How To Prove It In China: 36 Methods

Selection and adaptation of invalid methods to prove Chinese theorems

BEIJING - Many Western readers will find China’s hard-core communist propaganda alien and mind-bogging. The tasty way someone (from former East-Germany) described it to me was that “it’s slowly omnomnoming on your sanity and devouring your brain.”

China’s academic writings, too, pose significant challenges to the untrained goggles in that Chinese manuscripts are often revisionist, heavily stylized, repetitive, under-referenced, and full of blatant plagiarism -which was acceptable in China since there was little sense of intellectual property rights (tell Western joint ventures about it!).

Another headache for historians is the Chinese ideal of ‘xiao’ –filial piety. Piety means that emperors, officials, professors, teachers, your parents, and all superiors are always right. Needless to say, in the fields of politics, history, and all social sciences, the Party at all times has the correct answers already, which reduces those branches of scholarship to mere matters of form and ritual (e.g. simplicity, imagery, and repetition). Next, there is little universal notion of ‘truth’ in China, but rather a lofty pragmatism –e. g. what is good for the people. That is, by the way, why “philosophy” and “science,” two distinct Western ways of thinking and methodology, were largely (but not entirely) absent in China before the arrival of the Europeans. (They compensated for it by cultivating sages and sagehood, which is a fascinating topic by itself.)

Which leads us to a well known phenomenon that in China there previously was little or no objectivity in a Western sense that God and the world are separated (it's a metaphor!); in fact, there is no “religion” in China, which means that highest wisdom is with human beings (not God), and that the people and all their various relationships is all there is –so people will have to be accommodated -not some fancy hocus-pocus.

Last, even progressives have no problem with citing Confucius of 2500 years ago which is rarely helpful to solve any real life problem -except that Confucius always wins the argument.

How to prove it in China

The following is a list of invalid but surprisingly effective proof techniques that your author has encountered in Chinese texts. They are obviously not exclusive to China, but rampant:

1. Proof by sheer numbers: How could 1,393,649,829 Chinese be wrong?

2. Proof by induction: Heaven and all under heaven are one!

3. Proof by annexation: Take any already known theory from the West and add: “...with Chinese characteristics.”

4. Proof by subsidy: How could so many government agencies be wrong?

5. Proof by deferral: We’ll prove it once we have achieved socialism (technically in 100 years from the founding of the People’s Republic of China, which will be October 1, 2049.)

6. Proof by powerful imagery: “The United States and Britain are paper-tigers.” --Mao Zedong

7. Proof by persistence: You know this is true!

8. Proof by sentiment: You feel this is true!

9. Proof by wishful thinking: The West is in decline, what is there for us to prove anymore?

10. Proof by guanxi: The more people you know, the higher the probability someone is going to help with your proof.

11. Proof by hukou: You usually got it right if you are a first class citizen (from Beijing, the capital), second class citizen (Shanghai, Guangzhou, etc.), and wrong if you happened to come from the parasitic countryside.

12. Proof by repetition: “And so on, over and over again in an endless spiral, with the ideas becoming more correct, more vital and richer each time.” --Mao Zedong

13. Proof by backward/forward reference: Reference is usually to a past or forthcoming paper of the author.

14. Proof by compensation: The average Chinese skyscraper erected must be no less than 10 stories taller than the average European one.

15. Proof by eminent authority: When I met Hu Jintao at the Diaoyutai State House, he said: “It’s the ‘harmonious society’, stupid.”

16. Proof by pomp: Although China has 829 Million peasants living in poverty and only 1/11 of the GDP (per capita) that of Europe; nevertheless it held the world’s most costly and ostentatious Olympic Games -ever.

17. Proof by reference to inaccessible literature: The Chinese civilization is at least 6000 years old! (Written records go no further than 3000 years –Ouch!)

18. Proof by no-reference whatsoever: There is no reference list in this damn 526-pages textbook!

19. Proof by pre-eminence: The Germans may have invented the automobile, but the Chinese invented the paper for its blueprint.

20. Proof by patriotism: You’re seriously offending the feelings of 1,393,649,828 Chinese compatriots.

21. Proof by yin and yang: We tanked the humiliations during the Boxer Rebellion, the Opium Wars, the Nanjing Massacre, the unequal treaties; soon the imbalance will be restored in our favor!

22. Proof by piety: “I am not inventing something new; I just recite the sages of old.” --Confucius

23. Proof by cultural revolution: Is your culture hopeless? Just crush and shatter it; and write yourself a new one.

24. Proof by production: “The massive population of China is our greatest good. Even a further increase of several times the population is entirely possible, possible through productivity.” --Mao Zedong

25. Proof by walking: “As more people are walking all the time, in the same spot, a path appears.” --Lu Xun

26. Proof by sufficient misery: The starvation of 30 million citizens and the total annihilation of opposition, critics and traditional culture during the Cultural Revolution have finally convinced the Chinese people that it was the necessary thing to do to revive this nation.

27. Proof by demonizing: “The Dalai-lama is a devil in sheep-clothes!” --CCTV

28. Proof by ethnicity: You ‘prove’ it by showing your opponent is not Chinese. A classic: “Mr. Smith does not understand China because he is not Chinese.”

29. Proof by exclusion: Before the defendant airs his dirty opinions in public, he will be censored/defamed/incarcerated/executed to prove his irrelevance.

30. Proof by meekness: Usually employed by showing three or more of the following virtues: kindness, courtesy, amiability, ingratiation, graciousness, hospitableness, sagacity, modesty. Hence Confucius: the true gentleman knows what is right.

31. Proof by saying No: Publish a book entitled China can say No.

32. Proof by corruption: You have to pay if you have to pay.

33. Proof by suspension: “China’s rise will be peaceful.” –Wen Jiabao

34. Proof by English translation: If the West can read it, you exist!

35. Proof by having-nothing-to-prove-at-all: Forget proof and all - Be RICH. Be TALL. Be EDUCATED. (The so-called “3G” [san gao] will get you anywhere in China!)

36. Proof by Confucius: Just say Confucius said it, e. g. “Girl who do back spring on bedspring have offspring next spring.” etc. --Unknown author

Note: This has been cross-posted at

Image credit: Vitchanan Photography/

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