Diaosi, the Chinese slang term (屌丝) meaning ‘loser,’ has undergone a decade-long transformation.
First appearing in online forums in 2010, diaosi was a comedic insult used to imply someone was an outcast and their life was absorbed in video gaming. Next to its antonym slang term, gao fu shuai(translation: tall, rich and handsome), diaosi was known as meaning “short, ugly and poor.”
But it wasn’t long before diaosi became a self-ascribed identity, with a huge portion of netizens happily labelling themselves ‘losers.’
In fact, 64, 81 and 70 percent of people in their 20s, 30s and 40s, respectively, said in a survey run by internet giant Soho that they can identify with the feeling of being a diaosi.
MI Group, founded in 2010 and internationally recognised for products like Xiaomi phones, focused on creating products which were high value for money. With affordable prices, MI Group became known as being a diaosi brand – a title which founder Jun Lei embraced.
In 2012, he posted a photo of a fake Adidas shirt, with the logo misspelled “Adiaos,” and cleverly captioned it: “Famous brand, ADIAOS” will launch on May 23. By 2013, the internet was celebrating Jun Lei’s sense of humour, referring to him by his self-ascribed title the “leader of diaosi” and saying that Jun had “won the world.”
This year, it appears that the term has lost some of its pop culture charm and acceptance.
On November 21 2020, Mei Wang who manages talent training programs at MI Group, made a comment at an annual China Human Resource Management Annual Conference in Beijing, saying “MI Group thinks who wins Diao Si who wins the world.” In short, their most valuable customers are losers. She then noted that “when they grow out of their diaosi stage, the company will consider making expensive smartphones.”
By November 25, Mei had resigned, apologising for the inappropriate remarket that “do not represent the MI Group in any way.”
From internet insult to self-ascribed identity, and now, to an impolite phrase which prompted resignation of senior management, diaosi has taken on a life of its own. Netizens wait to see whether it will be embraced or rejected in the next decade.