Catchphrases etched in history
(China Daily)
Updated: 2008-12-18 07:45

"Jumping into the sea" (下海) (xiahai)

In the 1980s, when China was reforming its planned economy, it had a two-track pricing system (official and market prices) for industrial raw materials - steel, non-ferrous metals, timber and coal.

Seeing business opportunities within this system, many people, especially government employees and those from State-run factories or institutes, quit their jobs to open their own businesses.

"Jumping into the sea" was often used to refer to the phenomena of people breaking away from the constraints of a planned system to embrace the market economy.

"Be laid off and get re-employed" (下岗再就业) (xiagang zai jiuye)

Being "laid off" was never heard before the State Council made the decision to reform the country's State-owned enterprises in 1986. Thus, workers in such enterprises boasted of a lifelong job or "iron-rice bowl".

To adapt to the market economy and improve the competitiveness of State-owned enterprises in the 1990s, China began restructuring its enterprises through mechanisms such as mergers.

No official statistics show how many workers were laid off in line with enterprises' efforts to improve efficiency during that period, but experts estimate the number to be in the tens of millions.

Meanwhile, the government offered occupational training, small loans and preferential tax policies to help most of the affected workers find new jobs or start their own businesses.

"Migrant worker" (农民工) (nong mingong)

Reforms in rural areas, with collectively owned farmland contracted to individual families, freed about 100 million peasants from farm work.

At first, about 63 million of these former farmers were given jobs in village-run enterprises that mushroomed in those days.

A policy change in 1984 allowed them to find jobs in cities. After China decided to move to a market economy in 1992, the massive migration of rural laborers started.

The rapid inflow of investors created many construction, factory and mining jobs, most of which urbanites considered too tiring or dirty.

The number of migrants grew from 60 million in 1992 to 120 million in 2003 and 210 million this year, central government figures have showed.

"No matter if it's a white cat or black cat, as long as it catches rats it's a good cat." (不管白猫黑猫,抓到老鼠就是好猫) (buguan baimao heimao, zhuodao laoshu jiushi haomao)

This sentence was used by late leader Deng Xiaoping, the chief architect of China's reform and opening-up, on different occasions to clear doubts as to whether the economic reform was capitalist or socialist.

The sentence helped stop ideological arguments at the early stage of reform and encouraged generations of Chinese to pursue their dreams in the market economy.

"Surfing the Internet" (上网) (shangwang)

The Internet was introduced in China more than 10 years ago. It quickly gained popularity and made a huge impact on society.

While online music, instant communication services, video streaming and online games entertained millions of Chinese, the Internet also became a powerful news medium where information was disclosed, shared and publicized quickly.

Through June, China had 221 million online users, figure from the Data Center of China Internet (DCCI) showed. The country's online population would increase to 263 million by the end of this year, the DCCI forecast.

"Reform and opening-up" (改革开放) (gaige kaifang)

The document issued at the end of 3rd Plenary session of the 11th CPC Central Committee stipulated that China would seriously reform its economic management systems, start economic cooperation with countries in the world on the basis of equality, and adopt advanced technology and equipment to speed up China's modernization.

These were soon adapted to reforms and opening-up policies aimed at setting the country on track toward fast economic growth.

"Speculate in stocks" (炒股) (chaogu)

China in 1990 opened its first stock exchange in Shanghai, the country's industrial and financial center. The second bourse opened in the same month in its first special economic zone of Shenzhen.

The country subsequently witnessed waves of stock market craze over the years and fluctuations in the stock market have impacted millions of Chinese.

"Chinese characteristics" (中国特色) (zhongguo tese)

The phrase became well-known as an answer by late leader Deng to the question of how China could improve its productivity and people's lives with its less-developed economy.

Deng's answer was "to build socialism with Chinese characteristics", meaning that China has its own way of development rather than copying other countries' experiences.

"go! Go!" (雄起) (xiongqi)

The phrase is a dialect of Sichuan province. It was originally used in the 1990s by soccer fans to cheer their favorite teams.

The phrase was later used widely outside sports to encourage people to keep up their spirits in gloomy times.

After the May 12 earthquake in Sichuan, Chinese used the phrase to show their care and support for quake-hit areas and people. 

"Beijing Olympic Games" (北京奥运) (beijing aoyun) Many believe that without opening up, it would have been impossible for China to host the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

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