Deciphering the online Chinese lexicon: how the term Jade came to represent President Xi Jinping

Chinese calligraphy converted from ” “. Image by Oiwan Lam.

In recent years, the Chinese term “Jade” or “Fei Cui” (翡翠) has been used by overseas Chinese dissidents as a code phrase to criticize Chinese President Xi Jinping. The trend is likely to continue as Chinese political dissidents have just launched an online campaign named Jade Campaign (Jade Campaign) calling for overthrow of the supreme ruler.

According to Analytical Dictionary of Chinese Characters, Fei Cui originally refers to a kind of bird called the Green-feathered Bird (青羽鳥), with Fei being the male bird while Cui is its female counterpart. Later, Fei Cui » has come to represent green jade, the gemstone that represents nobility, wealth, and good fortune in traditional Chinese culture.

If we analyze the term, the Chinese character Fei (翡) consists of two parts: a morpheme which denotes the meaning and a phonetic component which denotes the pronunciation of the character. The phonetic part Fei (非), is located in the upper part. However, the character Fei (非) used alone can also mean fake », negative » Where negation » by himself. The lower part represents the phonetic component Yu (羽), which means feathers ».

The character “Cui” (翠) shares the same structure. Its meaning is found in the upper part, “Yu” (feathers) while the phonetic component, “Zu” 卒, is found in the lower part. “Zu” means “infantry” or “death” when it appears alone.

Phonemes with two characters have a negative meaning and the morpheme they share Yu (羽 feathers) is composed of two simplified Chinese characters: “Xi” (习) which is the first name of Chinese President Xi Jinping. Overseas Chinese Dissidents managed to reinterpret the term “Fei Cui” (jade) so that it means “to oppose Xi” or “Xi die”.

The China Digital Times found that in 2020 a few Chinese netizens used the hashtag “Qi Cui” (祈翠), which literally means it’s “Pray for jade”, to vilify the ruler. Since then, Chinese dissidents living abroad have reported that the word “Cui” was censored on social media and in online games Chinese, although this claim has not been verified.

The political significance of Jade (Fei Cui) has become increasingly popular as overseas Chinese dissidents attempt to protest Xi Jinping’s candidacy for his third presidential term in the upcoming summer summit of the Chinese Communist Party in Beidaihe.

The new “ Jade campaign is one such attempt. The goal of this online campaign is to expose Xi Jinping for leading China into political, economic and human rights regression. She also invites Chinese netizens to denounce the situation with hashtags such as #downXi and #JadeCampaign.

Deciphering the online Chinese lexicon: how the term Jade came to represent President Xi Jinping