RSS feed

Getting around ‘Bu Zheteng

Changshuan Li, Beijing Foreign Studies University


President Hu Jintao took his audience by surprise with his speech at a commemorative event to celebrate 30 years of China’s reform and opening-up. Deviating from his official rhetoric, Hu resorted to a colloquial phrase of ‘bu zheteng’ to stress the government’s determination to avoid political upheaval and maintain stability. However, the tricky nuances of northern Chinese vernacular have proved to be a tough linguistic nut to crack for the media. In this paper, the author analyses the different translations, and subsequently makes recommendations. Using ‘bu zheteng’ as an example, the author also expounds a problem in Chinese into English translation. Most of these translations in China are poorly done, as the translators are mostly Chinese nationals who learnt English solely from textbooks. Substandard quality may be frequent, given the circumstances; however, the bigger problem is that most translators are unaware of their ineptitude, believing that literal translation is the best approach. Translating into a non-native language may be necessary for a while. It is therefore important that when translators encounter a problem, they investigate, verify and deliberate until they find the most satisfactory solution. Unless verified and validated, no translation may be presumed correct.


‘Bu zheteng,’ Chinese, English, translation.

1. How it came about.

On January 2, 2009, China News published an article entitled “’Bu Zheteng’ Clever and Subtle. Chinese Amused by Aptness, International Media Flummoxed” (China News 2009). Here is the gist of the article (translated):

An article in Singapore’s Lianhe Zaobao wrote that President Hu Jintao had taken a deviation from his official rhetoric and used the colloquial phrase ‘bu zheteng’ (“不折腾”, or ‘do not zheteng’) in his speech at a commemorative event to celebrate China’s 30 years of gaige kaifang (reform and opening-up) policy. However, the tricky nuances of northern Chinese vernacular have given both the Chinese and the international media a tough linguistic nut to crack.

In expressing the country’s determination to pursue its current system of Chinese socialism, President Hu asserted three consecutive ‘bu’s(‘no’ or ‘do not’): “So long as we bu dongyao (“do not waver”), bu xiedai (“do not slacken”) and bu zheteng (analysis to follow), and provided we continue with reform and opening-up while maintaining absolute focus on Chinese socialism, we will be able to achieve this ambitious goal.”1

According to the article, no sooner were the three syllables (bu zhe-teng) uttered than the audience in the Great Hall of the People chuckled in understanding. On a formal occasion, when important strategic announcements were expected to be made, Hu’s usually grave demeanour had lapsed suddenly into everyday colloquialism. The audience could obviously identify with the slang. Their laughter had suggested comprehension of the phrase’s political allusions.

The article pointed out that China had taken many wrong turns since the founding of the People’s Republic of China, due to internal strifes and external conflicts. Various political turmoils, such as the Anti-Rightist Movement and the Great Leap Forward, had taken their toll on the country’s political and economic development. The Cultural Revolution had been most damaging. Progress with ‘reform and opening-up’ had taken a blow even after 1989, starting up again only after Deng Xiaopeng’s tour of southern China in 1992. Hu’s summary reference to past turmoils and blunders as ‘zheteng’ showed his government’s resolve to end ideological debates and political struggles hindering economic development. ‘Bu zheteng’ was decidedly incisive, clever and apt.

However, for international media interested in Chinese ideas, ‘bu zheteng’ is a difficult phrase to understand and to translate. On the internet, readers were seen to have come up with different versions of translations, such as ‘don’t flip-flop,’ ‘don’t get sidetracked,’ ‘don’t sway back and forth,’ ‘no dithering,’ and ‘no major changes.’

These options were discussed during casual conversations with our English media colleagues, and everyone agreed that none manages to capture the implied ‘chaos’ and ‘in-fighting.’

Interestingly, when a reporter asked a question about ‘bu zheteng’ at the State Council’s press conference on December 30, the interpreter did not even attempt to translate or paraphrase; instead, he simply repeated the three-syllable utterance in Chinese, which unleashed another torrent of mirth. Later, Chinese media commended the ‘translation,’ saying that “‘bu zheteng’ might eventually become an English expression.”

After all the ‘zheteng’ spent on getting around ‘bu zheteng,’ the best option that came up was none other than ‘bu zheteng!’ Certainly, Chinese has contributed to the modern English vocabulary. While America gave us ‘astronaut’ and the Soviet Union ‘cosmonaut,’ China led to the birth of ‘taikonaut’ (originated from ‘taikong’ 太空 or ‘space’). Naturally, by being stronger and becoming the target of growing international focus, a country is then in a better position to loan words to foreign vocabulary (Ibid.).

Still, it could be wishful thinking that ‘bu zheteng’ will eventually become an English loanword. As most did not agree with the transfer of ‘bu zheteng,’ a wave of enthusiastic online discourse ensued. International interest was fuelled by the deliberate use of ‘phonetic translation’ at the press conference. Not only did English-literate Chinese readers come forward with suggestions, but foreign readers familiar (and unfamiliar!) with Chinese also made themselves heard. China Daily even conducted an online ballot to find out the general response of netizens to the various versions. On February 6th 2009, the results of the ballot were as follows (Li 2009):

avoid self-inflicted setbacks



bu zheteng



no trouble-making



don't flip-flop



don't sway back and forth



don't get sidetracked



no more hassle



The results indicate that people were still generally unhappy with the different suggestions. Even the most popular option failed to garner half the votes. In the next section, the author will attempt to analyse the reasons for the general lack of concurrence.

2. Current Options

Avoid self-inflicted setbacks. This was said to be suggested by a Chinese ambassador (STNN 2009). Despite garnering the highest votes, it is clearly wrongly translated and illogical. Based on Collins COBUILD’s definition:

A setback is an event that delays your progress or reverses some of the progress that you have made.
  • The move represents a setback for the Middle East peace process.
  • He has suffered a serious setback in his political career.

The definition and examples in Collins COBUILD depict ‘setback’ as something retrospective, i.e., we will only know afterwards if a setback has occurred. What President Hu has rendered is ‘prospective,’ something that hitherto has not seen the light of day (hence, ‘do not zheteng’.) Thus, ‘setback’ is inappropriate. Also, ‘setback’ is, whoever may have inflicted it, an ineluctable destiny. We cannot avoid an unavoidable occurrence (but we can stick to our cause when we suffer from setbacks). An English speaker wrote on his blog as follows:

However, I agree that the phrase ‘no self-inflicted setbacks’ is a lot better than the other translations. At least it is closer to what I understand the Chinese phrase ‘不折腾’ to be. Except that setbacks are usually not know until afterwards. How would someone recognize a setback until it is all said and done?

The nature of this whole thing is guidance from the top official on what not to do. If one knows ahead of time that some kind of action will cause a setback, yet engages in that action anyway, it really should be called ‘sabotage’ ( 2009).

Nonetheless, his recommendation of “(avoid) sabotage” clearly diverges from the Chinese meaning.

Bu zheteng: Phonetic description is a legitimate translation strategy if concise and precise translation is impossible. The meaning of the word may then be explained to foreign users through other means. A good example is ‘tofu.’ ‘Tofu’ was derived from Japanese tōfu (豆腐), whose origin could be traced back to Chinese dòufu (豆腐). Another example is ‘sushi,’ also Japanese in origin. These words were ‘translated’ into English, with meanings included. Someone commented on the internet as follows:

I think the meaning is close to Much Ado About Nothing. But if you prefer calling ‘raw or cooked fish wrapped inside of rice that was seasoned with vinegar and sugar’ to sushi, then I think using the term ‘bu ze theng’ directly is the best choice (Peh 2008).

However, will the phonetic transcription of bu zheteng’ find permanency in the English vocabulary? The author thinks not. A foreign engineer working in China wrote:

Last night, my colleagues, all of whom are Chinese, and I had a discussion about how to translate bu zheteng. They all seem to agree that the best solution is simply for us English-speakers to adopt bu zheteng into our language. What do you think?

Bearing in mind that I’m an engineer, not a linguist, off the top of my head I can think of two categories of Chinese words that have been adopted into the English language:

The first is the Chinese words that have been fully integrated and are included in standard English language dictionaries. Examples: tofu, from the Chinese dou4 fu 豆腐, and kung fu, from the Chinese gong1 fu 功夫.

The second is Chinese words that expats living in China routinely use colloquially when speaking to each other, either because no equivalent English word exists, or because it describes perfectly a phenomenon unique to China. Examples:

-- chai 拆, meaning to demolish, e.g. “I used to love that restaurant; too bad it got chai’ed last week.”

-- mafan 麻烦, meaning troublesome/annoying, e.g. “Travelling during Chinese New Year’s is too much mafan, I think I’ll just stay in Beijing next week.”

My prediction is that bu zheteng will be integrated by expats into the unique brand of Chinglish that we use when speaking to other China expats, but that there is little to no chance that bu zheteng will become the next tofu (Livefrombeijing 2009).

It appears that ‘bu zheteng’ may be able to serve as a stopgap used only among the laowai(foreigners, usually westerners, living in China). However, without any hype by western mainstream media, it is unlikely that ‘bu zheteng’ will become accepted into popular usage. Unless we have exhausted all possibilities, pinyin is not a suitable option.

No trouble-making: Putting it in the context of President Hu’s speech, we get “...(so long as we) don’t waver, don’t slacken and don’t make trouble...”. But this obviously fails to express the colourful references of the expression, and does not evoke memories of political upheaval. This version was said to be suggested by Ji Xianlin (Miniqun 2009), a prominent Chinese indologist, linguist, palaeographer, historian, and writer who had been honoured by both the Indian and Chinese governments. Being nigh on a centenarian, Mr Ji might not have read the context of President Hu’s speech or reflected on it at length. Authority should be respected, but not blindly followed.

Don’t flip-flop: ‘Flip-flop’ is a North American colloquialism, and refers to “an abrupt reversal of policy” (COED). Looking back in history, every ‘zheteng’ event that has occurred may have been related to policy change, but policy change is not the keynote. There were unexpected policy changes at the Third Plenary Meeting of the 11th Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party, but they were certainly not ‘zheteng’s.’ According to the Baidu Encyclopaedia (Baidu Baike), ‘zhetengmeans to ask for trouble, and to create problems; to issue an order in the morning and rescind it in the evening (capriciousness/fickleness), or to vacillate (between left and right); to sway from one side to the other, or change back and forth; to provoke conflicts, campaign endlessly, create internal disharmony, and to turn over and over again (as when baking a flatbread).”2 The translator was trying to use ‘flip-flop’ to refer to ‘mercurial actions,’ but he failed to convey the essential quality of ‘zetheng.’

Don’t sway back and forth: ‘To sway’ means to “move slowly or rhythmically backward and forward or from side to side” (COED). But as an intransitive verb, it does not encompass adopting erratic policies. One definition of ‘sway’ which refers to the change of thinking is “to cause to change in opinion, action, etc.; influence” (Ibid.). But when used as a transitive verb, ‘sway’ does not fit into the context of Hu’s speech.

Don’t get sidetracked: ‘Sidetrack’ means “to direct (a train) into a branch line or siding,” and extended to mean “to distract from an immediate or important issue.” (Ibid.) Hence, an “actor” is involved in order to ‘be distracted.’ But in this case, what, or who, could distract the Chinese Communist Party? What Hu had wanted to convey was that ‘we’ (the Party) should not ‘zheteng,’ and not that other political parties should not ‘zheteng’ us. Therefore, this option strays even further from the original meaning.

No more hassle: The definition of ‘hassle’ shows that this is clearly not an acceptable option:

A hassle is a situation that is difficult and involves problems, effort, or arguments with people. (INFORMAL) (noun)

If someone hassles you, they cause problems for you, often by repeatedly telling you or asking you to do something, in an annoying way (INFORMAL) (verb) (Collins COBUILD).

No dithering: To dither means to “be indecisive” (COED), hence obviously inappropriate.

No major changes: This is even further from the meaning of ‘bu zheteng.’ The translator might have meant that there should not be major policy changes, but the phrase certainly fails to convey the true intent.

Much ado about nothing: This is “a humorous play by William Shakespeare. People sometimes use the title as a phrase to describe a situation in which there has been a lot of excitement about something that is not really important” (Longman). It refers to ‘making a mountain out of a molehill,’ or ‘fussing over nothing;’ therefore, missing the purport of ‘bu zheteng.’ Of particular irrelevance is “excitement,” as it bears no association to the ‘suffering’ implied in zheteng.

Here are a few other suggestions taken from the web:

Don’t waste effort retracting from hasty moves: Wrong meaning conveyed. The translator intended to mean ‘fickleness,’ but failed.

Some preferred ‘mess around’. But ‘mess around’ still fails to convey the intended idea. If a person messes around or messes about, the person spends time doing things without any particular purpose or without achieving anything.

  • We were just messing around playing with paint.
  • Stop messing about and go and buy one.
  • Boys and girls will enjoy messing about with any kind of machine (Collins COBUILD).

Similar expressions are found in the dictionary (COT), including “monkey around” (behave in a silly of playful way), “muck about” (Brit. informal behave in a silly or aimless way (COED)), “potter” (to do things in a slow and enjoyable way (MacMillan)), “putter” (if you putter around, you do unimportant but rather enjoyable things, without any hurry (Collins COBUILD)). However, none of the above conveys the full meaning of ‘zheteng.’ It appears that a succinct translation is difficult.

A foreign netizen suggested “no more political turmoil.” (Peh 2008)This is basically correct, only that this expression is too blunt and not all-inclusive.

Some (Hujenglish 2009) suggested “no in-fighting” (“if we do not engage in in-fighting”). “No in-fighting” reflects the spirit of ‘zheteng’ (“create internal disharmony” (Baidu-Baike)) partly, but not entirely.

Author’s recommendation

The Chinese dictionary (Gaoji) provides a threefold literal meaning of ‘zheteng’ as follows:

  1. to do something back and forth: e.g. Just make do with what we have and sleep for a while, don’t bother to zheteng back and forth.
  2. repeating a task: e.g. He keeps dismantling and reassembling the radio, having zheteng(ed) several dozen times.
  3. torture: e.g. Chronic diseases zheteng people. 3

The first and second definitions may be construed as a single meaning, that is, to do something repetitively. Hence, we are left with two qualities: the first is repetitive behaviour; the second is action that begets suffering. Hu’s speech should encompass both. However, the author must clarify that repetitiveness of action in Hu’s context does not refer to doing the same thing over and over again, as in dismantling and reassembling a radio; what it refers to is the repetition of different actions with the same intrinsic qualities. Accordingly, it will be difficult to find a term or phrase that embraces both the literal and associative meanings of ‘zheteng.’ Expressions such as ‘much ado about nothing,’ ‘mess around,’ ‘monkey around,’ ‘muck about,’ ‘potter,’ ‘putter,’ connote ‘aimlessness’ or ‘busyness,’ but cannot express ‘zhetengs’ of massive scale, or the misery that ‘zheteng’ brings forth. Thus, translating ‘zheteng’ in its literal sense will never evoke all the connotative reflections that comes with it. We may have to approach it from a different angle, by using a succinct paraphrase to summarise the associative meanings of ‘zheteng.

Since ‘zheteng’ elicits a recollection of a series of past political movements, it is possible to render ‘bu zheteng’ as ‘do not engage in political movements?’ Prosaic as it may be, it conveys the essential meaning. Indeed, this was also one of the many internet suggestions (Peh 2008). ‘In-fighting,’ ‘flip-flop,’ ‘sway back and forth,’ ‘trouble-making,’ ‘setbacks’ and expressions of the like observe a similar trend of thought, though none of them is complete nor entirely accurate. However, ‘political movements’ may be too plain and do not encompass every possible scenario. Let us follow the same line of thought in search of a more accurate expression.

Peh (2008) writes further in his blog:

My own feeling is that none of the attempts at translating bu zheteng has worked. This is because there are three factors underlying that term zheteng: (1) it serves no real purpose; (2) it achieves no real effects; (3) it causes physical and mental anguish among those involved.

If “zheteng […] serves no real purpose”, would ‘purposeless’ be an appropriate description? Having said that, is the Cultural Revolution purposeless? Or is the Great Leap Forward devoid of purpose? Not really. There was no ‘real’ purpose. The author then tried looking for synonyms for “purposeless” and found: “unhelpful”, “unprofitable”; “purportless,” “senseless;” “nonsensical.” “Senseless” caught the author’s attention.

The Concise Oxford English Dictionary defined “senseless” as: “without discernible meaning or purpose; lacking common sense; wildly foolish.”

Is it not appropriate to generalise the various movements of post-PRC days as “lacking common sense” of being “wildly foolish?”

According to Collins COBUILD:

If you describe an action as senseless, you think it is wrong because it has no
purpose and produces no benefit.

  • ... people whose lives have been destroyed by acts of senseless violence...
  • If your child is thirsty for learning, then it is senseless to hold her back.
    = pointless.

Collins shows that a “senseless” activity “has no purpose” (satisfying the first requirement of the above-mentioned blog entry), and “produces no benefit” (satisfying the blog’s second, “no real effects” requirement). These (“no purpose,” “no benefits”) are definite features of the in-fighting and unnecessary struggles implicit in “zheteng.” As for the third requirement (“it causes physical and mental anguish among those involved”), the author believes that it can be subsumed under “senseless;” in the sense that, senseless activities naturally bring physical and mental agony (at least to those who have not lost their senses). Collins offered another option: “pointless.”

We may therefore identify preliminarily an adjective that describes ‘zheteng:’ ‘senseless’/‘pointless.’ The word that follows may be ‘enterprises,’ ‘undertakings,’ ‘ventures,’ ‘activities,’ ‘endeavours,’ etc. To establish a connection with the political movements in China, we may also consider ‘battles,” which could signify political struggles.

Next, we key each of these combinations into a search engine, in order to verify the existence of such expressions. If they do exist, we will further examine if they are consistent with Chinese circumstances. The result of the author’s investigations is positive. Here are some examples:

A senseless/pointless enterprise:

  1. The teaching of a value-free science of politics in a university would be a senseless enterprise unless it were calculated to influence the values of the students by putting at their disposition an objective knowledge of political reality (Voegelinview).
  2. We honor these men and women and the choice they made to serve their country. We only wish that our leaders would’ve honored them by not sending them to their deaths in such a tragic and senseless enterprise (Tikun Olam).
  3. “In this paper, I argue that such an inquiry is a pointless enterprise due to its being based upon the incorrect assumption that linguistic competence requires knowledge of language” (High Beam).
  4. "You seem to be spending a great deal of your available energy on a pointless enterprise" (Psychopath Research).

A senseless/pointless undertaking:

  1. ... that the whole program was "a senseless undertaking" (209) that not only subjected their homeland to health risks but made it economically dependent (Chappell 2000).
  2. It was argued that any fair and accurate investigation into, and weighing up of, past judicial and lawyerly conduct would have to involve an effective “re-trial” of the issues in their appropriate context—a complex, time-consuming, expensive and ultimately senseless undertaking (Wikiwak).
  3. Barack Obama - We can try to stop people from wasting energy on pointless undertakings. Yes, we can (
  4. To remedy these faults would mean to re-write the book, and that would be a pointless undertaking—for, if the book has any value, it lies in its documentary period character (Scum of the Earth)

Note: Chinese often equates an ‘enterprise’ to a business organisation (“qiye entity”,“企业单位”) and “undertaking” to a non-profit, government sponsored public institution (“shiye” entity, “事业单位”). This is a misconception, as the distinction does not exist in English. An ‘enterprise’  is “an undertaking, especially one of some scope, complication, and risk” (AHD). The word ‘enterprise’ finds its roots in old French, originating from the past participle of the verb ‘entreprendre,’ which means ‘to undertake.’

A senseless/pointless venture:

  1. A senseless venture, costing hundreds of thousands of lives and inflicting untold misery to millions, all in the name of religion, and under the symbol of the cross, had ended. Had these lives been invested in evangelizing the Muslims, the world would look different today (Answering Islam).
  2. In the end I felt that I read a book about a man who is taking a stupid journey, and I wasted my time reading about a senseless venture (Very Well Said).
  3. Bring owls to Athens: (idiom) To undertake a pointless venture, one that is redundant, unnecessary, superfluous, or highly uneconomical (
  4. I ask because my spare time is rather limited and I don't want to waste my time on a pointless venture (Lemon Retro Store).

Senseless/pointless activities:

  1. This type of senseless activity ultimately tarnishes the image of the state and sends wrong messages to the outside world (My Canvas 2008)
  2. Please pray for those who have no one to pray for them and who are victims of such senseless activities (I pray today).
  3. I've accused marketing groups of wasting money on pointless activities that do nothing to make it easier or cheaper to sell (Bnet).
  4. If the whole of a country's GDP was made up of pointless activities that had no meaning then too bad - it is what those people chose to do of their own free will. They were not forced to do those things (Mises Economic Blog).

Senseless/pointless battles:

  1. Now, often, conflicts are depicted in the media less as political confrontations than as brutal and ideologically senseless battles, and how better to communicate that than to show a damaged child (Moeller 2002)?
  2. I have known people who waste a great deal of time and energy fighting senseless battles. The end of the year is coming up, and this is a great time to assess your situation. What did you intent to accomplish this year (Associated Content)?
  3. The sad truth is that state-run schooling has created a multitude of similarly pointless battles. Nothing is gained, for instance, by compelling conformity on school prayer, random drug testing, the set of religious holidays that are worth observing, or the most appropriate forms of sex education (OCPA).
  4. Unfortunately, our schools are still locked in endless and pointless battles between "traditionalism" and "progressivism," between lecture-style teaching and immersion learning, as if these were the only two alternatives (Boora 2005).

Senseless endeavours/endeavors:

  1. ... to strengthen the ranks of the protesting movement against the senseless endeavors of the US administration to impose their arrogance on the world. (US Labor against the War)
  2. In my long years in this world, I have been saddened for the young and promising lives that have been wasted on reckless and senseless endeavours (Ponce Enrile 2009).
  3. To be sure, alchemy was taken up by many people who were seeking to make a quick fortune, and their senseless endeavors and cheating discredited the entire field (Corning Museum of Glass).

Pointless endeavours/endeavors:

The author read in a blog that explains “pointless endeavor” in a way similar to our comprehension of ‘zheteng:’

An earnest and conscientious effort towards a goal devoid of meaning; to work with set purpose to achieve absolutely nothing (Pointless Endeavors 2008)

A couple of examples from Google:

  1. The nine sons of the Chinese Dragon King waste their time engaging in pointless endeavors until their father suggests ways they can use their unique skills (The Centre for Children’s Books 2007).
  2. And anyway, governments waste money on far more pointless endeavors than combating climate change (Yahoo Answers 2009)

Verification and validation have proven that these expressions not only exist, but they bear the essence of ‘zheteng.’ They could be used to describe political turmoils in our history, or be interpreted to include a greater variety of ‘zheteng,’ political or otherwise. This way, the translation is broad enough to include whatever definition the government may provide in the future. The only regret, however, is that none of these expressions could reproduce the colloquialism or capture the vividness of ‘zheteng.’

Now, let us look at how these phrases are used in the context of Hu’s speech. Following President Hu’s thoughts (Hu 2008), the sentence structure may be: “…as long as we do not waver, do not slacken and do not”

  • engage in senseless/pointless enterprises,
  • engage in senseless/pointless undertakings,
  • undertake/engage in senseless/pointless ventures,
  • undertake/engage in senseless/pointless activities,
  • fight/engage in senseless/pointless battles,
  • engage in senseless/pointless endeavours.

Though all are tenable, the author is inclined towards ‘do not fight senseless battles’ (more vivid), and ‘do not engage in (or, ‘avoid’) pointless/senseless endeavours’ (more accurate in meaning).

To convert the phrasal verb to a shorter phrasal noun, we may render the translation into “No wavering, no slacking, and no senseless endeavours,” etc.

Finally, the author would like to stress that translation quality may only be ensured if the translator is a native speaker of the target language. Unfortunately, the situation is that there are few English native speakers who can translate (accurately) from Chinese into English. Most English translations are poorly done, as the translators are Chinese nationals who learnt English solely from textbooks. Substandard quality may be frequent, given the limitations; however, the bigger problem is that most Chinese translators are unaware of their ineptitude, believing that literal translation is the best approach. Translating into a foreign language may be necessary for a while. It is therefore important that when translators encounter a problem, they investigate, verify and deliberate until they find the most satisfactory solution. Unless verified and validated, no translation may be presumed correct.


References of texts quoted as examples

C. LiBiography
Li Changshuan is Associate Professor, Graduate School of Translation and Interpretation, Beijing Foreign Studies University. He is also a conference interpreter and translator.

Note 1:
The original text reads:
Return to this point in the text

Note 2:
The original text reads:
Return to this point in the text

Note 3:
In each case, the original text reads respectively:
- “翻过来倒过去:凑合着睡一会儿,别来回~了。”
- “反复做(某事):他把收音机拆了又装,装了又拆,~了几十回。” 
- “折磨:慢性病~人。” 
Return to this point in the text