A couple of years ago I met the Hong Kong director Herman Yau, who was finishing up what was then the most expensive horror movie in Chinese history. He was casting about for an English title and I suggested “The Ghost Inside.” It stuck. I never saw a dime for my contribution, and didn’t even get to meet the hottie star Barbie Hsu. But occasionally I would run into Yau at a dive bar near my place in Hong Kong and he would buy me a beer. Ah, the perks of the big screen.
Now it appears that my skills as a pitchman are called upon again. Last month during a speech on the 30th anniversary of China’s reform and opening, President Hu Jintao exhorted his audience to “bu zheteng” (不折腾). While the phrase is pretty straightforward in Chinese, it prompted much speculation about whom it was meant for. Now it seems that putting it into English is causing some headaches as well. A story from the state-run Xinhua news service lists several suggestions including “no troublemaking,” “don’t flip-flop,” “don’t sway back and forth” and the awkward “no self-consuming political movements.” In the spirit of global communication, I humbly suggest the simple “no wavering.” But if the President wants to appeal to the youth of China, maybe he could quote Big Daddy Kane, who in 1988 famously rapped, “Ain’t No Half Steppin’.” You know how the kids these days love hiphop.