When the Communist government wants the People to have faith

Like English, the Chinese word for “faith” or “belief” (信仰) doesn’t necessarily have spiritual,religious, or metaphysical meaning. I most often encounter this word in two ways. First, from random men like taxi drivers and people on the bus who give a thumbs up and say, “Religious belief is good!” in response to finding out what I think about certain things. They almost always don’t have any ä¿¡ä»° themselves, but nonetheless have the general impression that believing in some religion – whatever religion – is a good thing.

The second way I often see this word is on the propaganda posters like the one above, which increasingly saturate public spaces from sidewalk vendors’ booths to hospital waiting rooms:

社会主义核心价值观
Socialism Core Values
人民有信仰,国家才有力量。
When the People have belief, then the nation has strength.

The Core Values get laid out in three categories: *国家 Nation, **社会 Society, ***公民 Citizens:

*富强、民主、文明、和谐
Prosperity, Democracy, Civilizedness, Harmony;
**自由、平等、公正、法治
Freedom, Equality, Justice, Rule by law;
***爱国、敬业、诚信、友善.
Patriotism, Dedication to one’s work, Integrity, Friendliness.

Although using ä¿¡ä»° this was might not be an explicitly religious reference, it does seem that the government sees its package of traditional Chinese culture, ethics (most emphasized: filial piety) and patriotism as direct competition for the spot formal or informal religions/ideologies/worldviews (including “Western values”) would occupy in the hearts and lives of the People.

In a similar but more eye-popping line of posters, the Chinese literally reads: “[Insert Core Value here] is a belief.” To read more about how the government uses “belief/faith” you can click that link, and also see Joann Pittman’s, In Democracy We Trust..

Been to any good Parties lately?

The past year or two’s ongoing propaganda campaign is the most extensive we’ve seen during our time China. This is from the Qingdao North Train Station:
goodparty_happypeople
The big words say:

THE COMMUNIST PARTY IS GOOD 共产党好
THE COMMON PEOPLE ARE HAPPY 百姓乐
BLESSED HOUSEHOLDS 幸福人家

The small words list the Core Values of Socialism.

Surely I’m not the only one who thinks of Animal Farm whenever they see that first slogan…

Unintentionally terrifying Chinese democracy poster

To find out what “democracy is a belief” is maybe intended to mean, and how Chinese communists have the gall to promote “rule of law” and “democracy”, see Joann Pittman’s In Democracy We Trust. (She blogs faster than me, and beat me to the punch with the Princess Bride video.)

Democracy is a Belief
What the heil?
It’s only February, but here’s my submission for Chinglish of the Year — Shangdong Art Institute Media College students’ “I Speak for Socialist Core Values” posters. Click each Chinese word to view its poster, mouseover for pronunciation:

富强 (prosperity)
民主 (democracy)
文明 (civility)
和谐 (harmony)
自由 (freedom)
平等 (equality)
公正 (justice)
法治 (rule of/by law)
爱国 (patriotism)
敬业 (dedication to one’s work)
诚信 (integrity)
友善 (friendship)

I hope it’s abundantly clear that in Chinese Communist Party-land, these words — freedom, democracy, rule of law — don’t mean the same thing that they do in the West. It has nothing to do with Chinglish or mistranslation; they’re using different definitions.

Below are two current propaganda posters from our neighbourhood bulletin boards. Mouseover the Chinese for translation and pronunciation:


社会主义核心价值观
社会主义核心价值观是当代中国价值追求的精神之纲
Socialism Core Values
Socialism Core Values are the guiding principle of the spirit that contemporary Chinese values are seeking.


社会主义核心价值观:富强、民主、文明、和谐、自由、平等、公正、法治、爱国、敬业、诚信、友善.
Socialism Core Values: prosperity, democracy, civility, harmony, freedom, equality, justice, rule of/by law, patriotism, dedication to one’s work, integrity, friendship.

With each new Chinese “president” (read: Chairman, as in “Chairman Mao”) we get a whole new raft of propaganda. 2015, aka the Year of the Goat, is shaping up to be China’s most ideological year since Mao (and the NYT and the China Daily aren’t wasting any time). Under Chairman Xi the emphasis moves further away from Jiang Zemin’s Three Represents, Hu Jintao’s Scientific Development, Harmonious Society, and Stability Maintenance to the Chinese Dream, the New Normal, and Socialist Core Values.

P.S. – Sorry, I just couldn’t help myself. It’s a heil of a good pun…