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Phrase of the Week: “Passing a Blade to Someone,” and the Leveling of Sixth Tone
Phrase of the Week: "Passing a Blade to Someone," and the Leveling of Sixth Tone

Phrase of the Week: “Passing a Blade to Someone,” and the Leveling of Sixth Tone

In the previous month, a seemingly harmless article was published on Sixth Tone about…
cloning of Tibetan cattle

The area was mentioned solely by its Chinese name, Xizang, which aligns with a recent effort by Chinese officials. This was seen by some as a symbolic tightening of control over a distinctive state-run media outlet. Former news director Qian Jinghua described the outlet’s previous ability to portray China as a place where real people live and are concerned about their future, rather than just an abstract concept, a competitor nation, a business destination, or a collection of societal and economic issues. Qian shared these thoughts with Rachel Cheung of The Wire China, who documents this development.

The gradual loss of Sixth Tone’s autonomy.

The article discusses the implementation of restrictions on reporting about the LGBT community, starting in 2017 and intensifying during the COVID-19 crisis.

As Sixth Tone is an English publication, it often reported on topics that were considered taboo for most Chinese state media. For six years, it successfully carved out a unique, albeit precarious, position in China’s media landscape. However, interviews with 15 current and former employees of The Wire reveal how the publication’s content has been significantly restricted in the past year. With new management in place, censorship has increased and top editors have combed through the archives to remove articles and make changes to avoid angering Beijing and its supporters. Pitch ideas related to social issues, such as the country’s demographic crisis, are now rejected and the newsroom was instructed to produce at least one positive story per week about Shanghai starting in February.

An employee currently expresses disappointment in the fact that every quote from a story is evaluated to check if it supports fundamental socialist beliefs.

“Within the past few months, Sixth Tone has undergone a significant shift from being one of the most liberal and modern Chinese state-run media outlets to one of the most constrained, surpassing even other similar sources.”Global Times or Shanghai Daily,” says a second current employee. [Source]

Previous employees and followers of Sixth Tone replied:

Cheung observed that the media climate in China has become increasingly restrictive, with a decrease in the number of individuals willing to speak to foreign journalists for fear of being labeled as collaborators with foreign powers. This applies to sources from various backgrounds, including academics, businesspeople, and everyday citizens.di daozi

The term “passing the knife,” known to the public as (遞刀子), has been a subject of controversy, as pointed out by Cheung. Sixth Tone has also been accused of using the term. The article includes a link to the term’s page on CDT’s Chinese-language wiki, but a description in English is provided in our newly released ebook, which contains 104 entries.

The China Digital Times Glossary: 20th Anniversary Version. The full entry is reproduced below.

return all your notifications and comments in English):

Give someone a knife.递刀子 dì dāozi)

“Handing someone a knife” refers to providing China’s “enemies” with ammunition by airing information that might fuel criticism of China. In April 2020, for example, news that Fang Fang’s COVID-19 outbreak memoir “Wuhan Diary” would be published in English and German was met with to the

Nationalists are accusing her of writing something that is equivalent to giving a weapon to someone.
to the United States and other Western countries. The truth or otherwise of information, or the true motives for sharing it, are irrelevant: what matters is the possibility that it could be used against the perceived national interest.

these accusations have been heavily criticized and mocked by those with more progressive views.”

These allegations have faced considerable backlash and mockery from the more left-leaning community, according to a post on Zhihu in 2020 which stated, “Individuals with more progressive beliefs have heavily criticized and ridiculed these allegations.”

The concept of “handing of knives” is entirely fictitious.”:

Chinese media and American media have similar views when it comes to criticizing the United States, as the Chinese media sources its information from the American media. This means that the American media is indirectly providing us with the means to criticize them. However, this will not negatively impact the United States.

A book titled “Fang Fang’s Diary” is published by an American publisher. Is this just another attack? The criticisms and accusations from American media cannot harm the United States, but a mere book like “Fang Fang’s Diary” is seen as a threat to China? Is China really that vulnerable? Let’s not overanalyze the situation.


post on WeChat in 2020 that was mockingly described

The BBC’s portrayal of Du Fu as a great poet prompted the author to reconsider his reputation.

This brought to light the fact that Du Fu’s acclaimed work is filled with ungratefulness towards the imperial court, defamation of local officials, and aiding An Lushan and his rebels. In particular, the argument stated that Du Fu’s use of “lake” to describe bloodshed in war was an intentional exaggeration: according to records of household registration during the Tang dynasty and the average amount of blood in an adult’s body (four to five liters), the complete loss of blood from the entire Tang population would only result in a negligible portion of Dongting Lake’s volume in Hunan.

“Handing a knife” should not be confused with 刀把子 (dāobàzi), or “knife handle

“Rule by law,” a concept that refers to the role of law enforcement and the court system, lost popularity after Mao’s era but has been revitalized under Xi’s leadership. This emphasizes the Party’s dominance.