Media regulation

Xinhua's guidelines for political correctness

If you're on the Mainland and can't view Roland Song's ESWN website because of the earthquake-induced broken cable, you will have missed this translation: Banned Terms in Xinhua News Reporting, a translation of a post on the popular Tianya forum. Roland Soong's translation is reproduced in full below.

Aside from the rather predictable rules about Taiwan, it's interesting that most of the list resembles a guide to Western style political correctness rather than the usual Communist Party list of taboo words and subject matter.

Banned Terms in Xinhua News

[Warning: The following is a translation of what is purported to be an Xinhua news agency internal list of banned terms for its editorial departments, domestic and international bureaus. There is no guarantee that this is authentic. If this was fabricated, then the person must have studied Xinhua very, very carefully in order to deduce these rules and regulations.]

[in translation - by Roland Soong]

According to the spirit of the instructions from Comrades Chongming and Chunzhong, the domestic section, international section, external section and news research institute of the general editorial room have collected and organized the banned terms that the various editorial departments have been using in recent years. The first group of banned terms has been published and distributed to the various editorial departments, domestic and international bureaus.

Hereafter, the general editorial room will consolidate all the instances of news gathering in our new agency and continue to gather and organize the banned terms as well as those for which caution must be exercised. The results will be published continuously.

Banned Terms in News Reporting (First Batch)

(1) Banned Terms in Social Life

1. Physically handicapped persons should not be described by denigrating terms such as "cripple 残废人", "one-eyed dragon 独眼龙", "blindie 瞎子", "deafie 聋子", "fool 傻子", "idiot 呆子". Instead, the appropriate terms are "handicapped person 残疾人", "blind person 盲人 ", "deaf person 聋人", "mentally impaired person 智力障碍者".

2. In reporting various facts especially about products and merchandise, do not use "tops 最佳", "best 最好", "most famous最著名" and other terms that have highly evaluative color.

3. In reporting about medicine, do not use terms such as "best curative effect 疗效最佳", "cure once and for all 根治", "safe prevention 安全预防", "safe without side effect 安全无副作用." In reporting about medical drugs, do not use terms such as "cure immediately after taking 药到病除", "refund if ineffective 无效退款", "insured by insurance company 保险公司保险", "latest technology 最新技术", "highest technology 最高技术", "most advanced production method 最先进制法", "king of medicines 药之王", "national-class new medicine 国家级新药," etc.

4. For persons in the art and literature field, do no use terms such as "movie king 影帝", "movie queen 影后", "superstar 巨星", "celestial king 天王". Normally, use instead "art and literature field person 文艺界人士" or "famous actor/actress 著名演员", "famous artist 著名艺术家," etc.

5. In reporting the various activities of various comrade leaders, do not use adjectives such as "in person 亲自."

6. As a national news agency, Xinhua should not be using slang, obscenities and gangster talk such as "Wa-sigh (So grateful!) 哇噻", "Mother's 妈的", etc. If the context requires such terms to be quoted, they should be included inside quotation marks to indicate the context. In recent years, some obscene terms have been condensed on the Internet to "SB", "TMD", "NB", etc, and they too must not be used in reports.

(2) Banned Terms in Law

7. When news reports involve the following types of persons, their real names should not be disclosed:

(1) Relatives of suspected criminals:
(2) Minors suspected of being involved in a criminal case;
(3) Children and women suspected of being involved in a criminal case;
(4) Pregnant women or new mothers who used artificial insemination or other fertility aids;
(5) Persons who have serious contagious diseases;
(6) Mental patients;
(7) Women coerced by force to engage in prostitution;
(8) AIDS patients;
(9) Persons with a drug abuse history or compelled to undergo treatment for a drug addiction.

In reporting about these people, the report can refer to the family of the person but use X as the given name, as in Zhang X, Li X. Aliases are not appropriate.

8. Concerning the principals in a criminal case for which the court has not yet rendered a verdict, "criminal 罪犯" should be avoided and "suspected criminal 犯罪嫌疑人" should be used instead.

9. In civil and administrative case, the plaintiff and the defendant have equal standing in front of the law. The plaintiff can sue, and the defendant can counter-sue. Do not use subjective descriptions such as "the plaintiff sent XX into the defendant's seat."

10. Do not use "Party secretary XX decided to impose administrative dismissal of a certain government cadre." Use instead "Party secretary XX recommended administrative dismissal of a certain government cadre."

11. Do not refer to the "National People's Congress Standing Committee deputy director" as the "National People's Congress deputy director." Do not refer to the "Provincial People's Congress Standing Committee deputy director" as the "Provincial People's Congress deputy director." The members of the various levels of People's Congress Standing Committee are not to be referred to as "People's Congress Standing Committee members" (that is, it is necessary to spell out the level).

12. The "Villagers' Committee Director 村民委员会主任" is abbreviated as "village director 村主任" and not as "mayor 村长." The village cadre is not to be called "village official."

13. When reports on criminal cases refer to "thieves" and "rapists", the social position of the individual should not appear as a prefix. For example, a worker who stole should not be described as "worker thief"; a professor who committed a crime should not be written as "professor criminal."

14. At the State Council's National Audit Office, the top and deputy administrative officials are titled "auditor-general 审计长" and "deputy auditor-general 副审计长." They should not be referred to as "office director" or "deputy office director."

15. The "procurator-general" of the various levels of the procuratorate should not be called the "procuratorate director."

(3) Banned Terms Related To Ethnicity and Religion

16. Concerning the various ethnic group, the insulting terms from the old society must not be used. Do not use "Hui-hui 回回", "brutes 蛮子", etc. Use instead the "Hui ethnic group 回族." Do not use abbreviations. For example, the "Mongolian ethnic group 蒙古族" should not be abbreviated to the "Mongol ethnic group 蒙族," the "Uighur ethnic group 维吾尔族" should not be abbreviated to "Wei ethnic group 维族," the "Kazak ethnic group 哈萨克族" should not be abbreviated to the "Kaz 哈萨", etc.

17. It is forbidden to use slang or professional terminology that may insult various ethnic groups. For example, it is banned to use "Mongolian doctor 蒙古大夫" for a charlatan doctor, or to use "Mongolian" to refer to the condition of Down syndrome.

18. The various branches and tribes of minorities cannot be called ethnic groups. They can be referred to as "XX person," such as "Mosuo person 摩梭人", "Sani person 撒尼人", "Chuanqing person 穿(川)青人", "Deng people 僜人" instead of "Mosuo ethnic group 摩梭族", "Sani ethnic group 撒尼族", "Chuanqing ethnic group 穿(川)青族", "Deng ethnic group 僜族", etc.

19. The ancient names of the ethnic groups should not confused with their contemporary names. For example, "Koguryo 高句丽" should not be called "Korea 高丽", and the "Kazak ethnic group 哈萨克族" and the "Uzbek ethnic group 乌孜别克族" should not be grouped under the broad name of the "Turk ethnic group 突厥族" or "Turk persons 突厥人."

20. "Muslim 穆斯林" is the name used for all Islamic believers, but religion should not be confused with ethnicity. Do not say "The Uighur ethnic group is the Islamic religion" or "the Islam religion is the Uighur ethnic group." When a report refers to "Arabic persons," do not change that to "Muslims."

21. In all reports concerning persons who believe in Islam, "pork" must not be mentioned.

22. When Muslims butcher cows, sheep and poultry, use only "butcher 宰" and not "kill 杀."

(4) Banned Terms Involving Our Territories, Our Sovereignty and Hong Kong-Taiwan-Macau

23. Hong Kong and Macau are special administrative regions of China. Taiwan is a province of China. In any text, map and map annotations, do not describe them as "nations." When a nation and its regions are cited simultaneously, pay extra attention to remember to write as "the nation and its regions."

24. Concerning the "government systems" and other organizations in Taiwan, quotation marks should be used if they have to be mentioned. For example, the "Parliament 立法院," the "Executive Yuan 行政院," the "Control Yuan 监察院," the "Election Committee 选委会," the "Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics, Executive Yuan 行政院主计处," etc. There are also entities that include terms such as "Central," "National," "China (Taipei)," etc. If they must be cited, quotation marks must be added as in the Taiwan "Central Bank 中央银行", etc. The Taiwan "Premier 行政院长", "Legislator 立法委员," and so on should also be placed inside quotation marks. The term "President (Vice-President) of the Republic of China 中华民国总统(副总统)" is strictly bidden, not even inside quotation marks. Use instead the "leader of the Taiwan region."

25. Concerning the so-called "laws" in the Taiwan region, they should be described as "the existing regulations in the Taiwan region." With respect to all legal affairs in Taiwan, do not use terms such as "documentary evidence 文书验证," "judicial assistance 司法协助," "extradition 引渡" etc that are commonly used in international law.

26. Do not refer to the two sides of the straits plus Hong Kong as "two shores, three lands 两岸三地."

27. Do not write "Tourists from Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan visit China." The proper use is "Tourists from Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan visit the mainland."

28. "Taiwan 台湾" and "motherland mainland 祖国大陆" (or just "mainland 大陆") are corresponding concepts. "Hong Kong/Macau" and "the interior 内地" are corresponding concepts.

29. Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau cannot be elevated to the same level as China (as in "China-Hong Kong 中港", "China-Taiwan 中台", "China-Macau 中澳", etc). It is allowed to say "the interior and Hong Kong 内地与香港", "mainland and Taiwan 大陆与台湾" or "Beijing-Hong Kong 京港," "Shanghai-Hong Kong 沪港," "Fujian-Taiwan 闽台", etc.

30. "*****" or "****" must be placed between quotation marks if they must be cited. [Translator's note: In order to be published at the Tianya forum, the original words were asterisked out.]

31. Certain social groups in Taiwan have names such as the "Federation of Chinese Taoist Cultural Groups 中华道教文化团体联合会" and the "the Association to Promote Marriage Across the Straits 中华两岸婚姻协调促进会" which contain the word "China/Chinese 中国/中华 ." If quoted, then the names should be placed between quotation marks.

32. Do not refer to Taiwan as "Formosa 福摩萨." If necessary to quote, then quotation marks must be added.

33. The Nansha Islands (南沙群岛) must not be called the Spratly Islands (斯普拉特利群岛).

34. The Diaoyutai Islands (钓鱼岛) must not be called the Senkaku Islands (尖阁群岛).

35. It is strictly forbidden to refer to Xinjiang as "East Turkistan (东突厥斯坦)."

5. Banned Terms in International Relationships

36. Do no use “北朝鲜 (North Korea)" to refer to the "Democratic People's Republic of Korea 朝鲜民主主义人民共和国." The proper abbreviation is Chaoxian (朝鲜).

37. In certain international organizations, the members included nations as well as regions. When writing about these international organizations, do not use "member nations 成员国" and use "members 成员" instead. For example, do not use "World Trade Organization member nations" or "APEC member nations"; instead, use "World Trade Organization members" and "APEC members."

38. Do not use "Muslim countries" or "Muslim world". Instead use "Islamic countries" and "Islamic world."

39. In reporting on Darfur, do not use "Arab militia." Instead use "armed militia" or "armed tribes."

40. In reporting social crimes or armed conflicts, do not emphasize the skin color, racial and gender characteristics of the suspected criminals and conflict participants. For example, the reports should avoid "black criminals"; use "criminals" directly.

41. In the public reports, do not use "Islamic fundamentalism 伊斯兰原教旨主义", "Islamic fundamentalists 伊斯兰原教旨主义者", etc. Use instead "religious extremism 宗教激进主义 (religious extremists 宗教激进派)" as substitute. If the reference cannot be avoided, then use "Islamic extremist organization 伊斯兰激进组织" but not "extremist Islamic organization 激进伊斯兰组织".

42. Do not mention the "crusaders", etc.

43. In hostage reports, do not use "decapitation 斩首". Use neutral language such as "the hostage was killed by having the head cut off 人质被砍头杀害."

44. Reports on the deaths of combatants in international warfare should not use terms such as "shot dead 击毙", etc. Instead, use "killed", etc.

45. Do not refer to the area south of the Sahara Desert as "Black Africa 黑非洲." Instead, it should be called the "Sub-Saharan Africa 撒哈拉沙漠以南的非洲."

There are currently 15 Comments for Xinhua's guidelines for political correctness.

Comments on Xinhua's guidelines for political correctness

I'm so surprised how 80% of this list is so eminently impartial, considerate, and reasonable. The other 20% is utter....

Exactly. Most of it is just getting anchors to use impartial and considerate language when referring to other cultures, minorities, disabled people, etc. But as soon as they start talking about Taiwan, it turns into ridiculous truth-twisting wordplay. Of course, taking something and simply calling it something else, or leaving an enormous gap between the de facto and the de jure, is the only way they're able to save face in foreign relations.

Interesting post. This quote from a CNN article on Edward Norton in 'The Painted Veil' would certainly raise some eyebrows:

"Though he generally keeps a low profile, Norton said he was recognized while walking through an animal market on the border between China and Tibet."

"In all reports concerning persons who believe in Islam, 'pork' must not be mentioned."


Reply to Alex "Of course, taking something and simply calling it something else, or leaving an enormous gap between the de facto and the de jure, is the only way they're able to save face in foreign relations.

This quote from today's BBC news about "Asia phone links start to recover":
"Services in Taiwan, Hong Kong, China, South Korea and Japan have been hit. "

Hong Kong, China.

It's funny that they'd even have to say this stuff. I mean, it's obvious why you have to explain some of the rules about religion, as a lot of Chinese people don't have the experience of having to be sensitive about it. But why would you need to tell journalists that they're not allowed to write "China-Taiwan relations"?! It just shows how contradictory the systems are.
I love the little trick we have here in Xiamen of including visits from our "Taiwanese compatriots" in the count of "foreign tourists". No wonder people get confused.

"哇噻" origins from Fujian or Taiwan dialect and it means "fuck u". "哇" refers to "I" and "噻" refers to "fuck".

Quick typo in #16:

the "Uighur ethnic group 维吾尔族" should not be abbreviated to "Hui ethnic group 维族,"

维 is Wei2, not Hui - that's the one mentioned before that.

I wonder how many similar entries you'd find in the New York Times style guide.

EDITOR'S NOTE (JG): Corrected, thanks

In #6, what does NB refer to? Niu Bi?

Huh.. Didnt know 'Mongolian' could to refer to Down syndrome in Chinese as well. Never heard that before. Wondering how that term travelled through the world. Came with G Khan to europe and then came to china with the openening up or something?

In response to Mensao, I was pretty sure that "哇噻" meant "oh shit!" because 屎 is pronounced "sai" in Taiwanese. I think 幹 is usually used to mean "fuck" in Taiwanese as well as Taiwan Mandarin.

This is pretty much of a basic style guide that any news organisation has. There is a certain comedy to them - if you think the Taiwan stuff is elaborate, you should see those of British newspapers that relate to how to refer to royalty, people with titles etc. But style guides are very important. It's amazing what seeps through if you don't watch out.
I suspect at Xinhua the really sensitive things are covered in a separate list of terms and people that are "temporarily banned" or, more likely, that mean articles containing them require automatic reference for political approval.

Wasai (哇噻) is a native Wu dialect (Shanghainese) word. Like many multisyllabic Wu words, it has no separable meaning.

I'm pretty sure "哇噻" is actually a phrase used by the Taiwanese to express surprise and it is pronounced "wa sai", in Hanyu pinyin.

As an add-on to my last comment, "哇噻" seems to actually be written as "哇塞", without the left radical in the second character...


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