Chinese Sign – Empty Talks Damages a Country’s Reputation

In china business, social media by Michael Michelini4 Comments

I have seen this sign, in the same location here in Shekou district of Shenzhen since I first moved here in 2007. I remember it used to have the English translation underneath it, and that is what inspired me to take a photo of it and discuss today. I wonder why they removed the English translation from underneath the billboard?

In English, it roughly means – Empty talks would lead the country astray, and hard work can rejuvenate the nation, stop impractical arguments. When I read it the first time (from the billboard) I interpreted it as meaning “don’t say you’re going to do something and not do it, else it hurts all of us”. And then I take the meaning even further to think maybe its a marketing message for Chinese businesses (especially manufacturers doing export) not to cheat their customers, do what they say they will do, and fulfill their promises, else future business will be lost for the whole country.

Maybe I am not exactly right, and the other day I posted it on my I enjoy using Sina Weibo to post some “thought provoking” photos I come across in China and getting my Weibo friend’s perspectives. I even sometimes use it for “real time crowdsourcing” translation when I’m traveling alone in China and can’t figure out an advertisement or sign. So many users on it, and all wired on their mobile phones looking for new topics and weibo messages to interact with. Really believe Chinese people are a talkative and curious group of people.

阳光兴晨:dude,damn right!this *$^$*^#$^ propaganda has the purpose Of cheating not only Chinese people but also foreigners. (12月9日 16:13)

michelini:回复 @鄭君才:Wow…really cool I will make a blog then. Await your news tonight (12月9日 13:57)
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鄭君才:回复@michelini:More info will be given after work tonight, it originates from 300 years ago and it is Deng Xiao ping who said it when he visited south China in 1992. (12月9日 13:46)

michelini:回复 @鄭君才:Interesting….thanks! Any more info on it? Maybe I can blog about it (12月9日 13:31)
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鄭君才:Empty talks would lead the country astray, and hard work can rejuvenate the nation. This quotation originates from 300 years ago. (12月9日 13:27)
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michelini:回复 @小宛babe:I think it means empty talk hurts all of us (12月9日 13:15)
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老毛的茶味波:This sign mean action is better than talk. (12月9日 13:11)
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小宛babe:nooooooooo (12月9日 13:07)

And this latest one I got an awesome follow through from 鄭君才 (Jayci Zheng), even got an email later in the day with the history of this saying:

To michelini,

The brief intro of the quotation has been included in the attached file, please check.

Yours faithfully,
Jayci Zheng

The Chinese words in the picture is 空谈误国, 实干兴邦. (Chinese Pinyin: Kong Tan Wu Guo,
Shi Gan Xing Bang). It’ originates from an ancient idiom 清谈误国 (Chinese Pinyin: Qing Tan
Wu Guo, English: Empty talks would lead the country astray). In Chinese, 空(kong) and 清(qing)
share the same meaning of empty, and of course they both have other meaning respectively.

In Wei and Jin Dynasty 300 years ago, writers, celebrities and other people in upper class are
gathering to talk about the philosophical issues such as live and death, nature and etc on Zhou
Yi, Zhuang Zi and Lao Zi , but these talks or discussions are irrelevant to people’s livelihood
in society, resulting the urgent and practical problems unresolved and the whole country
undeveloped. This is how 清谈误国 (Chinese Pinyin: Qing Tan Wu Guo. English: Empty talks
would lead the country astray) comes from.

In 1980s, Shenzhen is planned to be the experimental field of Chinese Reform and Opening up.
On 18th Jan, 1992, Deng Xiao Pin, the general designer of Chinese Reform and Opening up, paid a
visit to Han Kou in Hu Bei Province during his South China tour . “空谈误国,实干兴邦,不要
再进行所谓的争论了”, he said in a meeting, which means “Empty talks would lead the country
astray, and hard work can rejuvenate the nation, stop impractical arguments”.

So now it makes even more sense to me that this sign is in Shekou district of Shenzhen City! That is where Deng Xiao Ping came to open up China, as well as turn Shenzhen from a fisherman’s town into a massive trading and financial capital of China!

Learn, share, expose. I hope this blog post helped out…the sign is for not only foreigners, but Chinese to Chinese who get cheated by one another.

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  1. get some botox to make you look like a man or go home. chinks don’t like sissys.

  2. IMHO it clearly means that china is a communist country and “shut the f up and work” don’t try to think, thinking will make you open a vpn and go on facebook and watch how others protest. they want to avoid scandals, they removed the english 2 years ago.

    1. yea, so it was 2 years ago they removed the english. I think they were stupid to ever put it in English!

      But from my limited Chinese history knowledge Deng Xiao Pin was a positive influence on China

  3. I’d translate it as “Empty talks leads the country astray; concrete actions brings it prosperity.”

    As for the Wei and Jin Dynasties: Cao Cao seized power in A.D.196, and Western Jin fell in A.D.316. So the period that the saying “清談誤國” describes was actually about 1700 to 1800 years ago.

    The Chinese people have always valued pragmatism. Many of the most remarkable books written in ancient China (i.e. from the beginning to around 100B.C.) were written at all because their authors failed in the world of action (mainly politics). The prime example is of course Confucius. He spent 40 years traveling all over China seeking ministerial office before finally giving up, and devoted the rest of his life to teaching.

    The principal evidence for this is Sima Qian’s account of his life (“The Hereditary House of Confucius” 孔子世家) in his monumental <>: On the surface this account is a rather disjointed narrative of a series of “failed job interviews”, and the only illuminating interpretation of this apparent disjointedness is that Sima Qian wanted to show Confucius’s determination and failed attempts to succeed in the world of action, and thus his preference for action over words if he could help it. For Confucius, the establishment of good institution was infinitely superior to the establishment of a school of thought. But then again, Confucius is the only one in the <> to be given a Hereditary House (rather than being merely given a Biography) because of the great influence of his thought.

    I could go on, but I’ll stop right here.

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