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Top ten catch phrases in China since 1978 reform
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08:11, December 15, 2008

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Chinese media selected the 10 most popular phrases from the past three decades to mark the official 30th anniversary of China's reform and opening up, which falls on this month.

When China began to reform and open-up 30 years ago, people began experiencing, seeing and doing new things. In fact things were so new, they needed to create new words to describe what was happening.

In order of popularity, starting with number one:

"Go in for business"

In the 1980s when China was starting to transition from a planned economy to a market economy, it had a two-track pricing system (official and market prices) for industrial raw materials, including steel, non-ferrous metals, timber and coal.

Seeing business opportunities within the pricing system, many people, especially government employees and those from state-run factories or institutes, quit their jobs to open their own businesses.

"Going for business" was often used to refer to the phenomena of people breaking away from the constraints of a planned system to embrace the market economy.

  "Be laid off and get re-employed"

To adapt to the market economy and improve competitiveness of state-owned enterprises (SOEs) in the 1990s, China began restructuring.

"Encouraging mergers, standardizing bankruptcy, laying off and reassigning redundant workers, streamlining for higher efficiency" was a guideline in the SOEs reforms.

No official statistics show how many workers were laid off during that period, but experts estimate the number could be tens of millions.

To avoid social unrest and help most of those workers find new jobs, the Chinese central government offered occupational trainings, small loans and preferential tax policies.

"Migrant worker"

China's reform and opening-up drive started in rural areas in 1978 with collectively-owned farmland contracted to individual families. This freed about 100 million peasants from farm work.

However, most of these people were tied to the countryside by a residence-based rationing system for virtually everything, including food. About 63 million of these former farmers were given jobs in village-run enterprises that mushroomed in those days.

A policy change in 1984 allowed them to find jobs in cities but the massive migration of rural laborers didn't start until after China decided to move to a market economy in 1992.

The rapid inflow of investors created many construction, factory and mining jobs, most of which urban dwellers consider too tiring or dirty.

The number of migrants grew from 60 million in 1992 to 120 million in 2003 and 210 million this year, according to central government figures.

The work of the migrant population has generated 21 percent of China's gross domestic product in the past 30 years, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences has found. But migrant workers face various problems, including delayed pay schedules, no or low work-place injury compensation, lack of health care and little schooling for their children.

"It doesn't matter if a cat is black or white, so long as it catches mice."

This sentence was used by late leader Deng Xiaoping, chief architect of China's reform and opening-up, on different occasions to clear up doubts as to whether the economic reform was capitalist or socialist.

The sentence helped stop ideological arguments at the early stage of reform and encouraged generations of Chinese to pursue their dreams in the market economy.

  "Surfing the Internet"

The Internet was introduced in China more than 10 years ago. It quickly gained popularity and impacted society.

While online music, instant communication services, video streaming and online games greatly entertained millions of Chinese, the Internet also became a powerful news medium where information was disclosed, shared and publicized quickly.

Through June, China had 221 million netizens, according to the Data Center of China Internet (DCCI). The netizen population, which had already surpassed that of the United States to become the world's largest, would increase to 263 million by the end of this year, DCCI forecasted.

E-commerce transactions amounted to 2 trillion yuan (about 300 billion U.S. dollars) in 2007 and 25 percent of netizens had bought something online after "surfing the Internet" as of June this year.

  "Reform and opening-up"

In 1978, a group of villagers from Xiaogang village in eastern Anhui Province decided to adopt a household contract responsibility system, which entrusted the management and production of public owned farmland to individual households through long-term contracts.

Later the system, described by then Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping as "a great invention of Chinese farmers", was widely adopted across the country and triggered economic reform.

Over the past 30 years, the country witnessed significant changes in comprehensive national strength, people's living standards and international influence thanks to the reform and opening-up policy.

China's share of the world's combined gross output rose to 6 percent at the end of 2007, compared with just 1.8 percent in 1978when its reform and opening-up began, according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).

Fast economic growth over the past 30 years lifted China's GDP ranking in the world from 10th in 1978 to fourth after the United States, Japan and Germany

According to the NBS, China's per capita income jumped to 2,360U.S. dollars in 2007 from 190 U.S. dollars in 1978.

"Beijing Olympic Games"

Many believe that without opening-up, it would be impossible for China to host the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

The Games, commended by International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Jacques Rogge as "truly exceptional", were seen by the world as China's come-of-age show on the international stage.

China grabbed a total of 100 medals at the Beijing Games -- a coincidence as the country dreamt for 100 years to be the Olympic host -- and overtook the United States to top the gold medal count with 51.

As the most watched Games in history, with an estimated 4.5 billion TV and Internet viewers, the Beijing Olympics attracted the most participants, who were from a record 204 countries and regions.

"Speculate in stocks"

In 1990, China opened its first stock exchange in Shanghai, the country's industrial and financial center. In 1991, it set up its second bourse in Shenzhen, the country's first special economic zone.

China witnessed waves of stock crazes over the years and fluctuations in the stock market touch the nerves of millions of Chinese.

In 2007, the country saw a bull stock market, with the key benchmark Shanghai Composite Index soaring from 2,728 points in January to 5,261 points, or 92.85 percent, on December 28.

In fact, the market has been on a bullish run for 29 months from June 6, 2005 to November 2007, longer than the general bullish market cycle of 17 to 24 months.

But it has dipped since last November.

"Chinese characteristics"

The phrase became well-known as an answer by late leader Deng to the question of how China could improve its productivity and people's lives with its less-developed economy.

Deng's answer was "to build socialism with Chinese characteristics". It means China has its own way of development rather than copying other countries' experiences.

The phrase is frequently quoted by the Chinese and used in China's official documents.

"Rise abruptly"

The phrase, or "Xiong Qi" in Chinese meaning "Go! Go!", is a dialect of southwest China's Sichuan Province. It was originally used by football fans to inspire teams in the 1990s.

The phrase soon became popular among the Chinese public and was used widely outside the sports field to encourage people to keep up their spirits.

After the May 12 earthquake in Sichuan, Chinese used the phrase to show their care and support to the quake-affected areas and people.

The 10 phrases were selected by 15 Chinese media, including the Beijing Evening News, the Shanghai Evening Post, the Tianjin-based Jin Wan Bao, the Guangzhou-based Yangcheng Evening News and the Shanxi Evening News.

Newspapers, which are based in 15 provinces and municipalities, started soliciting catch phrases from the public in October, according to the Beijing Evening News.

The list, voted on by readers and netizens, was publicized in Shanghai on Saturday.

Source: Xinhua

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