newsletter Editor (lucas@supchina.com)