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China’s Political Discourse November 2021: A New Resolution on History
By China Media Project
The major event in Chinese official discourse in November 2021 was the release of the Resolution of the Central Committee of the CCP on the Major Achievements and Historical Experience of the Party over the Past Century (中共中央关于党的百年奋斗重大成就和历史经验的决议), passed at the 6th Plenum, only the third such resolution in the history of the Chinese Communist Party. The Resolution, which referred to Xi Jinping's banner term, or qizhiyu (旗帜语), as a "new leap in adapting Marxism to the Chinese context" and emphasized Xi’s "core" position, paved the way for Xi to continue as the Party’s unassailable leader beyond 2022.
November also brought the birth of a new political catchphrase, the “Two Establishes” (两个确立), appearing for the first time in the official People’s Daily newspaper on November 12, and registering a Tier 3 on the CMP scale for the month, with 30 total mentions. The full version of this phrase can now be seen in the Resolution as released in the wake of the 6th Plenum: “The Party has established Comrade Xi Jinping as the core of the CCP Central Committee and the core of the entire party, and has established the guiding status of Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for the New Era.” [The November 15 Sinocism discusses long comments by Chen Yixin on the “two establishes” in which he says the concept “is the greatest political achievement and the most important historical experience since the 18th CPC National Congress”.]
The content of the “Two Establishes” are political matters that were successively established at the 6th Plenum of the 18th Central Committee of the CCP in 2016, when Xi was formally designated as the “core,” and in the political report to the 19th National Congress of the CCP in 2017, when his banner term was formally unveiled. One crucial point of importance in the release of the 2021 Resolution on the history of the CCP was to solidify Xi Jinping’s ideological status by highlighting his ideas and legacy claims in an important high-level document.
The CCP’s Third Resolution on History
As we mentioned at the outset of this report, the major event in Chinese discourse in November 2021 was the passage at the 6th Plenum of the Resolution of the Central Committee of the CCP on the Major Achievements and Historical Experience of the Party over the Past Century.
The resolution was the third of its kind since the founding of the CCP. The first was Mao Zedong’s Resolution on Certain Historical Issues (关于若干历史问题的决议), which was introduced in 1945. This resolution came against the backdrop of the Second Sino-Japanese War, drawing to a close that year, and the Yan’an Rectification Movement, the ideological mass movement within the CCP that had begun four years earlier. By March 1943, having achieved supremacy within the Party, Mao had carried out a purge of elements within the CCP opposed to his rule. The first resolution was meant to summarize the lessons of the political movement under the CCP since its founding in 1921, focusing on the period from the 4th Plenum of the 6th Central Committee (January 1931) and the supposed damage brought about by “left-leaning opportunism” (左倾机会主义).
The second Resolution on Certain Questions in the History of Our Party Since the Founding of the People’s Republic of China (关于建国以来党的若干历史问题的决议), was introduced in 1981 as a corrective by Deng Xiaoping to the “questions” raised by the Cultural Revolution. The document focused on “left errors” in the principles governing economic and political work, and the “confusing of right and wrong,” which resulted in extensive suffering that the resolution acknowledged, with grudging admission of Mao’s culpability, without undermining his revolutionary role.
Both of these first two resolutions were critical in nature, meant as appraisals of the performance of past leaders that firmly established the foundation for the authority of the current leadership group. Though covering a time-frame similiar to the previous resolutions, which were also separated by a period of around 40 years, the 2021 resolution has a purpose vastly different from that of its predecessors.
The chief purpose of the 1981 Resolution on Certain Questions in the History of Our Party Since the Founding of the People’s Republic of China was to reach a basic consensus on historical issues, to establish the legitimacy (合法性) and rationality (合理性) of the new line focused on economic development, and to make a gesture of self-reflection by the Party on the errors committed during the Cultural Revolution. The clear male lead in the 1981 resolution was not Deng Xiaoping but Mao Zedong, who had passed away in 1976. In the 1981 text, running to 34,000 characters, Mao’s name appeared 113 times. The resolution took full account of Mao’s achievements and merits, but at the same time declared the CCP’s correction of the line. “Chief responsibility for the grave ‘Left’ error of the ‘cultural revolution,’ an error comprehensive in magnitude and protracted in duration, does indeed lie with Comrade Mao Zedong,” said the document. “But after all it was the error of a great proletarian revolutionary.”
The male lead in the 2021 Resolution of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party on the Major Achievements and Historical Experience of the Party over the Past Century is undoubtedly Xi Jinping. In the resolution, the top leadership has essentially used a century of CCP history as a stage on which to sing Xi’s praises, establishing him as the leading man in the national drama, and pinning his power and prestige to what is meant to be a hefty and profound historical document. In the 36,000-word document, roughly the same length as the 1981 resolution, “Xi Jinping” appears 22 times against 18 mentions for Mao Zedong, and the CCP’s other top leaders are left in the dust by comparison.
In this year’s resolution, in fact, it can be said that previous leaders, including Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping, Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao, are to a large extent merely reference points for the elevation of Xi. The structure and wording of the resolution place the historical status of Xi Jinping and of his banner phrase, “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era,” on a higher level than that of even Mao and Deng, and far above the heads of both Jiang and Hu.
The clearest sign of this can be seen in the way the 2021 Resolution divides the 100-year history of the CCP into four distinct periods. The first two periods, the “New Democracy Period” (新民主主义时期) and the “Socialist Revolution and Socialist Construction Period” (社会主义革命和社会主义建设时期), are both defined as being under Mao Zedong’s leadership. The third and next stage, the “Reform and Opening and Socialist Modernization Period” (改革开放和社会主义现代化建设时期), covers not just Deng Xiaoping but also Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao, a neat packaging of politics since the late 1970s all the way up through the end of 2012 that effectively diminishes Xi’s immediate predecessors, portraying them as extensions of Deng – or as part of a “post-Deng period” (后邓阶段) that does not merit its own status as the fourth of five stages.
The fourth and final stage is a “New Era of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics” (中国特色社会主义新时代), pioneered by Xi Jinping. And under this re-drawing of historical lines, Xi’s “New Era” is given the same order of magnitude as the periods of both Mao and Deng. A dedicated chapter in the 2021 Resolution dealing with the “New Era” along 13 different aspects forms the bulk of the resolution text. This chapter, which outlines Xi’s achievements since the 18th National Congress in 2012, runs to 19,249 characters, meaning that 53 percent of a resolution dealing with 100 years of history focusses on barely nine percent of that history. The 13 aspects dealt with in this “New Era” chapter include: “comprehensive strict governance of the Party” (全面从严治党); “economic development” (经济建设); “comprehensive deepening of reform” (在全面深化改革开放); “political construction” (政治建设); “comprehensive law-based governance” (全面依法治国); “cultural construction” (文化建设); “social construction” (社会建设); “ecological civilization construction” (生态文明建设); “national defense and military construction” (国防和军队建设); “preserving national security” (维护国家安全); “one country two systems and national unification” (维护国家安全); and “foreign policy work” (外交工作).
We can contrast this voluminous treatment, essentially summing up what can be called “Xi Thought” (习思想) – though this shortened form of Xi’s banner has not yet been formally introduced – with the chapter in the 1981 resolution summing up the legacy of Mao and Mao Zedong Thought (毛泽东思想). This chapter in the second resolution elaborates Mao Zedong Thought along six aspects, the section running to 7,420 characters, just one-fifth of the entire resolution text. So we can see that the portion in the 2021 Resolution dealing with “Xi Thought” is well over double that dedicated to Mao Zedong Thought in the resolution forty years earlier.
When looking at the specialized process of CCP framing of discourse, or tifa (提法), what may seem subtle differences in languages of translation can in fact mark significant points of departure. In the 2021 Resolution, we can see a prominent example of this in the way the text deploys the words “established,” or chuangli (创立), and “formed,” or xingcheng (形成). When the resolution discusses “Xi Thought,” the language used is identical to that used for Mao and Deng. The word “established” appears four times in the text of the Resolution, applied once each to Mao Zedong Thought and Deng Xiaoping Theory, and twice to “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era.” By contrast, both Jiang’s “Three Represents” and Hu Jintao’s “Scientific View of Development” were “formed.” In the official discourse, the gap between “established” and “formed” is unmistakable, the former suggesting agency and formidable contribution, while the latter suggests relative passivity.
Another example of immensely important minutia comes with the use of the word “leap,” or feiyue (飞跃) [The November 11 Sinocism discussed the importance of the use of “leap” in much detail] , which is replete with historical significance as a description of immensity and progress. “Leap” is used seven times in the 2021 Resolution, and three of these instances deal with leading ideologies:
Mao Zedong Thought is the first historical leap in the sinicization of Marxism (毛泽东思想是马克思主义中国化的第一次历史性飞跃).
The Party led and supported a great discussion on the issue of truth standards . . . . formed the theoretical system of socialism with Chinese characteristics, and realized a new leap in the sinicization of Marxism (党领导和支持开展真理标准问题大讨论，……形成中国特色社会主义理论体系，实现了马克思主义中国化新的飞跃).
Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era is contemporary Chinese Marxism and twenty-first century Marxism, the essence of the times of Chinese culture and the Chinese spirit, and has achieved a new leap in the sinicization of Marxism (习近平新时代中国特色社会主义思想是当代中国马克思主义、二十一世纪马克思主义，是中华文化和中国精神的时代精华，实现了马克思主义中国化新的飞跃).
Interestingly, "with Comrade Mao Zedong as the core" also appears in the 2021 Resolution, while in the 1981 text he is identified instead as "with Comrade Mao Zedong as the chief representative" (以毛泽东同志为主要代表) and "with Comrade Mao Zedong as the head" (以毛泽东同志为首). The reason for this is not clear, but one possible explanation is that this choice again equates Xi Jinping, who was designated as the CCP’s “core” in 2016, to Mao Zedong.
Following the release of the full text of the 2021 Resolution, a joke circulated online in China. It went something like this:
A man of letters lamented to himself that few sainted idols had emerged since ancient times. There was Pangu, of course, the primal living being, who had opened up the sky and created everything. He could be counted on one finger. Then there was Confucius, teacher of the world, admired by all. He too could be counted. After these two, however, the man of letters observed that no others were worthy of mention. After thinking about this for the rest of the day, he finally said to himself, "Well, sainted idols sure are hard to come by! Including myself there are just the three of us!"
In this tongue-in-cheek allegory, Pangu is Mao Zedong, the great leader (伟大领袖). Confucius, the great teacher, is Deng Xiaoping. And few readers online would have any trouble connecting the man of letters in the joke to Xi Jinping, whose conceit is to see history converging in this moment, his moment, to apotheosize him as history’s third sainted idol (圣人). By Xi’s own reckoning – or so the joke imagines – only Mao and Deng can claim to be his equals.
2022 is just around the corner, and as momentum builds for the 20th National Congress next fall we can expect the year to be a busy one for official CCP discourse, with “Xi Thought” (习思想) positioning for dominance, and new terms emerging to give shape to the concerns and priorities of the leadership. But this online joke should serve as a simple reminder of the base and not at all learned claims that lie just beneath the surface of these exalted terminologies. And it should remind us, too, to keep our sense of humor.
The Hot and the Cold
About the CMP Discourse Scale:
According to the discourse scale developed by CMP in 2016, based on a historical analysis of keywords appearing in the China Communist Party’s flagship People’s Daily newspaper, we define a six-tier system of discourse intensity based on the total number of appearances of a given discourse term on a per article basis for the full year in the paper. The scale is as follows:
For 2021, CMP will adjust its classification method for CCP discourse, determining the intensity (热度) of Party terminologies according to the absolute number of articles including those terms in the People's Daily newspaper. Previously, CMP used a proportional method, which looked at the number of articles including a particular catchphrase (提法) as a ratio of total articles in the newspaper over a given period. Our monthly classification standard, based on the six-level scale created in 2016, is as follows:
In November, the word “pneumonia” remained in Tier 1, consistent with its performance since the 18th National Congress of the CCP. Other phrases at the top of the CMP scale included “with Comrade Xi Jinping as the core” (习近平同志为核心), “belt and road” (一带一路) and Xi’s banner term, “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for the New Era” (习近平新时代中国特色社会主义思想). All of these terms rose from Tier 2 to Tier 1 for November, on the back of intensified use in the context of the Resolution.
The rise in intensity of Xi’s full-length (sixteen-character) banner term brought a corresponding rise in the five main “Xi Thought” permutations dealing with major policy areas. “Xi Jinping Thought on a Strong Military” (习近平强军思想) and “Xi Jinping Thought on Diplomacy” (习近平外交思想) both rose from the bottom at Tier 6 to the middle of the CMP scale at Tier 4. “Xi Jinping Thought on Rule of Law” (习近平法治思想) rose one level from Tier 4 to Tier 3.
Xi’s banner-related phrase for the sector of economic policymaking, the eighteen-character “Xi Jinping Economic Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era” (习近平新时代中国特色社会主义经济思想) has moved between Tiers 6 and 5 through 2021. The phrase appeared in a total of four articles in the People’s Daily in November, making Tier 5 and rising one level from the previous month. The shortened form of the phrase, “Xi Jinping Economic Thought” (习近平经济思想), which appeared for the first time in the People’s Daily in July this year, was mentioned in one article in November. The only banner term-related phrase to drop in frequency of use was “Xi Jinping Thought on Ecological Civilization” (习近平生态文明思想), which relates to environmental policy.
The phrase “pilot at the helm” (领航掌舵), or “helmsman,” a reference to Xi Jinping that bears overtones of the Mao era, when Mao Zedong was often referred to as the “great helmsman” (伟大的舵手), rose two levels from Tier 6 to Tier 4. Those interested in a more detailed history of “helmsman” and its application to political leaders in China can turn to Qian Gang’s analysis, “A Brief History of the Helmsmen,” written a year ago when the label was applied to Xi Jinping at the 5th Plenum.
The following table shows the key terms we reviewed for the month of November 2021 and how they rated on our scale:
The Litmus List
The nine keywords on our Litmus List, a group including seven terms synonymous with past leadership and two generally indicating discussion of political reform, were arrayed across Tiers 4, 5 and 6 in November. Starting at the bottom in the cold territory of Tier 6 were both “political system reforms” (政治体制改革), a phrase generally associated with more liberal reform tendencies, and “harmonious society,” a phrase associated with former leader Hu Jintao. Moving up the scale, “inner-party democracy” (党内民主), a phrase associated with more conservative steps to explore greater deliberative and competitive mechanisms within the CCP, was in Tier 5. The remaining terms on the Litmus List were all in Tier 4.
While “political system reforms” remained at the bottom in Tier 6, it did appear in three articles in November, right on the edge of Tier 5. The first appearance came in the full text of the Resolution, where a section concerning the “carrying out of reform and opening and socialist modernization” mentioned that the Party had “actively and steadily promoted political system reforms.” The second appearance came in an article in early November introducing chapters in the latest Xi Jinping book, On the People as Masters of the Nation (论坚持人民当家作主). The article mentions a portion of Xi’s political report to the 19th National Congress that deals with “Fully Building a System of People As the Masters, Developing Socialist Democratic Politics” (健全人民当家作主制度体系，发展社会主义民主政治). The specific text, including the new Xi book, says that “[the Party] must support over the long term, and continue to develop, our country’s socialist democratic politics, actively and steadily promoting political system reforms.”
The third appearance of “political system reforms” came on November 4 in an article called “A Great Historical Achievement: More Perfect System Guarantees” (彪炳史册的伟大成就更为完善的制度保证), attributed to the Theoretical Study Center at the official Xinhua News Agency. In summarizing Xi Jinping’s ostensible contributions to institution building since he came to power, the article said that he had “promoted reforms to Party and government institutions, deepened reform of the state supervision system and [promoted] steady progress on political system reforms.”
The Centrality Index
Xi Jinping once again, and not at all surprisingly, topped the rankings among officials on the CCP’s Central Committee in November. With a total of 712 articles mentioning his name, Xi was solidly in Tier 1. Mentions of “Xi Jinping” were 20 times greater than those for the number-two CCP official in terms of mentions, Li Keqiang (李克强). Repeating a pattern seen through much of 2021, Tier 2 was empty of CCP officials, a visual representation of the yawning gap that sets Xi apart from the rest of the Politburo Standing Committee.
Li Keqiang, Han Zheng (韩正) and Huang Kunming (黄坤明) were in Tier 3 for November. Leaders in Tier 4 included Wang Yang (汪洋), chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC); Wang Chen (王晨), a former state journalist and Information Office director who is now head of the Standing Committee of the 12th National People's Congress; Liu He (刘鹤), the vice-premier dealing chiefly with economic planning issues; Ding Xuexiang (丁薛祥), director of the CCP’s General Office; Sun Chunlan (孙春兰), the vice-premier dealing chiefly at the moment with anti-epidemic measures; Wang Huning (王沪宁), a key figure behind much of Xi Jinping’s framing of key issues and policies; Hu Chunhua (胡春华), a vice-premier and former CCP chief of Inner Mongolia; Li Zhanshu (栗战书), chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress; and Yang Jiechi (杨洁篪), the CCP’s top diplomat and former ambassador to the United States.
Central Committee members in Tier 5, meanwhile, included Zhao Leji (赵乐际), secretary of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection; Cai Qi (蔡奇), CCP Secretary in Beijing; Chen Xi (陈希), head of the CCP’s Organization Department; Guo Shengkun (郭声琨), director of the Political and Legal Affairs Commission; Zhang Youxia (张又侠), a People’s Liberation Army general and vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission; Li Qiang (李强), the CCP’s top man in Shanghai; and Yang Xiaodu (杨晓渡), director of the National Supervisory Commission, the country’s top anti-corruption body.
All other Central Committee members were in Tier 6, with 0-3 mentions for the month.
There were reshufflings in November of top leaders for seven provinces and autonomous regions (自治区), including Jiangxi’s Yi Lianhong (易炼红), Hunan’s Zhang Qingwei (张庆伟), Shandong’s Li Ganjie (李干杰), Guangxi’s Liu Ning (刘宁), Tibet’s Wang Junzheng (王君正) and Heilongjiang’s Xu Qin (许勤). In the chart below, these leaders are shown in RED.
On November 12, the People’s Daily published a series of interviews with leaders attending the 6th Plenum called "'A Programmatic Marxist Document': Attending Comrades Discuss the Spirit of the Sixth Plenary Session of the 19th Central Committee." The word “general secretary (总书记) appeared 20 times in the article, signaling references to Xi Jinping, and the word “provincial CCP secretary” (省委书记) appeared 8 times, with mention of the following provinces (in this order): Fujian, Shandong, Shandong, Hunan, Hubei, Liaoning, Henan and Hainan. Xi Jinping previously served as CCP secretary in both Fujian and Zhejiang. The article also included an interview with a village-level CCP secretary who served as a delegate to the 19th National Congress in 2017. This was Yin Jiping (尹计平), the leader of Tawanzhuang Village in Hebei’s Zhengding County (正定县). Between 1982 and 1985, Xi Jinping served successively as deputy secretary and secretary of Zhengding County. As vice-premier in January 2008, and as CCP general secretary in July 2013, Xi Jinping made official inspection visits to Tayuanzhuang Village.
As the provincial secretaries of Hunan and Hubei were interviewed, they stressed a theme that was reiterated across CCP media in November – namely, Xi Jinping’s solicitude for the people and his leadership both in mobilizing the campaign to eliminate poverty and in fighting the Covid-19 epidemic. This was related in part to the fact that Xi Jinping made his first mention of the phrase “targeted poverty alleviation” (精准扶贫) in Hunan’s Shibadong Village (十八洞村). After Xi visited the village in 2013 it became a model for poverty alleviation (脱贫典型), featuring prominently in propaganda.
Hubei and its capital city of Wuhan saw the worst of the Covid-19 epidemic during its start in the first months of 2020, and the November 12 People’s Daily article quoted Hubei CCP Secretary Ying Yong (应勇) as recalling that “closing down channels out of Wuhan showed boldness in taking charge.” Moreover, said Ying, Xi’s reported statement that, “The people of Wuhan enjoy eating live fish, so when the right conditions are in place we must ensure they are supplied,” showed the sincerity of the general secretary’s feelings for the people.” The war to contain Hubei, Ying concluded, had “fully demonstrated that the central Party with Comrade Xi Jinping as the core is the most reliable pillar of strength when the storms and extreme pressures come.”
It was Ying Yong, formerly deputy Party secretary and mayor of Shanghai (and rumored to be a close ally of Xi Jinping), who was sent to Hubei on February 12 of 2020 to replace Jiang Chaoliang (蒋超良), after the latter woefully bungled the response to the Covid-19 epidemic in its early weeks. Jiang formally resigned his position as chairman of the standing committee of the Hubei People’s Congress in early March 2020. More than a year later, however, he was quietly reinstated by the NPC Standing Committee to the position of vice-chair of the National People's Congress Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee.
The November 12 article in the People’s Daily included a number of quite over-the-top assessments of Xi Jinping, symptoms of the tide of loyalty signaling that has been rising steadily since the last National Congress of the CCP, and will likely continue unabated in the run-up to next year’s 20th National Congress. Those interested in learning more about this phenomenon through CCP history can turn to Qian Gang’s April 2020 article “The Delicate Dance of Loyalty.”
In the People’s Daily article, Zhejiang CCP Secretary Yuan Jiajun (袁家军) was quoted as saying that the latest Decision on CCP history “must necessarily promote the achievement of unprecedented ideological unity, unprecedented political unity, unprecedented strength organizationally, and an unprecedented mastery in [work] style throughout the entire Party.” Hainan CCP Secretary Shen Xiaoming (沈晓明) looked back on development in Hainan and said that the four stages demarked in the CCP’s Decision has already been applied to his province:
Under Comrade Mao Zedong’s command, Hainan was liberated and ‘carried out revolution to the end.’ Under the direction of Deng Xiaoping, ‘We decided to develop Hainan island,’ and the province was designated as a special zone, and development continued to accelerate under the care and support of Comrade Jiang Zemin and Comrade Hu Jintao. Today it is under the personal planning, deployment and promotion of General Secretary Xi Jinping that Hainan has the historic opportunity to deepen reform and opening and build a free trade port with Chinese characteristics.”
This passage accords perfectly with general framing in the Decision itself, which treats Xi as the leader of a revolutionary new era, putting him on par with Deng and Mao – while the two decades under Jiang and Hu fade by comparison. For more on this, see our Focus Topic analysis above.
Vladimir Putin and Joe Biden both remained in Tier 4 for November 2021, the two foreign leaders registering highest on the CMP scale. Interestingly, neither “Merkel” nor “German chancellor” appeared in the People’s Daily for the month, even as Merkel’s stepping down as chancellor of Germany was in the offing. Other central-level Party publications, including the Xinhua Daily Telegraph (新华每日电讯), the Worker’s Daily (工人日报) and the Economic Information Daily (经济参考报) all reported that Olaf Scholz was set to succeed Merkel, but the People’s Daily did not.
Looking across Chinese official media in November, two alternative translations of “Olaf Scholz” could be found, including “Shūěrcí” (舒尔茨) and “Shuòěrcí” (朔尔茨). The final official version of the new German chancellor’s name in Chinese will likely become clear by year’s end.
The top group of countries in terms of coverage in the People’s Daily in November 2021, all appearing in Tier 2, included the United States, Russia, Japan, Germany and Italy. Britain, France and South Korea led the 18 countries down one level in Tier 3, followed closely by Cambodia, Thailand and Pakistan. Brazil, Canada, Mexico and Belgium were the top countries in Tier 4, which also included India, Iran, the Philippines, Afghanistan, Vietnam and Australia.
Israel, Palestine, Turkey, Syria and Cambodia all appeared in Level 5.
Xiao Li Weeps in the Face of Difficulty Helping Out
In November, the focus of Chinese internet users turned to a case beginning back in September in the city of Anyang (安阳), in Henan province, involving an attack on an 80 year-old resident by a neighborhood dog. Despite receiving a great deal of local media attention in Henan, the case had remained unresolved. Video footage showed that the owner of the dog in question, Wang Xingang (王新刚), was at the scene of the attack. Wang refused, however, to accept any responsibility. On September 29, after being approached by the elderly resident who had been attacked, Henan TV had run the first of what would become 10 segments on the case on a program called “Xiao Li Helps Out” (小莉帮忙), hosted by anchorwoman Xiao Li. In the first segment Wang was reported to have said to police: “Did [the dog] bite? Let the law decide. I’ve never believed the [surveillance] video.”
Questions about the details of the Anyang dog attack and who should be responsible persisted through episode after episode until finally, during the tenth episode on November 17, anchor Xiao Li turned to the camera with tears in her eyes, saying to the attack victim: “I just feel so deeply sorry that despite resolving [issues on] so many programs, we’ve been unable to help you out.” This scene quickly became the focus of national attention, and the search thread “Xiao Li weeps in the face of difficulty helping out” (遇到最难帮的忙，小莉哭了) trended red hot.
As it turned out, there was a deeper story behind this newly trending meme. The owner of the dog in the case, Wang Xingang, happened to be an enforcement official in the Anyang Municipal Administration for Market Supervision and Regulation. Internet users speculated that Wang had been able to avoid responsibility for the dog attack by pulling strings behind the scenes. But the outcry online apparently had an effect. On November 19, two days after the final Xiao Li segment, Wang’s bureau in Anyang announced that, effective immediately, “a certain food and drug inspector surnamed Wang” had been suspended, and an investigation was underway.
The odd case of the September dog attack and its November resolution following the tears of a television anchor gives us our first November surprise phrase, “Xiao Li weeps in the face of difficulty helping out.”
700 Million Stamps for Liang Bing in 2020
On November 17, China Construction Fourth Engineering Division Corp. Ltd (中国建筑第四工程局), a subsidiary of the state-run China Construction Engineering (CSCEC), posted an article to its official public account on WeChat that sought to favorably publicize the work of Liang Bing (梁冰), an employee at the firm responsible for applying the company’s chop to documents. The WeChat article contained one line that caught the attention of internet users. “700 million applications of the stamp!” the article boasted on behalf of Liang Bing and the construction company’s Stamp Service Office (印章服务室). It continued: “5,964 office actions (OA) handled! A notation rate of 100 percent! No errors! This is the job data for Liang Bing in 2020.”
Chinese internet users did their math on these incredible claims by China Construction Fourth Engineering, figuring that in order to use the company stamp 700 million times in a single year, Liang Bing would have done nothing but apply the stamp every single day – and at super-human speed. Assuming 22 work days per month, at eight working hours per day, she would have had to apply the company stamp 5,524 times per minute, or 92 times per second. This would mean, amused internet users pointed out, that Liang Bing was speedier than a submachine gun. The impossible claims about Liang Bing’s achievements in the office quickly went viral, making the phrase “Liang Bing made 700 million stamps in the past year” (在过去一年时间里, 梁冰7亿多次施印) one of our surprise phrases for November 2021.