Languages of Security in the Asia-Pacific

College of Asia and the Pacific, Australian National University

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Chinese – Āndìng | Wěndìng

May 27th, 2011 · No Comments · Chinese, Stability



穩定 (稳定)


Relates to stability

The term is made up of the following elements:

安 – ān – peace; tranquil; to set at ease; calm; safety; security; to place in a suitable position; stability; to stabilise; to be satisfied with something[1]

穩 – wěn – smooth and steady; stable or to stabilise; to settle; secure; reliable and dependable[2]

定 – dìng – calm or to calm; settled or to settle; stable or steady; decided or to decide; surely or certainly or ascertain; to accomplish or establish something[3]

Āndìng (安定)’ or ‘Wěndìng’(穩定)’ means to stabilise or to steady an object, circumstances or situations.[4] The first use of āndìng is recorded in an ancient Chinese historical record, The Classic of History (Shàngshū / 尚書), which was written before 221 BC.[5] In the record, āndìng has the connotation of stabilisation, for instance, “Now, I will try to lead all of you to migrate and to stabilise (āndìng) our country.[6]

In classical Chinese, āndìng was often used with reference to the peace and stability of the Sino-centric realm. After the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) built the communist regime in 1949 following the civil war, the CCP claimed its priority was to maintain political and social stability. It is true that the Cultural Revolution caused much instability, but in 1974, Mao Zedong started chanting the slogan of “stability and unity” (wěndìng hé tuánjié, 稳定和团结), and said “the proletarian Cultural Revolution has been going on for eight years. Now it is time for stability. The party and the military must unite. (Wúchăn jiējí wénhuà dàgémìng yĭjīng bā nián. Xiànzài, yĭ āndìng wèi hăo. Quán dăng quán jūn yào tuánjié, 無產階級文化大革命已經八年。現在,以安定為好。全黨全軍要團結)”[7]

The intention behind the use of āndìng is to legitimate only harmonious and predictable change that avoids social conflict and contributes to continuing stability.  It carries notions of harmony and order that ensure its potency in the language that is used by the Chinese Communist Party. The need to suppress heterodox sects or other religious movements tends to be justified on the basis of preserving harmony, ‘héxié (和谐)’ rather than āndìng. From the perspective of preserving stability, any non-conformist group with the capacity to organise above a local level will often be targeted for surveillance if not outright suppression.

After Mao’s death, Deng Xiaoping continued to promote the idea of stability and unity. He regarded stability as the foundation of China’s development and modernisation. In 1980, Deng said “without a stable and united political environment, it is impossible to feel relieved to carry out development” (Méiyŏu yīgè āndìng tuánjié de zhèngzhì júmiàn, jiù bùnéng ān xiàxīn lái găo jiànshè, 沒有一個安定團結的政治局面,就不能安下心來搞建設).[8] In order to emphasise the importance of stability to China’s economic development as well as to remind the Chinese people of the great harm caused by the Cultural Revolution to the stability in China, Deng also coined the aphorism, “what outweighs everything is stability” (yādăo yīqiè de shì wěndìng. 壓倒一切的是穩定).”[9] After the Chinese government suppressed the Tiananmen Square Protests on June 4, 1989, Deng said, “China’s highest interests lie in stability. Anything which is beneficial to China’s stability is a good thing. (Zhōngguó de zuìgāo lìyì jiùshì wěndìng. Zhǐyào yŏulì yú zhōngguó wěndìng de jiùshì hăoshì/ 中國的最高利益就是穩定。只要有利於中國穩定的就是好事).”[10] Such remarks convey the potency of the idea of stability in modern China.

The Chinese concept of stability, either āndìng or wěndìng, can carry the ideas of political stability, social stability, and international stability. It is also noticeable that in the contemporary use of the term ‘stability’, wěndìng is more prevalent in the media, the government, and academic circles than āndìng.

The Chinese authorities’ emphasis on stability justifies resistance to challenges to the CCP’s rule of China. In order to uphold stability, the main argument put forward is that the communist, socialist and Marxist ideological form of the Chinese government cannot be altered. The Chinese government must assure the CCP’s existence and the CCP’s continuity as the first priority in order to guarantee China’s social stability and development. One example touting these values states that:

“the Chinese Communist Party, which has experienced 84 years of various severe challenges, is a reliable stabiliser in the Chinese society. It will assure China’s realisation of the peaceful rise and the great revival of the Chinese nation.

Jīngguò 84 nián gèzhŏng yánjùn kăoyàn de zhōngguó gòngchǎndǎng shì zhōngguó shèhuì kěkào de wěndìng qì, tā jiāng quèbǎo zhōngguó shíxiàn hépíng juéqǐ hé zhōnghuá mínzú de wěidà fùxīng.


Once political stability is secure, the Chinese government suggests that it will be able to pursue social stability, which in turn promotes economic development. In 1990 Deng remarked that, “the most fundamental element is the speed of economic growth, whose manifestation has to be that people’s lives improve gradually. Only when people see the substantial benefits brought by stability (wěndìng) and only when people see the benefits of the current institution, as well as the policies, can stability (wěndìng) be really realised.[12] The terms for stability and development are often linked together to suggest that the concepts themselves are inextricably related.

According to the CCP, if disturbance or chaos occurs in China, it is the government’s duty to gain control and to ensure China’s economic development and the maintenance of the social order. For example, in April 2008, when the 2008 Beijing Olympic torch relay was disrupted in Paris and allegations surfaced that Carrefour and its shareholder, the LVMH luxury goods group, offered funds to the Dalai Lama, protests and boycotts of Carrefour occurred across various regions of China. The Chinese government therefore had to “urge” the general public to control their anger. An article in China’s mouthpiece, the People’s Daily, entitled ‘How Can Patriotism Be More Powerful?’, stated, “being citizens, we have the responsibility to calmly express our passion for patriotism, legally as well as orderly, as it expresses our willingness to love the country. [We] must maintain the big picture of social stability and maintain an environment advantageous to China’s peaceful development by taking practical measures such as doing our own jobs and learning hardly.”[13]

Another term which became popular in China in the first decade of the 21st century is the word, ‘wéiwěn’ (維穩) which literally translates as ‘the maintenance of stability’ but conveys the more complex meaning of the Chinese authorities’ efforts to maintain or preserve the stability (wěndìng) in society. This term is opposed to ‘wéiquán’ (維權), which literally translates as rights, but conveys the deeper meaning of people in movements or individual efforts to protect their legal rights. Wéiquán in China has resulted in a common social phenomenon in which many Chinese people in order to make appeals – due to the lack of proper channels in the bureaucracy – have to resort to methods which might disrupt law and order. Breaking law and order, or more significantly the possible expansion of these social conflicts, fundamentally violates the Chinese authorities’ longstanding policy that “stability outweighs everything.” In response, the Chinese central and local governments have shown their relentless and inflexible attitude in carrying out measures and policies to suppress people’s voices in order to maintain the “stability (wěndìng) in the society.” However, there have been warnings that the Chinese authorities’ measures to wéiwěn have actually resulted in instability. As Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao noted, “fairness and justice in a society is the foundation of the social stability (Shèhuì gōngpíng zheng yì shì shèhuì wěndìng de jīchŭ / 社會公平正義是社會穩定的基礎).”[14]

Significantly, China’s crackdown on ‘cults’ – which China regards as purposely challenging the CCP regime and possessing unscientific arguments – is part of its broader effort to protect the political and social stability of China. For example, ‘Falun Gong’ has almost become synonymous with the term ‘cult’ and is regarded as a critical source of instability in China. A Chinese official document expressed strong opposition to ‘Falun Gong,’ by stating: “to protect the stability, one important way is to eliminate Falun Gong, the cult, thoroughly. Disturbing China is the goal of Falun Gong, the cult. If people want to fully understand the nature of Falun Gong, the cult, they must notice that Falun Gong, the cult, has become a vicious power which destroys the stability and development of the state and the peaceful lives of the people.[15]

The concept of stability applies to China’s execution of foreign policy as well, due to the understanding that a stable international environment is beneficial to China’s domestic stability.  China attaches great value particularly on maintaining the stability of its bordering areas. A long-term call for ‘wěndìng zhōubiān (稳定周边) – literally translated as ‘stabilising the periphery of our country’ – suggests the maintenance of amicable relationships with its neighbouring countries to achieve stability along its border, is a top priority on China’s international agenda. With respect to the overarching international community, ‘stability’ implies the expectation of lasting peace, development and co-prosperity in the international environment (despite ‘disturbances’ existing in some local areas.




[1] Xiandai Hanyu Cidian (Modern Chinese Dictionary, the 5th Edition), Beijing: Commercial Press, 2006, p. 6. Hanyu Da Cidian (Comprehensive Dictionary of Chinese Words), Shanghai: Hanyu Da Cidian Press, 1989, Vol 3, p. 1312 同第一part

[2] Xiandai Hanyu Cidian (Modern Chinese Dictionary, the 5th Edition), Beijing: Commercial Press, 2006, p. 1430. Hanyu Da Cidian Press, 1989, Vol. 8, p. 157

[3] Xiandai Hanyu Cidian (Modern Chinese Dictionary, the 5th Edition), Beijing: Commercial Press, 2006, p. 321. Hanyu Da Cidian Press, 1989, Vol. 3, p. 1359

[4] Xiandai Hanyu Cidian (Modern Chinese Dictionary, the 5th Edition), Beijing: Commercial Press, 2006, p. 7 and p. 1430. Hanyu Da Cidian (Comprehensive Dictionary of Chinese Words), Shanghai: Hanyu Da Cidian Press, 1989, Vol 3, p. 1320 and Vol. 8, p. 158.

[5] “The New Translation of the Classic of History,” San Min Book Company, May 2005, p. 4,

[6] “The New Translation of the Classic of History,” San Min Book Company, May 2005, p. 100-102

[7] “Mao Zedong’s Three Guidance and Deng Xiaoping’s Overall Rectification in 1975,” the website of the Chinese Communist Party to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the establishment of the CCP, [accessed December 28, 2008]

[8] “The Current Circumstance and Tasks,” Selected Works of Deng Xiaoping (Deng Xiaoping Wenxuan), Vol. II (1975-1982), the People Press, Beijing, 1983, p. 215, [accessed December 30, 2008]

[9] “What Outweighs Everything Is Stability,” Selected Works of Deng Xiaoping (Deng Xiaoping Wenxuan), Vol. III (1982-1992), the People Press, Beijing, 1993, p. 284, [accessed December 28, 2008]

[10] “The Most Urgent Task of the Third Generation Leaders,” Selected Works of Deng Xiaoping (Deng Xiaoping Wenxuan), Vol. III (1982-1992), the People Press, Beijing, 1993, p. 313, [accessed December 28, 2008]

[11] Xu Xuejiang, “The Chinese Communist Party Is the Stabilizer in the Chinese Society,”, June 30, 2005 [accessed December 29, 2008]

[12] “The International Situation and the Economic Issues,” Selected Works of Deng Xiaoping (Deng Xiaoping Wenxuan), Vol. III (1982-1992), the People Press, Beijing, 1993, p. 355, [accessed January 1, 2009]

[13] He Zhenhua, “How Can the Patriotism Be More Powerful?” the People’s Daily, April 20, 2008, [accessed February 8, 2009]

[14] Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao’s press conference following the closing of the third session of China’s 11th National People’s Congress, March 14, 2010,,

[15] “Eliminating the Cult; Protecting the Stability,” the People’s Daily Overseas Edition, p. 4, April 24, 2002, the news was cited by China’s Consulate-General in Auckland, [accessed January 4, 2009]


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