Chinese Urban Dictionary: Gangjing

By Mia Li, September 25, 2018

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Gangjing / gàng jīng / 杠精 noun. People who argue for the sake of arguing and young people who argue in order to feel a sense of intellectual superiority.

A: I love visiting the jianbing stand on my street corner every morning.

B: Jianbing are super oily and bad for you. You may as well just drink oil.

A: I don't want to argue with you if you are going to be a gangjing. Whatever you say is right.

B: It's impossible for whatever I say to be right all the time. You are wrong again.

A: Whatever, bye.

Most of us went through a phase in our youth where we wanted to be seen as "edgy." In China, where much emphasis is given to social harmony and group consensus, vocally dissenting is a way for youngsters to achieve that.

In fact, so many young people are now cultivating their contrarian image that others are calling them out on it – by labeling them gangjing, loosely translated as “expert arguer.” You can find them in forums, on Zhihu, or in the comment sections of news articles, arguing against other commenters.

Unlike Internet trolls who say anything to start an argument, gangjing believe their own opposing views, putting their foot down and arguing earnestly. (What better way to be a true contrarian?) Their arguments come in bullet points, complete with links to academic papers, footnotes and sometimes full bibliographies. It’s easy to imagine them behind their laptop screens, sipping soy lattes while reveling in the superior feeling of being the only one who sees the truth at a time when everyone else is misinformed. They are the elite minority, so very edgy and cool. (And intellectual!)

This feeling of superiority is so addictive that they scour online discussions just to find the next thing they can disprove. If any opinion presented online has desputable facts or generalizations, gangjing will find them and point them out. And so the cycle continues.

The more popular a certain point of view gets, the more satisfaction a gangjing derives from opposing it. Therefore, the place you’ll find most of them is in the comment section of popular think pieces, such as WeChat posts with thousands of likes. The fact that China is full of inherent contradictions, compounded with the post-truth world we live in, makes it easy to find arguments against every valid opinion. We are living in the heyday of gangjing.

The best ways to handle gangjing are to, (1) ignore them, or (2) agree with them. The latter is sure to annoy them most of all. 


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