Sweep Black, Eliminate Evil

If you live in China and can read some of the Chinese around you, you’ve probably noticed this phrase of late:

扫黑除恶

Literally, “sweep black, eliminate evil.” It refers to the current ongoing crackdown on “crime” and “vice.”

It is super pervasive, though. Big red banners like this are on almost every single street corner in Shanghai now (this image not from Shanghai):

扫黑除恶

And then there are signs like this everywhere as well:

扫黑除恶

Given how the city is heavily blanketed in this propaganda right now, you might be forgiven for thinking that the city was absolutely infested with crime, with drug-dealers and prostitutes on every corner. But no, that’s not the case. To the casual observer, there’s no clear reason for the severe crackdown.

If you talk to the Shanghai foreigners that hang out in bars a lot, you’ll hear that there have been many raids this month, including forced drug tests and deportations. So drug-related arrests are definitely happening, but again, that is not at all related to the average resident of Shanghai.

If you ask Chinese people about it, they typically mention that it’s a move to take out organized crime (黑社会). You also see stuff like this:

扫黑除恶
扫黑除恶

I don’t doubt that’s true, but the bizarre part about this campaign is that the “evil” being combatted seems to have absolutely nothing to do with most people. I can’t see it or feel it (I certainly have never seen mobsters shaking down fruit vendors in Shanghai). And I think that this is true for most Chinese citizens. So really, all the propaganda is just to let you know: “we are totally kicking crime’s butt right now.”

OK… it’s just one of those weird things about living in China.

Share

John Pasden

John is a Shanghai-based linguist and entrepreneur, founder of AllSet Learning.

Comments

  1. Kien Choong Says: June 19, 2019 at 11:23 am

    Perhaps it is a pre-emptive initiative?

  2. If you do not see anything it just means it is working and they are successful

  3. […] 2019 in Shanghai was all about the 扫黑除恶 (“Sweep Black, Eliminate Evil“) campaign, but towards the end of the month, the new big topic became 垃圾分类 […]

Leave a Reply