The Communist Party regularly employs a variety of muffled euphemisms for sexual misdeeds: moral corruption, dissolute lifestyle and the like. But in a rare display of lucidity, China’s top antigraft body actually used the Chinese word for adultery — tongjian (通奸) — last week while announcing the expulsion of a party member.
The departure from normal party parlance drew a flurry of comments and speculation online. “If adultery alone were enough to expel a party member, I doubt how many of the 80 million members would be qualified to stay,” said a post on NetEase Weibo. “It gives the impression that” the expulsion “was not because of his adultery, but who he committed it with.”
All of which prompted the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection to issue a response:
In a statement titled “Through a Buzzword: Looking at Party Rules Being Stricter Than National Laws” posted on the commission’s website on Saturday, adultery is defined as “voluntary sexual behavior between a married person and a person of the opposite sex apart from his or her spouse, a behavior in violation of socialist morality.”
The statement explains that while adultery is not prosecutable under Chinese law, it is punishable under Communist Party rules, and that “party members and cadres must not only obey national laws, but also — even more so — party rules.”
On Thursday, the commission had said that Dai Chunning, a former senior executive of a state-owned insurance company, was expelled from the party for corruption and adultery. The state news agency Xinhua noted that the word “tongjian” had last been used two years previously, in the expulsion of Mao Xiaoping (yes, an amalgam of Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping), a deputy party secretary in the eastern province of Jiangsu.
It remains to be seen whether “adultery” will show up again soon or whether party pronouncements will revert to more familiar phrases. Regardless, in April, The Beijing News deciphered some of the euphemisms most often used to describe the sexual indiscretions of targets of corruption investigations. They included:
Moral corruption, or “daode baihuai” (道德败坏): Means involved in prolonged, improper relationships with multiple women, relationships with prostitutes or adultery. Examples: Liu Zhijun, former railways minister; Guo Yongxiang, former aide to Zhou Yongkang, the fallen security czar.Dissolute lifestyle, or “shenghuo fuhua” (生活腐化): Means keeping mistresses who are also involved in corruption or other unlawful activities. Example: Liu Zhihua, former deputy mayor of Beijing.
The newspaper also noted prominent exceptions. Neither Bo Xilai, the disgraced Communist Party aristocrat, nor Wang Lijun, his former police chief in the city of Chongqing, were given any of the above labels, even though both were said to have had improper sexual relationships with multiple women.