A frequent complaint from our writers and followers of Chinese startup news is that online translation tools don’t do a good job of helping non-Mandarin speakers understand the meaning of certain slang words.
My first encounter was with ‘水军’ (shui jun), which might simply mean ‘navy’ or literally ‘water army’ if you use any online translator; but the phrase actually refers to trolls who are paid to promote or criticise organisations, companies or individuals online.
Another term would be ‘代购’ (dai gou, or ‘substitute shopper’), which refers to a whole industry created by Chinese outbound travellers who buy products not available in China and bring them back on behalf of someone else.
To help you understand some of the nuances behind Chinese tech slang, we have co-produced an infographic with the folks at Momentum Works.
A list of words you have to know to have an easier time navigating the world of Chinese tech startups:
Bao Lei 暴雷: Literal meaning: Thunder vs. Actual meaning: Incidents involving P2P lending platforms going bust.
Chi Gua 吃瓜: Literal meaning: Eating melon vs. Actual meaning: Onlookers, often used humorously.
Chu Hai 出海: Literal meaning: Going out to the sea vs. Actual meaning: Expand the business overseas.
Da Call 打 Call: Literal meaning: Make a call vs. Actual meaning: Cheer for someone.
Fo Xi 佛系: Literal meaning: Buddhism vs. Actual meaning: Calm attitude come what may.
Ge Jiu Cai 割韭菜: Literal meaning: Cut leeks vs. Actual meaning: Money from ill-informed users / pump-and-dump
Hai Gui 海龟: Literal meaning: Sea turtle vs. Actual meaning: Returnees coming back from overseas
Hua Ming 花名: Literal meaning: Flower name vs. Actual meaning: ‘Nickname’ culture from Alibaba early on.
Liang Liang 凉凉: Literal meaning: Very cold vs. Actual meaning: Falling into a poor position.
Shui Jun 水军: Literal meaning: Water army or navy vs. Actual meaning: People paid to criticise or promote others.
Sai Dao 赛道: Literal meaning: Track vs. Actual meaning: Areas or sectors to invest in.
Wang Hong 网红: Literal meaning: Net red vs. Actual meaning: Internet celebrity.
BONUS! 996: Literal meaning: Nine hundred and ninety-six vs. Actual meaning: Work 9 to 9 six days a week