Introduced by Matt Battocchio

This source is the first chapter of Handbook for Polite Language published in 1982 in China. The translation is by Matt Wills, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of California, San Diego.

The mere fact that there was a need for this manual to be published is telling of how China was changing in the aftermath of Mao’s death. The original party leadership had reached old age and were dying off. Mao died in 1976 as did Zhou Enlai and Zhu De. Consequently the much younger Hua Guofeng assumed power in China in the aftermath of the disaster that was the Cultural Revolution. By the time that the idea of the manual came about in 1980 and its publication in 1982 (See Wills introduction) Hua had been superseded by Deng Xiaoping.[1] Kenneth G. Lieberthal of the University of Michigan stated that Hua “was more a figure who was there when Chinese politics pivoted than himself being a pivotal figure. He succeeded Mao briefly because he was a guy nobody felt could dominate, so he didn’t set off alarm bells in any camp.”[2] This is emblematic of how those in Chinese politics in the late 1970s had a desire to move on from Mao. The traditional models of politeness in China and even the customs of the first twenty years of communist rule in China were thrown out during the Cultural Revolution.[3] Polite manners of speaking came to be seen as too bourgeois, while rudeness became the manner of speech of the proletariat.[4] Once the Cultural Revolution had ended and Mao’s personality cult had receded with his death it became necessary for the people of China to be reeducated in politeness. This served the purpose of preventing the ills of the Cultural Revolution from being perpetuated by the next generation.

Annotated Source Excerpts

Works Cited

Bradsher, Keith and William J. Wellman. “Hua Guofeng, Transitional Leader of China After         Mao, Is Dead at 87.” New York Times, August 20, 2008, accessed October 7, 2015. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/21/world/asia/21hua.html?_r=2&ref=world&oref=slog

Kádár, Dániel Z. and Sara Mills. Politeness in East Asia. Cambridge: Cambridge University           Press, 2011. http://www.myilibrary.com?ID=329624

[1] Keith Bradsher and William J. Wellman. “Hua Guofeng, Transitional Leader of China After Mao, Is Dead at 87.” New York Times, August 20, 2008, accessed October 7, 2015. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/21/world/asia/21hua.html?_r=2&ref=world&oref=slog

[2] Ibid.

[3] Dániel Z. Kádár and Sara Mills, Politeness in East Asia, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011), 132. http://www.myilibrary.com?ID=329624

[4] Ibid, 132-133.

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