Interpreting Wisdom of Hu Jintao

Interpreting Wisdom of Hu Jintao

Interpreting Wisdom of Hu Jintao
bu dongyao, bu xiedai, bu zheteng

President Hu Jintao’s speech in 2009 commemorating the 30th anniversary of China’s reform era contained a number of quotable phrases, and the one that has received the most attention was the “three don’ts”: 不动摇, 不懈怠, 不折腾.

The China Daily translated this as “don’t sway back and forth, relax our efforts or get sidetracked.”

Op-eds and blog posts over the past week have attempted to explain precisely what President Hu meant by 不折腾, and at a press conference yesterday, State Council Information Office Minister Wang Chen offered up his interpretation:

[In response to a reporter’s question,] Wang Chen said, “General Secretary Hu Jintao’s important speech at the 30th anniversary of the 3rd plenary session of the 11th Party Central Committee was profound in its ideological content, but it also contained vivid language drawn from the masses. I too noticed that when the General Secretary mentioned ‘don’t waver, don’t slacken, don’t get sidetracked,’ the audience chuckled in understanding, showing that they truly endorsed President Hu’s words.

Speaking of his own interpretation of the phrase, Wang raised his voice: “In my understanding, when General Secretary Hu said ‘don’t get sidetracked’ at such a solemn occasion in which he was speaking for the Party Central Committee to sum up the experiences and lessons of the past thirty years, he wanted to express that the great successes achieved by the party and the people over the last thirty years of reforms were fundamentally an unwavering adherence to socialism with Chinese characteristics, an unwavering adherence to the theoretical system of socialism with Chinese characteristics. It is none other than this road and this theoretical system that will, over the next thirty or fifty years, allow China to achieve even greater successes and better development, and to stand tall among the peoples of the world.”

Wang concluded by saying, “don’t get sidetracked” means that we must advance courageously down this road, and it is indeed the wish of everyone in the country and the common will of the entire party.

That makes things a little clearer. However, there’s still the issue of whether “don’t get sidetracked” is the ideal translation of 不折腾. Yesterday’s press conference didn’t decide the issue:

Significantly, the interpreter simply rendered 不折腾 into pinyin, to the amusement of the entire assembly of journalists. Perhaps bu zheteng will become an English-language proper noun in the future.


不动摇       búdònɡyáo     bu-dong-yao don’t waver

不懈怠       búxièdài         bu-xie-dai don’t slacken

不折腾       bùshētenɡ      bu-zhe-teng don’t get sidetracked

Link Sources

China News (Chinese): Wang Chen passionately explains bu zheteng

Danwei: President Hu’s new catchphrases

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