Several major media in China, including the Qilu Evening News, Shandong TV, Sina, Tencent, and Netease, jointly initiated the recent 2013 Chinese Keywords Contest. The public could participate through TV, newspapers, the Internet, and other channels to vote for the 10 words they think have been most popular in 2013.
The winning top 10 Chinese characters are: “ge” (revolution), “mai” (haze), “meng” (dream), “lao” (old age), “lian” (uprightness), “jian” (frugality), “du” (traffic jam), “an” (security), “wei” (micro-communication), and “zhang” (rising).
1. ‘Ge’ (revolution): the want of changes
The public generally yearn for drastic social reform in China.
Dec. 10 was International Human Rights Day. On that day, 12 victims of forced demolition from Wuhan Province attempted collective suicide at the south corner of Tiananmen Square in Beijing. They decided to end their lives by ingesting pesticide after years of fruitless petitioning about the forced demolition of their homes.
After the incident, while in hospital treatment, 10 of them were taken away by the authorities and put in criminal detention. Two escaped in time from the hospital and are still missing.
Government corruption, judicial darkness, institutional injustice, collapse of social trust, and public-official opposition are most prominent in today’s China. The frequent bombings and suicide cases in front of government buildings reflect people’s extreme despair.
2. ‘Mai’ (haze): fresh air is only wishful thinking
Environmental pollution increasingly worsens in China. What frustrates the public the most is that the authorities are still unable to identify the cause of the smog, not to mention how to treat it.
From north to south, Chinese people are suffering greatly under the heavy smog. It also affects South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macao, and even as far as America’s Pacific West coast. In other words, the haze pollution in China turns out to be a problem of international concern.
3. ‘Meng’ (dream): the entangled Chinese dream
The new leader Xi Jinping came up with the new slogan “The Chinese Dream” to inform people of what their dream should be: “national revival,” the dream of an economic powerhouse. The actual dream of Chinese people is one of equality and universal values.
On May 13, 2013, the Party’s mouthpiece media published the article, Seven Ways the Chinese Dream Differs from the American Dream, stressing that the Chinese have an entirely different dream than that of the Americans.
Apparently, the leaders don’t think Chinese dream for “inalienable Rights, including Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness,” which is the basis of the famous American dream.
In real life , 66-year-old Quan Youzhi, who has lived underground for 20 years in Beijing and makes her living by garbage scavenging, said that her dream was to be able to save some money for her family who lived far away in Henan Province. The most that she’s managed to save in a year is about 900 yuan.
4. ‘Lao’ (old age): what comes after retirement?
By the end of 2012, senior citizens (age 60 or over) reached a total of 194 million in China, and made the nation an “aging society.”
Although China is the world’s second largest economy today, and the Chinese government has also been recognized as one of the world’s richest, its effort in medical and pension investments is far less than desirable. Moreover, the implementation of the one-child policy and the dual retirement system are now making their impact shown.
A restful, healthy life after retirement is only a dream that countless ordinary elderly can never realize.
Official data shows that in 2010, only about 24 percent of senior people in the mainland were able to rely on a pension for a living.
5. ‘Lian’ (uprightness): the want of an honest and fair government
Transparency International is a non-government organization that monitors corruption of all governments across the world. Since 1995, the organization has published the Corruption Perceptions Index annually for major countries. China’s Corruption Perceptions Index ranking dropped from 40 in 1995 to 80 in 2012, reflecting the failure of the “anti-corruption” campaign.
6. ‘Jian’ (frugality): living a plain life
In China, housing, health care, and education are three heavy financial burdens to ordinary people. They drain the money out of countless families, forcing them to live a frugal life.
7. ‘Du’ (traffic jam): jam on roads, jam in the heart
It is common for vehicles not to yield to pedestrians in China. The way that pedestrians cross a street is also very characteristic of China, and is rarely seen in other parts the world: When people form to a fairly large crowd at the intersection, they will cross the road no matter what the traffic lights indicate.
8. ‘An’ (security): the want of a safe life
Sixty-two people were killed in the recent explosion of the Sinopec pipeline in Qingdao in November 2013. Another 121 people were killed in an explosion at the Baoyuanfeng Poultry Company in Jilin in June 2013.
Aside from multiple deaths and injuries from industrial accidents, horrifying social violence is prevalent. For example, 6-year-old boy Tong Guobin was abducted while playing near his home in Shanxi Province on Aug. 24. He was later found with his eyeballs scooped out.
On March 4, a car thief found a 2-month-old baby in the back seat of the car he’d stolen from a supermarket in Changchun City. He strangled the baby to death.
9. ‘Wei’ (micro/internet-communication): fight for the right to speak
Many of the major social events in the past year were discussed and spread online long before the official media publicized them. First-hand information was uploaded through micro-blogging, micro-messaging, or micro-videoing. These channels also contributed to revealing corrupted officials.
However, since August 2013, under the guise of “combating cyber rumors,” over 100,000 Sina Weibo (micro-blogging) accounts were forbidden or permanently closed off.
10. ‘Zhang’ (rising): “people’s money” (yuan or RMB) not the people’s
From water, electricity, and gas to food, oil, and real estate, the prices of all things has been on the rise. The purchasing power of 1,000 yuan in 2013 was equivalent to that of 576 yuan in 2005.
In the past eight years, the yuan has appreciated more than 34 percent to the US dollar. The strange phenomenon of appreciation outside the country while the yuan devaluates inside China makes people sigh: “the people’s money” is not actually for the people.