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I want to write about the Chinese Government during the Cultural Revolution and argue that whilst they created the appearance of more political openness, it was merely a façade.

Is there a word that expresses the inauthenticity of their actions? Like the 'falseness' of their policies but referring specifically to the fact that they pretend to be something they're not and that they hide something more sinister.

  • Would any of the answers to this related question suit you? – Dan Bron Apr 30 '15 at 11:28
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    "Potemkin village" comes to mind. – Hot Licks Apr 30 '15 at 12:12
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    To play the hypocrite. Hypocrisy. – pazzo Apr 30 '15 at 12:13

11 Answers 11

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the appearance of more political openness, it was merely a façade. Is there a word that expresses the inauthenticity of ...

You can describe that as

  • they were only cosmetic changes ,

    which means 'superficial' , as you say 'like a façade, not substantive, or, a bit stronger, you can say that those openings were unreal, fictitious,

  • those changes were only make-believe

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We can say such dissembling is a charade.

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  • The best answer. – Fattie Apr 30 '15 at 14:22
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Potemkin village:

The phrase "Potemkin village" (also "Potyomkin village", derived from the Russian: Потёмкинские деревни, Potyomkinskiye derevni) was originally used to describe a fake portable village, built only to impress. According to the story, Grigory Potemkin erected the fake portable settlement along the banks of the Dnieper River in order to fool Empress Catherine II during her journey to Crimea in 1787. The phrase is now used, typically in politics and economics, to describe any construction (literal or figurative) built solely to deceive others into thinking that some situation is better than it really is. Some modern historians claim the original story is exaggerated.

This is a fairly well-known metaphor, though perhaps not so well as in the past.

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  • Interesting! This is ideal for my situation. – alexytsu Apr 30 '15 at 12:38
  • You know, Hot, I think it's a bit confusing to use Potemkin Village in a figurative way. For example, in WW2 the brits laid out fake tanks made of cardboard (a "real" Potemkin Village); the brits spread fake stories of landings (a sort of "figurative" Potemkin Village ... the phrase doesn't work as well there). Also it's really more about a statist regime pretending to achieve bright shiny physical progress. The OP is more asking about "they pretend to be something they're not and that they hide something more sinister"... – Fattie Apr 30 '15 at 14:25
  • .. an example that comes to mind is, oh, the Nazis putting up a face about being big in to youth health, outdoor activities, anti-smoking policies and so on. (Whilst obviously having a tremendously darker agenda.) I feel that while it's an outstanding phrase to have brought to attention here, it's not, really, what the OP is after. – Fattie Apr 30 '15 at 14:27
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Obfuscate.

'Officials were obfuscating their true agenda beneath a thin veneer of mock improvements.'

Or something along those lines. It may not be exactly what you are looking for, however it seems in the spirit of what you are trying to describe.

from:http://www.vocabulary.com/dictionary/obfuscate

Some people are experts at obfuscating the truth by being evasive, unclear, or obscure in the telling of the facts. The people who are good at obfuscating would include defense lawyers and teenagers asked about their plans for Saturday night.

Although the verb obfuscate can be used in any case where something is darkened, less clear, or more obscure, it is most frequently used in reference to things like ideas, facts, issues, or the truth. The usual implied meaning is that this obfuscation is done deliberately. Politicians often obfuscate the truth about the issues to win support for their positions so they can win elections.

Regards, G

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put on an act

put on a facade

put on a show

fake a situation

The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms, Second Edition - Page 365 Christine Ammer - 2013

put on an act pretend, esp in order to deceive; also, show off.

For example, We were afraid Charlie had hurt himself, but he was just putting on an act, or We know you're a good swimmer—stop putting on an act.

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One definition of portray is "to play the role of" (Merriam-Webster).

So you could say that the Chinese government portrayed itself as being politically open.

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  • another excellent answer! – Fattie Apr 30 '15 at 14:27
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Charlatan, fraud, subterfuge would probably be apt.

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    Can you quote the relevant definitions of these words from your favorite dictionary? – Dan Bron Apr 30 '15 at 15:23
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To present a false appearance is to attempt to deceive, the act is deception.

The use of deceit

and deceit is

a misleading falsehood

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"A wolf in sheep's clothing" -- not a snappy as you possibly want, but gets at the sinister element that the previous suggestions have not captured.

Perhaps there is a verb that can be nominalised with a '-ment' suffix, like 'inveiglement'

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How about false front, or for some slang...fronting.

The Chinese Government was putting up a false front. The Chinese Government was straight fronting.

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    Welcome to ELU, Pete. An authoritative resource would be helpful to improve your answer. – ScotM Apr 30 '15 at 15:23
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Dissimulation means putting on a false appearance.

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