March 31, 2018

"A group of residents in Nanjing, the capital of eastern China’s Jiangsu province, are protesting the construction of a nursing home in their neighborhood..."

"Pervasive superstitions around death have plagued the development of China’s elderly care industry.... Some residents were worried that the facility would include a morgue, though this was not stated in the official notice. 'Next to the nursing home is a kindergarten,' one resident told The Paper. 'How could they have a morgue here?'... Yet given the fact that China’s current supply of nursing homes falls short of meeting the demands of the country’s aging society, some public affairs scholars like Xiong Yihan say there should be more transparency in public decision-making to counter 'NIMBYism' — when communities protest urban development initiatives by arguing, 'Not in my backyard!'"

From "Nanjing NIMBYs Oppose Hospice, Fearing Death in Their Midst/Nursing home offering end-of-life services is one of a string of facilities to encounter opposition due to superstition" (Sixth Tone).

Here's the piece in The Paper, in Chinese. Can someone who reads Chinese tell me whether the English acronym NIMBY has moved into Chinese discourse or whether an acronym has been made out of the Chinese words for "not in my back yard"? Are acronyms done in Chinese? If you tell me it's impossible to do acronyms in Chinese, I will believe you.


Kevin said...

Can someone who reads Chinese tell me whether the English acronym NIMBY has moved into Chinese discourse or whether an acronym has been made out of the Chinese words for "not in my back yard"?

Do the Chinese get the concept of "back yard", which requires a front yard for contrast? Is having two yards extravagant and so beyond the imagination of most Chinese as to be laughable?

What about the concept of yard itself - a place that lies mostly unused? Would the Chinese feel that is a waste of land? Shouldn't one build housing there or a vegetable garden? Or use it to raise animals? Do the Chinese feel wealthy enough that open patches of grass are not only common but socially acceptable?

And what of people who live in cities where yards don't exist? Are city people culturally appropriating terms from their friends in the suburbs? Have the Chinese learned of the idea of cultural appropriation? Is there a Chinese symbol for cultural appropriation? Can people write it and say its tones without bursting out in laughter at the thought?

Kevin said...

I doubt the Chinese have adopted anything as formal as NIMBY-ism. It's much more likely that non-Chinese people, looking at a Chinese problem, have applied their own thinking and constructs to it.

In a manner of speaking, they looked at the situation and thought, "The Americans have a word for that".

Lewis Wetzel said...

People, in general, worry too little about ghosts.

Michael K said...

At one time, Japan was building retirement cities in northern Australia. I have heard nothing more about this in years. China is "getting old before it gets rich" in the words of Spengler (David Goldman).

My Chinese medical student came to America to train so she could care for her parents as she said there was very little pension arrangement in China.

The "One Child Policy" has left many older Chinese without children to support their old age.

The migration of so many Chinese to America is interesting. Maybe they know something.

They, at least, will not be a public burden.

Balfegor said...

Don't read Chinese, but I can follow a bit . . . cheating with Google Translate, it seems like NIMBY is translated as 鄰避 (邻避 in simplified characters), pronounced lin bi (almost like a pun), and with characters meaning neighbour-avoid.

I don't see that in the article linked, but there's certainly other articles talking about "邻避效应."

Ann Althouse said...

"Do the Chinese get the concept of "back yard", which requires a front yard for contrast? Is having two yards extravagant and so beyond the imagination of most Chinese as to be laughable?"

You'd have to also get this style of hyperbole, because "not in my backyard" isn't about your backyard, literally.

What is Chinese hyperbole like? My first thought was "let a thousand flowers bloom," but I looked it up, and Mao said let "a hundred flowers bloom."

It's really metonymy to say "not in my backyard," because your using one thing to represent something associated with it. It's not your backyard, it's your neighborhood or town or region. You could just as well say, "not on my doorstep."

Is there a Chinese phase occupying that thought or did they previously not have the idea at all and imported the idea from America?

Did people over all those thousands of years not think in terms of excluding things from their immediate environment? Of course, the answer is no, or the superstition referred to in the article would not exist.

tcrosse said...

Aside from superstition, it might have been unpleasant to have a morgue in the neighbourhood before modern refrigeration.

Ralph L said...

In the 70's, we'd get ash fallout frequently from the hospital next door. One time they announced they weren't burning bodies. But what were they burning?
It left ugly streaks on the light part of our two-tone 1956 Oldsmobile Holiday 88, one of the better looking sedans of the 50's.

Bob Boyd said...

A story about the fear of ghosts affecting real estate development?

I think the acronym your looking for is WWSD. What would Scooby Do?

Lloyd W. Robertson said...

I've read that the Chinese in general are resistant to organ transplantation; either they want the body to be disposed of (cremated?) intact, or they worry that if they agree to organ donation, they risk being treated as donors to be harvested rather than patients to be treated. Allegedly, the latter fear is widespread among African-Americans, who more or less fear "the Establishment" in general, including the medical establishment. I always think of Monty Python but ... never mind.

Wikipedia says that in China, special importance is attached to the kidney and heart, possibly the organs which are most likely to be transplanted.

The Chinese government has famously reacted to the need for organs (to save otherwise productive people) by "harvesting" among imprisoned or otherwise helpless populations. Political prisoners such as the Falun Gong may be especially promising targets.

Confucianism is supposed to include respect for elders. Mao waged something of a war on Confucianism, such as with the Cultural Revolution, so my guess is there may now be a combination of distrusting the elderly, seeing them as useless, and remembering old fears about corpses and ghosts.

The Dutch Parliament is considering expanding their euthanasia legislation to include anyone aged 75 and over who is "tired of life."

Wince said...

Can someone who reads Chinese tell me whether the English acronym NIMBY has moved into Chinese discourse or whether an acronym has been made out of the Chinese words for "not in my back yard"?

How about "get off my lawn"?

MadisonMan said...

I work with a lot of Chinese. It's an interesting question -- I'll ask them.

Who did it first? Is there a possibility of cultural appropriation?

Balfegor said...

Re: Lloyd Robertson:

I know there are a number of taboos in place with respect to the dead in Confucian practice. I'm not Chinese, but after my grandfather's funeral observances in Korea, the villagers burned the womens' mourning clothes (the men just wore normal black suits, not hanbok). I checked the Classic of Rites to see if I could see anything obvious, but I didn't see anything. It might be in Zhu Hsi's manual, but it is too much trouble to look up. I don't have a copy of the Yili. I would be surprised and troubled if it's purely that they don't want children to be near the dead -- have they never been to a funeral? Do they not offer sacrifices at the new year and Qingming, etc.?

On organ donation, though, this is a Confucian thing, or an old taboo that has merged with Confucian practice. Your body is a precious gift from your parents, so you mustn't defile it or destroy it.

mockturtle said...

Nothing will ruin your feng shui faster than a bunch of people dying next door.

William said...

The problem could be solved by simply locating the nursing homes in less residential areas. If the nursing home was situated adjacent to a meat packing plant, for example, who could possibly object.

Bill said...

When I lived in San Francisco, just off Clement Street in the Nineties (in a Chinese neighborhood) a business specializing in budget caskets was blocked from renting a storefront.

Michael K said...

Is having two yards extravagant and so beyond the imagination of most Chinese as to be laughable?"

In 2003, the NY Times had an article about "Orange County, a city north of Beijing.

Now, they are moving to California to buy the real thing. However, Orange County China had back yards.

The most amusing part.

But residents have discovered that they are poorly suited to typical Chinese cooking, which is centered on woks and sends grease and smoke spewing everywhere.

''I love the kitchen -- it is very pretty -- but the smoke is dispersed all over the house by the central air,'' said Liang Haijing, a thirtysomething lawyer, with big eyes and curly hair. So, like many Orange County residents, Ms. Liang has built a shack just outside the kitchen's sliding glass doors, and all cooking is done out there.

So they should be used to smoke.

ZZMike said...

Nanjing has an interesting and unhappy history.

Luke Lea said...

The thing is, the whole of traditional Chinese culture is built around ancestor worship and the idea that children will take care of their parents. But with urbanization and the one child policy all of that is falling apart. To make matters worse, the state owned and Party controlled banking system may be squandering the Chinese people's life savings, on which they are depending in old age, on boondoggle projects. This could end badly.

Ann Althouse said...

Thanks, Balfegor.

And thanks in advance, MadisonMan.

Fresca said...

My daughter, who is fluent, concurs with Balfegor. She said it is likely to be a new concept, since one of the words is used oddly. In translating the words, she could not come up with something concise or on-point but used "shun," "avoid," and "prohibit" neighborhood. Acronyms are not directly possible in Chinese, since the written word is done in characters, rather than in phonetic symbols. However, people use shortened words pushed together to represent a concept but the written word would have no real relationship to the written phrase. Her example to me is the short form for Hong Kong that is used on license plates.

She was not familiar with NIMBY, so I used local examples to explain it. We live in Hyde Park, Chicago and the underlying neighborhood sentiment is against the Obama Presidential Center.

Ann Althouse said...

Thanks, Fresca.

Vittorio Jano IV said...

I shared this post with Prof. Victor Mair of both UPenn and Language Log. He posted:

RMc said...

Why is anybody allowed to complain about anything? Isn't China a place where you get a bullet in your head for defying the revolution?

Hammond X. Gritzkofe said...

A memorable thread. Two instances, by separate erudite writers, of "your" in place of "you are."

Yore welcome.

samharker said...

Hammond, too much reliance on OttoPhil.