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South China Morning Post (SCMP) ran an article recently called: "Online slang that found its way into leader's speech."

The article said (emphasis is my own):

Online slang that found its way into leader's speech

Use of trendy term proves a hit with internet users but baffles one official translator


Premier Li Keqiang has caught the attention of mainland internet users with his use of the popular online term "self-willed" during his work report to the National People's Congress.

Addressing the need to cut red tape, simplify administrative procedures and delegate authority to lower levels of government, the premier said yesterday that "those with power must not be self-willed".

The remark became an instant hit with the online community, who shared it countless times. For all the latest news from China’s parliamentary sessions click here

People's Daily's Weibo account quoted a source with knowledge of the drafting of the report as saying that Li had personally added the term.

It is rare for casual internet expressions to find their way into the central government's work report, which is usually crafted with great care into formal language by a dedicated team of advisers.

"Self-willed" has been a popular expression among mainland internet users since last year. They use it to refer sarcastically to the spoiled and wilful behaviour of the rich.

Its popularity appears to trace back to a news story about a rich man who voluntarily transferred about half a million yuan (HK$630,000) to a group of fraudsters, even though he knew they were operating a scam, because he was interested in seeing how much they could swindle out of him.

During a press conference for the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference on Monday, spokesman Lu Xinhua also used the term "self-willed" to refer to the public's firm stand on fighting corruption and the pursuit of the next big "tiger" - or corrupt top official.

Lu's translator, apparently surprised by the turn of phrase, had to confirm with Lu exactly what he had said.

Improvising and under great time pressure she initially translated it as "capricious".

Lu is seen by many as a pioneer in his use of trendy internet catchphrases to brighten up the otherwise stiff annual parliamentary sessions.

  • What is the "self-willed" word in Chinese here that they are referring to?
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任性 (caprice).

The internet slang 任性 is short for expression 有钱就是任性 (Baidu Baike), which refers to the phenomenon that rich people make "capricious" decisions because they can afford to make up any negative consequences with money, and sometimes they deliberately make poor decisions only as a setup to show off their power of wealth.

Another common variation of this phrase is 有钱,任性.

A popular English translation for this expression is "rich is bitch" or "rich as a bitch".

For the usage in Li's work report, here is a reference: http://news.sina.com.cn/c/2015-03-07/115431579527.shtml

“任性”从去年开始成为内地网民的流行语。他们用这个词来讽刺富人的娇生惯养和随性而为。

据香港《南华早报》网站3月6日报道,李克强总理在全国人大会议上作政府工作报告时使用网络流行语“任性”,引起内地网民的关注。

谈及简政放权时,李克强5日表示,“有权不可任性”。此话立刻引发网络热议,被网民无数次分享。   《人民日报》微博称,报告起草组负责人透露,这句表述是李克强亲自加入报告里的。

“有权不可任性”3月5日占据中国各大新闻网站的头条,成为多数媒体解读李克强政府工作报告的醒目标题。

  • I'm confused here- what makes the online usage different from what 任性 has always meant? What LKQ is saying makes sense w/o knowing it's 網絡語... – Master Sparkles Mar 7 '15 at 14:50
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    @MasterSparkles You asked two questions. For the first one, the online usage attributes rich people's unconventional behaviors towards caprice only for irony. In reality that would be an over-simplification at least. For the second question, it does make sense to a certain degree but it would be a strange word choice because it is neither accurate nor proper usage for the occasion. The internet usage has given the phrase a metaphorical meaning, without which it's not very wise to describe 'authority abuse power for personal gain' as simply 'capricious'. – NS.X. Mar 8 '15 at 1:16

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