bu dongshi: not worldly-wise

On April 3, a video showing police working for a public security bureau ignoring the commands of a traffic police officer was widely shared online. The traffic police required the driver – the public security police officer – to drive away due to having parked illegally, but the driver refused and said the traffic police officer was not “worldly-wise,” and “doesn’t understand the way things work,” or “bu dongshi” in Chinese.

Dongshi has two meanings (and “bu” means “not”). One is largely equal to the term “considerate,” the other is “worldly- wise”, meaning that someone does or says something in line with others’ intention.

Before saying “bu dongshi,” the driver involved revealed his own identity – a director of a public security bureau – in a bid to maintain his “parking rights,” and then tried to frighten the traffic police officer, stating he knew the traffic police chief, but neither ruse worked.

According to the Jiangsu-based Yangtse Evening News, the incident reflects some current social problems, particularly in fawning over power. This was a simple personal interaction, but many people have got into the habit of taking shortcuts or enjoying the priorities of power. The video shows how common the habit has become in China’s relationship-driven society.

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