Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Thursday, November 17, 2016

How about Bro?

In the 20th century, communists, socialists, and other leftists used the term "comrade" as a non-sexist term that implied equality. Chinese President Xi wants to reclaim it, but it may be too late.

China Wants to Resurrect Word ‘Comrade.’ But Its Meaning Has Changed.
To the 90 million or so members of China’s Communist Party, President Xi Jinping has a message: Don’t call me president. Don’t call me party secretary.

Call me “comrade.”

The directive urging party members to eschew titles and honorifics in favor of the revolutionary throwback was issued after a meeting last month of the Communist Party’s Central Committee.

The latest order, however, may cause some confusion.

Under Mao Zedong, even well into the 1980s, “tongzhi” — 同志 or “comrade” — was the nearly universal form of address. Over the years, however, as China has modernized and Mao suits have given way to Western-style suits and ties, the term “comrade” has not only become outdated, it has acquired an entirely new connotation.

Comrade kite
Among gay men in China, “tongzhi” is most often used as a term of affection and solidarity and a catchall label for sexual minorities…

For some younger Chinese, however, the word “comrade” offered a source of comfort for those who felt too ashamed to use the term “tongxinglian,” or homosexual, Mr. Fan said.

“But now, people have really gotten used to it,” he said. “Even the ticket-takers on the bus… don’t say ‘comrade’ anymore because they know what it means among young people.”

Now, Chinese typically refer to one another as “mister,” “miss” or “madame.” Strangers often address one another as “young miss,” “beautiful woman,” “handsome man” or “master.”

Within the party, only top leaders are typically referred to as “comrade.” At the lower levels, “comrade” has been replaced by a… proliferation of designations like “deputy secretary,” “boss,” “C.E.O.,” “grandfather” and “brother.” …

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