NPC and the internet Thunders: Browsing Tour

Written by Julen Madariaga on March 11th, 2009

fireshot-capture-29-e4b8ade59bbde694bfe5ba9ce7bd91-www_gov_cn_zlftThere was some buzz last week on the Chinese internet about this supposedly new concept of  Online Democracy. The excitement started with the weird “elude the cat” story, and then continued when Premier Wen JiaBao chatted online with “internet friends” .  David Bandurski of the China Media Project, who has been watching these things for a long time, was rather sceptical, although  some interesting ideas appeared in his comments.

I go back to this because I am surprised there hasn’t been much said about the internet chats that for the first time have been organized with legislators participating in the NPC-CPCC Annual Sessions. Where has all this gone?  Not even the Chinese language internet seems to be very interested, judging by the search 网络民主.  It is obvious that without a strong push of the propaganda machinery the “internet friends” don’tpay much attention to these initiatives.

And why didn’t the State Media push it this time? Perhaps they are bored of it already, or perhaps  not everyone was very hot for the idea of “online democracy”. For example,  NPC chairman Wu Bangguo, one of the strong men in the politburo standing committee, who made these encouraging statements yesterday.

In the end, it is not so much about democracy (that’s too big a word for the NPC), but more about trying to give it some sort of role in participatory politics that would allow the legislators to take into account at least some requests of the public. The problem is, this year again, the NPC has given an image of being just a big annoying “Carnival”,  where the guest’s only role was to clap at the words of Mr. Wu.

Did I say the only role? No wait, the deputies  also have the duty of making proposals, and some of them must be pretty talented, judging by their phrases “amazing like thunder”.

ULN takes you for a browse

But follow me for a minute as I browse the Chinese internets, see what interesting things we can find on this subject. A good place to start is izaobao, with their daily roundup of bloggy stories:

以前我很关心两会,因为那时候很傻很天真,认为这两场嘉年华真能改变些国家民族的命运。现在我还是很关心两会,因为总有些的雷人语录,给无趣的生活带来了很多有趣. 这些雷人语录(简称雷语,三表老师原创)自然轻易就占据了媒体网络的头条,因此也带来了另一个问题,大家把太多目光聚集在雷语上,可能就忽视了春风——那些真正有价值有专业水平的提案。我相信我们的代表委员绝不会全都是倪萍奶奶那样的智商水平,其中应该不乏精彩的提案,可是为虾米不公开给大家看呢?以现在的技术手段,应该不是什么难事吧。

I used to pay attention to the NPC-CPCC, because I was stupid and innocent, I used to think these 2 “carnivals” were really going to change the destiny of the Chinese people. Nowadays I still pay attention to them, because there are always “thundering statements”(雷人语录), which bring interest to an otherwise boring life  (… ) this also brings another problem: everyone is paying too much attention to the “thundering  statements” and possibly missing some of the “spring breeze” - that is, those proposals that might have some value and professionalism. I am sure in our NPC-CPCC not all have the IQ of NiPing, there must be some with excellent proposals. But why don’t they do it in public, with the technological means we have today?

And that’s what I ask myself, why not in public? Let’s try to follow some links and find out:

First, this cue of deputy NiPing, it  is not linked here but we will easily google it. There you are, it is a funny story: the typical embarrasing situation where an older lady that could be anybody’s mum tries to use buzz words of the online community, like shanzhai (山寨). The uncoolness she radiated could be sensed all the way from Guangzhou, were finally this blogger saved the World by proving that she had no idea of what she was talking about, even though nobody really knows what this rapidly morphing word means.

Forget NiPing. Let’s follow the links on the Izabao article. One of them goes to our familiar “3 watches” blogger, who attempts to coin or re-coin the term  雷人语录 (thundering statements) into the shorter and perhaps cooler  雷语 (er.. thundering statements). Wondering if the Chinese internet slang really needs any more innovations, we leave this blog  and continue our quest for some Thunder material, wishing “3 watches” luck with the promotion of his new word.

OK, don’t get impatient. We are almost there.  Let’s check on the link to  Sina, which brings us some pretty thundering stuff straight from a newspaper in Chongqing,  the “Chongqing South Journal”

据中新社电 全国“两会”期间,人大代表和政协委员踊跃建言,“炮声”隆隆。不过在“炮声”之外,也有不少代表、委员发表的一些“异类”观点,被网友用时下很流行的一个词“雷人”来形容。

According to China News, the NPC-CPCC is on, and the deputees are enthusiastically advising, with a rumble like a cannon. But apart from the “cannon” activity, there are also some atypical points of view, that the internet friends describe with the buzz word “thundering

What are these thundering points of view? Something we need to look into more carefully. The article gives 3 interesting examples that we will skim-translate, so that you can get the gist of it:

Thunder N.1 : “For 5 Million, I’d  sure admit you 20 points down”



This  is about the problem of access to schools. Deputy and Schoolmaster Liu ChengMing says:  ”It is a normal phenomenon, some people’s children are only missing a few points to get into a school, they wish there was another way to compensate, and there you go: you spend a little bit of money and get in, that is the most normal thing in the World. Some experts say that the money shouldn’t break the equality given by the points, but this is a rigid attitude. If someone gives me 5Million, even with 20 points less for sure I would admit him, then keep 1Million for the school and give 4 to other schools!!

Thunder N.2: Lin JiaXiang is a great Cadre!



This is about a party secretary in Shenzhen who was suspected of molesting girls and removed from office. NCP deputy and minister of transport etc.  Liu Gongchen said:  “Lin is a great cadre, come on, who hasn’t been drunk sometime”.  And adds: ” the internet can kill people, he is just an unlucky egg!!”

Thunder N.3:  Just give a woman a hen…


全国政协委员张晓梅建议,应加大发挥女性的社会优势,倡导女性精神应对经济危机。她举例说:“如果给一个女人一只母鸡,她会节俭下自己的口粮, 饲养它生蛋孵鸡,并在鸡与蛋的循环中,帮持家用,供弟妹上学,继而产生无限生机和力量;如果同样一只母鸡给到一个男人手中,最有可能的结局是炖了被用来当 作下酒菜。”

This CPPCC member Zhang Xiaomei suggested the feminine spirit is the best to deal with the economic crisis. “If you give a woman a hen, she eats sparingly, feeds the chicken until it lays eggs..blahblah.. take the children to Beida with the proceedings and what not. But give the hen to a man, most probably he will eat it. An internet friend commented: then the best against the crisis is sex change surgery.

On to 1515

Whatever, that was a good read and we are beggining to get tired of so much translation, even if it is approximative. Let’s switch to the link, see what we can find there. Finally, we do find some kind of serious analysis here.  Or perhaps not, it is a column posted on Xinhua’s herald.

[...] 前两天和一位政协的领导聊天,他说,你们媒体每年都会问,为何有些政协委员又请假了,追得紧了,自然会对这些老是清假的委员们产生压力,他们以后 就不敢了。我倒是没有这样乐观,因为对一批政协委员来说,这个头衔不是他们自己想要得,而是作为一种荣誉和社会地位主动给与他们的,既然他们从来没有想要 过,那来自外界的压力,又怎样会改变这样的状况  [...] 不过对于那些雷人的议案,公众在批评和议论之余,还应该看到这样一点,毕竟因为提案并不是完全公开,大家能够知道的,只不过是数千份议案 中的很小很小的一部分,因此这些被媒体曝光,或者是代表委员们自己向媒体透露,或者是透过代表委员们自己开设的博客主动向公众阐述的,不能够反映代表委员 们的普遍水平。[ ... ]   好的议案被忽略有几个原因,第一是媒体缺乏信息来源,因为不是每个委员代表都愿意公开自己的提案,很多人愿意低调的实实在在的做 事情,第二则是因为媒和公众本身,媒体觉得不吸引眼球,而这种判断,是因为公众对于严肃的问题缺乏兴趣,这也就让那些雷人的议案传播效应越来越大.

After explaining the origin of the expression ‘Thundering” (雷人)from Japanese cartoons and a few other things, the author speaks about his chat with a CPCC  deputy, who says that media puts a lot of pressure on some members to attend the meetings and stop asking for holidays.

But the situation will not change because many didn’t really choose to be CPCC members, it is just a honour and social status given to them. They have no capability and no willingness to participate. Perhaps we should consider other ways to reward these guys instead of forcing them to seat  in the boring NPC-CPCC every year. There are already enough proposals in the CPCC so perhaps they should just resign.

Among the thousands of proposals that are issued in the NPC-CPCC, the ones that everyone can see are only a tiny part.  They surely don’t represent the general level of the deputies. The media does not publish many proposals of deputies either because many of them don’t want to make statements in public, or just because the proposals are too serious and would not attract the readers, which is precisely the reason why the ‘Thunders” do go public.

Some notes

So there you go, a few different points of view from the chinese blogosphere. Note, these Chinese blogs are not necessarily representative of the mainstream opinions in the Chinese internet, but rather of what is - in my opinion anyway- the intelligent fraction of the Chinese internet.

I hope you have enjoyed the ride. This is my first attempt at bridge blogging proper, if you find it useful let me know and I will try to do more. Otherwise I guess I will stick to commentary in English, where I am more time-effective.

IMPORTANT: the translations above are not meant to be verbatim. Browsing with ULN means that you see what I see and you skip what I skip. I have tried to convey the tone and the message of the originals, but feel free to correct me if you see some translation error.  Chinese readers, now is the time to take revenge for all my mocking of Chinglish signs.

Any thundering comments?

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Comments so far ↓

  1. Mar

    NPC will never be a mature legislature as long as they only show up in March. And their job is not only coming up with good proposals but also seeing to it that laws are enforced, overseeing the work of the governments,especially the local governments. I’m not concerned with their proposals. No matter what, 3000 members are numerous enough to bring about engough good proposals despite those thundering statements. Just hope someday they can pick up their watchdog role.

    [Reply to this comment]

  2. Mar

    Mmm. I agree that the real problem is not the “thundering proposals” in themselves, but rather the role of the NPC and how much power the party really allows it to have.

    But in my understanding the NPC is more like a legislative body (ie making new laws) rather than checking enforcement, which in our Western systems belongs to the Judiciary.

    Oh, well, but what do I know. Top leader Wu Bangguo said very clearly yesterday that China has a unified system and doesn’t need the separation of 3 powers. But in this case: why keep running this expensive Beijing Carnival every year?

    PS: In your comment I think you are mistaking the role of the NPCongress with the role of its participants. These participants are part of the State Council and as such hold positions (like minister, for example) that do government work. But the NPC itself is meant (at least in theory) to have legislative power.

    [Reply to this comment]

    uln Reply:

    Testing threaded replies

    [Reply to this comment]

  3. Mar

    Dude, putting Chinese in italics makes it difficult to read. Good post though.

    [Reply to this comment]

  4. Mar

    Hi FOARP, glad you liked it. I will see what I can do about the characters. The italics are not done intentionally, it is just the “quote” function is defined like that in my blog.

    Then again, this post is probably not so useful for people who read Chinese (they can just follow the links and surf on their own) but rather for the ones whose reading skills are low and can benefit from a “browse with ULN” trip.

    Also, I am not sure if the post is understandable for those not familiar with China. I might have gone a bit too fast over terms like “雷人” and “山寨”. This would be a pity, because the main objective of posts like this is to introduce outside people to the fascinating world of the Chinese internet.

    So please, if you read this post and didn’t get it, leave your comment or questions so I can answer. This will help me improve for the next time.

    Any err.. thundering feedback?

    [Reply to this comment]

  5. Mar

    NPC-CPCC were not set up the way Westerners used to relate to their own legislative bodies. They were set up at the end of World War II when CCP and KMT negotiated for a peaceful agreement, including these consultant organizations as possibly some kind of compromise. That did not worked out and the civil war broke out and the rest is now history. They were and still are ,no more and no less, political tools of the winning Party.

    The true people’s power came out through political struggles and more often than not by violent force; they could NEVER be established by means of negotiations among political forces. That power was the Revolutionary Committees in the 1970’s or, what are equivalent, the Soviets in the former USSR in the early stages of the October Revolution during and shortly after 1917.

    There is no legislative body which holds true peoples power either in China or in the first world, as yet. Those bodies serving their capitalist masters’ fundamental interests are quite popular these days, but when and after the financial crises developed to their noontide , they will be overthrown and replaced with genuine peoples’ organizations. So be patient. A far brighter world than this gaudily flowering one will come all!

    [Reply to this comment]

  6. Mar

    Wow, now that IS a thundering comment. Well done!

    Congratulations, and stay assured: in this blog we will always be watching out for those gaudily flowering Worlds, and we will not fail to report if some brighter future comes hopping down the road, so that all our brothers can join the authentic revolution.

    Thanks for sharing your ideas.

    [Reply to this comment]

  7. Apr

    Por si interesa, dejo aquí un enlace a un artículo que habla del origen de una de las palabras que mencionas en el post: “shanzhai”, un saludo.

    [Reply to this comment]

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