New normal?

中国日报网 2015-09-08 10:13



Reader question:

New normal?

Please explain this sentence: In big cities, obesity threatens to become the new normal.

My comments:

This means people keep getting fat, to the point of being obese, or overweight.

A generation, or two (at the most) ago, people in this country were pretty thin. Overweight people were not regularly seen in the street.

Nowadays, you see them quite often. So often, in fact, that it's no longer a phenomenon, something unusual, an eye-opening event.

I remember when we used to talk about someone who weighs 100 kilos, we used to talk about their weight with eyes wide open, mouth agape. “One hundred kilos, gee!” We always said something like that. We meant no harm. No bias or anything, just pure amazement.

Nowadays, we see overweight people everyday – left, right and center in the shopping mall, for example.

At least that's the case in Beijing – and perhaps all major cities in the country.

That's why obesity is said to threaten to become the “new normal”.

“New normal” itself is relatively new on the scene. I don't remember anyone ever using this term when I was learning the English language, um, about one or two generations ago.

Anyways, the new normal describes any new changes in society, especially in the economy and politics that are probably going to stay. That is to say that on the one hand they're new – situations that people aren't very familiar with; on the other hand, they're becoming normal – people are getting acquainted to them pretty quickly because they're happening again and again.

In other words, people are no longer surprised by them.

Take traffic jams, for example. In the past, when we talked about traffic jams, we hated it so much. And we mainly talked about what measures should be taken to erase the problem. Now, we don't talk about the subject with as much venom or emotion. And we don't think we can erase the problem like a pupil erases a spelling mistake in pencil print. We're so used to it, I suppose, that we've learned to live with it. Seriously, we think there's nothing wrong with traffic jams. We think that traffic jams are what modernity is all about.

We are all right with it.

All right?

Alright, let's read a few other media examples of the new normal, new situations that are going to stay rather than going away:

1. The sluggish U.S. economy disappointed most forecasters, not to mention job seekers, in the first half of this year.

It grew at an annual rate of just under 2 percent, which is below the average for the last half-century when the U.S. economy grew about 3 percent each year.

And although it may not seem like much, that 1 percentage point makes a big difference — influential analysts are saying we're in for a “new normal.”

The “new normal” is a term coined by the brain trust at the giant bond fund PIMCO. Anthony Crescenzi, a PIMCO vice president, strategist and portofolio manager, is part of that brain trust.

“The difference between 2 percent growth and 3 percent growth is of major importance and has major implications for the entire economy, for financial markets, for the budget,” he says.

And the heart of the problem is job creation. Crescenzi and his colleagues argue that the U.S. economy could actually grow 2 percent a year without adding any new jobs. That's because the productivity of current workers is rising at about 2 percent a year.

Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics, thinks some new jobs would be added in an economy growing 2 percent a year, but far fewer than one growing 3 percent.

“In a 3 percent world we'd create roughly 1.6 million jobs a year,” he says.

- What The ‘New Normal' Means For Americans,, July 12, 2011.

2. Extreme weather is fast becoming the new normal. Canada and much of the United States experienced summer temperatures during winter this year, confirming the findings of a new report on extreme weather.

For two weeks this March most of North America baked under extraordinarily warm temperatures that melted all the snow and ice and broke 150-year-old temperature records by large margins.

Last year the U.S. endured 14 separate billion-dollar-plus weather disasters including flooding, hurricanes and tornados.

A new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), released Mar. 28, provides solid evidence that record-breaking weather events are increasing in number and becoming more extreme. And if current rates of greenhouse gas emissions are maintained, these events will reach dangerous new levels over the coming century.

Since 1950 there have been many more heat waves and record warm temperatures than in previous decades.

This will only increase in future decades, as will heavier rainfall events in tropical regions and the high latitudes, according to the Special Report on Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation (SREX).

The hottest day that occurs once in 20 years is likely to become a one-in-two year event by the end of the century, except in the high latitudes of the Northern hemisphere, where it is likely to happen once every five years.

- Extreme Weather is the New Normal,, April 3, 2012.

3. President Obama must continue to refuse to negotiate policy while the government is shut down. If he does not hold firm on this principle, these mindless and grossly inefficient closures threaten to become the new normal. Real shutdowns—and not just vague threats of closures– could well become a standard part of the annual budget process.

And it may not end there. If shutdowns become routine, attention-seeking lawmakers (are there any other kind?) will only escalate their threats. Breaching the debt limit then becomes the next target of opportunity. In just two weeks, we may be there as well.

This is not an argument for retaining the Affordable Care Act or any of its provisions—the issue ostensibly behind the current stalemate. It is an argument for not slipping into ever-more paralyzing fiscal gridlock. In this case, the process matters far more than the immediate policy controversy.

Already much of Washington and Wall Street has become dangerously blasé about the current shutdown. Oh, a few days or a week—no big deal. If it goes longer than that, they insist, then we'll worry.

This is an exceedingly dangerous view that ignores the reality that every parent learns the hard way: Unchecked bad behavior begets worse behavior.

- Government Shutdowns Threaten To Become The New Normal,, October 3, 2013.


About the author:

Zhang Xin is Trainer at He has been with China Daily since 1988, when he graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University. Write him at:, or raise a question for potential use in a future column.

(作者:张欣 编辑:Helen)



















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