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School of Languages, Linguistics and Film

Welcome to Chinese Catchwords

This blog features short essays between 700 and 2000 words, analysing catchwords/phrases in Chinese contexts to inform academic and public understanding of contemporary and transnational China.

This research blog features short reflective and analytical essays about Chinese catchwords and catchphrases, which include those currently used in Chinese languages as well as catchwords or catchphrases about China in other languages.

Catchwords and catchphrases emerge from and circulate across various linguistic, social and cultural settings, including policy, academic papers, entertainment, everyday conversations, social movements, news media, social media, and more. This blog aims to generate discussions about discovering, examining and analysing these catchwords or catchphrases in Chinese contexts and how they can inform our understandings of 'China'. To initiate this conversation this blog proposes that a catchword/phrase can be loosely defined in relation to some or all of the following features:

  1. These are words/phrases which have acquired distinctive connotations or are neologisms;
  2. Their origin as such can be traced to a specific social juncture;
  3. From the juncture of origin, they are increasingly used extensively (across contexts) and intensively (frequently);
  4. Such usage may involve adaption across various contexts by shifting or enriching connotations or by meaningful modifications;
  5. These are not produced for the purpose of marketing commercial products;
  6. Such words/phrases are likely to be associated with other words/phrases which are regarded as political;
  7. These may eventually lose their distinctiveness and growing purchase to enter ordinary-language usage or to have diminished purchase as clichés.
  8. Do note that none of these rules of thumb suggest that catchwords/phrases are keys to understanding culture or have a special conceptual significance. They might, but they could equally be culturally and conceptually trivial or even nonsensical. These are not ‘keywords’ in the sense that academics are so fond of, thanks to Raymond Williams’s work.
  9. These are called ‘catchwords/phrases’ because they catch – they are used frequently, widely, in many ways. They are probably closer to the ‘keywords’ that are apt to be used in internet search engines.

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Comments and submissions are welcome. 

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If you want to respond to one specific post or contribute a new one, please feel free to email


The blog is moderated by Dr Xumeng XIE. Contents featured on this blogsite will be selected by the moderator. Authors are responsible for the views expressed in the essays and for proofreading and checking sources of information.

It is a branch of a larger collaborative project Analysing Contemporary Political Catchwords, coordinated at The Open University, UK, with participants and partners in Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Cyprus, India, Jordan, Spain, and the UK.

A discussion of methods for studying political catchwords is available at the Concepts and Methods blog of the collaborative project website.

For a British perspective on political catchwords and catchphrases in English, visit our other branch here.

For political catchphrases in India, visit our other branch here.

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