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I'm reading a letter that Ba Jin wrote in the 80s to a group of students, and there are a few places in the letter that he uses what appears to be a phrase '形势大好' that meant something specific to the context of the times. Here's a usage of it in context:

我常常想,我们生活在其中的社会有时会是十分古怪,叫人难以理解。人们喜欢说,形势大 好,我也这样说过。这种说法不是没有道理,我也有自己的经验:根据我耳闻目睹,舍身救 人、一心为公的英雄事迹和一人有难、八方支援的好人好事,每天都在远近发生。

I think the literal translation "excellent situation" is missing something. So is there a better way of understanding it?

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  • adjectives like 好 (possibly modified by adverbs,e。g。大)can form the entire predicate (w/o 判断 verbs like 是) thus 形势大 好 can literally mean in this case "the situation is excellent") – user6065 Feb 5 '17 at 17:20
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I think 形势 here refers the social trend

Trend

noun:

1.The general course or prevailing tendency; drift:

大好 means 'very good'

形势大好 (situation is very good) in this context should mean: "The general course our country in is quite optimistic'

10

漢典 shows that 形势 means [situation; circumstance; condition; state of affairs]
在其周围环境中所处的情形;或在一定时间内,各种情形的相对的或综合的境况。

According to the context, the author was talking about 社会形势大好 because there were many 好人好事 everyday.

Thus, I think 形势 means 气氛 here.

The social atmosphere is very good.

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Both hinen and Tang Ho provide correct definition.

The phrase 形势大好 was first used in last century by communist propaganda to convey the idea that (communist) China is doing well.

Normally, no one uses this phrase in colloquial conversation except when he's sarcastic.

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  • I was wondering if it was a known propaganda phrase. Thanks. – nsg Feb 6 '17 at 14:45
  • This phrase is so commonly used in propaganda that people are so used to it as most people never actively feel it's propaganda. But any native speaker could realized that it's almost exclusively used in propaganda once someone pointed out. – Lucius Hu Feb 7 '17 at 0:38
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人们喜欢说,形势大 好,我也这样说过。这种说法不是没有道理,我也有自己的经验:根据我耳闻目睹,舍身救 人、一心为公的英雄事迹和一人有难、八方支援的好人好事,每天都在远近发生。

Here I would translate 形势大 好: everything is going well
He then says: 我也这样说过 I think so too

He goes on to say 我也有自己的经验 I have personally experienced

He repeats that: 根据我耳闻目睹

He lists all the good things which are happening:
舍身救 人 people give their lives to help others
八方支援的好人好事 everywhere good people doing good deeds
每天都在远近发生 every day near or far this is happening

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My 汉语成语大词典 offers “形势逼人” as a chengyu, and refers to 谢觉哉《冷和热》(1881-1971). A rough translation for it could be "the situation is urgent". I am happy to write out the whole dictionary entry if required.

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here 形势大好 mains 社会风气非常好,people live happily and harmony

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