China cliches: Hu knows Wen?

An amusing missive from Kaiser Kuo, at least for those of us who have lived in, or reported from, China.

It’s a sort of dirge from a weary soul who’s just seen too many bad articles/headlines/captions by foreigners about China. Just a few excerpts:

Welcome to Beijing, friends from the foreign press! I greet you on behalf of the many expatriates who’ve lived in Beijing for years. …

Please do not write “Beijing is a city of stark contrasts” and refrain from using any variation thereof — “a city of startling juxtapositions,” or (needless to say) “a city of yin and yang.” Not that it isn’t a city of, um, rather pronounced differences; it’s just too damned lazy an observation to make. A special enjoinder to photographers: please resist the temptation to position yourself in a hutong with a decrepit but charming tile-roofed courtyard home in the foreground and a shiny, hyper-modern steel-and-glass skyscraper rising behind. No using Blade Runner comparisons for Beijing. You’ll want to save those for Shanghai, believe me.

The bureaus of reputable western papers here in China have a rule against quoting taxi drivers. But since Beijing’s cabbies are so fabulously colorful, you will be permitted one exception. Make it a good one. Helpful hint: That story about efforts by our city’s cabbies to learn English phrases? That one’s been written several thousand times so please, anything but that one…

No writing “There is an ancient Chinese curse that says, “May you live in interesting times.’” There isn’t such a curse. No writing “the Chinese word for crisis includes the character for opportunity and the character for danger.” That it may be true doesn’t reduce my aggravation each time I see it in print. In fact, just to be safe, avoid anything involving “an ancient Chinese saying.” This will save you, anyhow, from having to Google for choice quotes from Sun Tzu or Confucius’s Analects.

Try your best to avoid phrases like “China’s rising middle class,” “the Little Emperors” and “ideological (or moral) vacuum.” Find a descriptive for security personnel other than “stone-faced.” And only use “Great Leap Forward” if you’re covering events like the triple jump or pole-vaulting….

While we’re on puns, some common ones to avoid include pander/panda and the always irksome Peking/peeking. And no using “your average Zhou” or “Zhou Sixpack.” There will be absolutely no punning on the interrogatives “who” or “when” and the family names of the Chinese president and premier, respectively. I know you’re thinking, “Hu knows Wen I’ll get another chance like this?” and I feel for you, but just resist it, okay?

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