Our officials have speech problems
[ 2007-06-06 17:05 ]

A photo published by Chinese newspapers and websites has triggered widespread anger at some government officials' obsession with power to the extent of losing even the minimum empathy.

Last week, the Xingqing District of Yinchuan, capital of Ningxia, held a sports meet of primary and middle school students. At the opening ceremony, leaders of different ranks spoke garrulously one after another, leaving 400 children wearing bathing-suit-like performing outfits waiting in chilly wind for an hour. The temperature was 15 Celsius that day.

No one could refrain from anger seeing the scantily-clad children huddling together for warmth with a helpless look in their eyes awaiting the end of the self-serving speeches. 

Why were those officials so heartless? What was so important in the officials' speeches that they thought it merited the children's enduring the cold?

Frankly, I wouldn't know what to say at the opening ceremony of a school sports meet other than wishing the meet success.

However, it is not difficult to imagine what the officials said, for we are all familiar with the slogans, jargon and verbalizations bureaucrats trot out in addressing meetings, banquets and festivities.

In an event like the Xingqing sports meet, the No 1 local leader invited to the ceremony would point out the significance of holding the sports meet; would instruct departments at various levels to support the development of education; would urge parents to pay attention to both the physical and intellectual health of their children; and call on the kids to study hard for the nation.

Then leader No 2, leader No 3 ... and guest VIP A, guest VIP B ... would all speak, each repeating most of what the others had said. So it's not strange that the ceremony droned on for an hour.

Sports meets are not alone. Lengthy conferences have become commonplace in our daily work. There certainly is a reason for every conference: A problem has to be discussed or a decision needs to be promoted. However, the way the meetings are conducted is questionable.

In most cases, the speeches delivered by officials at various levels can be cut by half at least. Actually in many cases, they can be cut by two-thirds or three-fourths without hurting the essential information the speaker intends to impart. This is because the core information, if there is any, is wrapped in flamboyant, empty formulae.

The reason officials like making lengthy speeches is that they take conferences as an occasion to show their power or to impress others.

Ceremonies and festivities are often the time to demonstrate an official's status. Whether being invited to deliver a speech and the order of speaking are vital to an official's prestige. So no officials would want their speeches shorter or less exalted in tone than others'.

At non-ceremonial conferences, officials also try to make their speeches comprehensive, deep and high. Shorter speeches would be regarded as demonstrating poor ability backed by inadequate homework. No one would want to leave such an impression on the superiors present at the meeting.

In fact, many officials have become aware of the seriousness of the speech problem but everybody continues the practice. It has become a chronic ailment in our political life.

Sixty-five years ago, Mao Zedong published his famous Oppose Stereotyped Party Writing during the Communist Party's campaign to rectify its work style. He called for a terse, straight-to-the-point style of writing and speaking. Now, we need another campaign to rectify the present corrupted way of using our language.

Email: liushinan@chinadaily.com.cn

(China Daily 05/16/2007 page10)


About the author:

刘式南 高级编辑。1968年毕业于武汉华中师范学院(现华中师范大学)英文系。1982年毕业于北京体育学院(现北京体育大学)研究生院体育情报专业。1982年进入中国日报社,先后担任体育记者、时政记者、国际新闻编辑、要闻版责任编辑、发稿部主任、《上海英文星报》总编辑、《中国商业周刊》总编辑等职。现任《中国日报》总编辑助理及专栏作家。1997年获国务院“特殊贡献专家政府津贴”。2000年被中华全国新闻工作者协会授予“全国百佳新闻工作者”称号。2006年获中国新闻奖二等奖(编辑)。

相关文章 Related Stories







  Pun intended
  Too much of a good thing
  Good or well?
  Safe or safety?
  The Gilded Age


  how to say 放行条?
  “有脸者 无脸者”怎么说
  how to translate"入围选手名单
  翻译:注水肉 (中国特色,有难度)