‘What rock did you crawl out from under?’ — phrase of the week

Society & Culture

A duel of nationalist Chinese pundits: Did the aggro propagandist come out of nowhere, or was it his establishment critic?

Illustration by Derek Zheng

Our phrase of the week is: What rock did you crawl out from under? (哪个石头缝里蹦出来的 nǎge shítou fèng lǐ bèng chūlái de).

Context

Hú Xījìn 胡锡进, the political commentator known by some of his critics as “Frisbee Hu” (飞盘胡 Fēipán Hú), was a loud online voice about Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan.

Some of his comments, like suggesting the PLA should send fighter jets to accompany Pelosi’s plane (伴飞 bàn fēi), and even shoot it down (击落 jí luò), went way too far, according to popular Chinese blogger Chairman Rabbit (兔主席 tù zhǔxí). His words carry some weight: Chairman Rabbit’s real name is Rèn Yì 任意, and he is the Harvard-educated grandson of noted Communist Party reformer Rèn Zhòngyí 任仲夷, and widely assumed to have excellent connections in Beijing.

In a now-deleted post published on August 3, Chairman Rabbit said:

This has gone too far. The people will feel that China’s actions have not delivered on expectations. This will bring confusion and disappointment. It will damage the morale of the people and the credibility of the government.

调门拔得过高,群众觉得后续行动跟不上,会带来不解和失望,那是有损伤积极性和士气的,也可能会透支政府公信力。

Diàomén bá déguò gāo, qúnzhòng juédé hòuxù xíngdòng gēn bù shàng, huì dài lái bu jiě hé shīwàng, nà shì yǒu sǔnshāng jījíxìng hé shìqì de, yě kěnéng huì tòuzhī zhèngfǔ gōngxìnlì.

The following day, Hu hit back:

His commitment to knocking me down is mind-boggling.

我对他不搞倒我誓不罢休的样子深感不解 。

Wǒ duì tā bù gǎo dào wǒ shì bù bàxiū de yàngzi shēn gǎn bù jiě.

Hu went on to say that his strong words were intended to merely scare Pelosi into canceling her visit (把她吓回去 bǎ tā xià huí qù), and he had no regrets.

Some Chinese media outlets waded in on the Hu vs. Tu debate, offering a rare glimpse into the differences of opinion between two Chinese conservatives of different generations and contrasting parts of the political spectrum. For Hu Xijin, described as a grassroots former military man, Chairman Rabbit is an annoying young upstart from the elite who should be put in his place. As one commenter put it:

Of course, Hu Xijin was annoyed. He’s given decades to the revolutionary cause, and now retired honorably. What rock did this young “Chairman Rabbit” crawl out from under?

胡锡进自然不服气,老胡投身革命几十年,现在已经光荣退休,你“兔主席”,一个毛头小伙子,哪个石头缝里蹦出来的?

Hú Xījìn zìrán bù fúqì, lǎo hú tóushēn gémìng jǐ shí nián, xiànzài yǐjīng guāngróng tuìxiū, nǐ “tù zhǔxí,” yīgè máo tóu xiǎohuǒzi, nǎge shítou fèng lǐ bèng chūlái de?

Translation

What rock did you crawl out from under? could also be translated as “Where do you even come from” or “Came out of nowhere.” The literal translation is “What crack in which rock did he/she pop out of?”

The phrase is a reference to the classic 16th-century Chinese novel Journey to the West (西游记 xī yóu jì). The main character, Sūn Wùkōng 孙悟空, the Monkey King, is a legendary mythical figure born from a stone who acquires supernatural powers through Taoist practices.

Nowadays, the phrase Appeared from which crack in a rock is used to express the surprise about someone having appeared from nowhere.

It’s usually condescending: The point is not about being surprising or sudden, but about appearing from within a rock, meaning the Monkey King doesn’t have parents and has no background. Someone who “appears from a rock” is therefore usually anti-establishment or even subversive.

In the case of Hu’s reaction to Chairman Rabbit’s attack, Hu is confused that the affront has come from someone who is supposed to be on the same side as him.

So, what do netizens think of the tussle? Has “Frisbee Hu” gone too far? In a lively discussion on Zhihu, a Quora-like discussion platform, one commenter agrees with Chairman Rabbit:

The main problem is Hu’s been way too overenthusiastic catching the Frisbee, it’s hard for him to turn back.

主要是叼得太用力了,不好调头。

Zhǔyào shi diāo dé tài yònglìle, bù hǎo diàotou。

Andrew Methven