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Don't say we didn't tell it before

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Don't say we didn't tell it before (Chinese:勿谓言之不预也) is an expression in ancient Chinese, which serves as a diplomatic term of the People's Republic of China, indicating the most serious diplomatic warning, or the Final Warning. It is believed that the usage of this term indicates initiating a war.

The Ministry of the People's Republic of China have used the term for many times on official media such as Xinhua News Agency or People's Daily at critical moments, attaching a special political indication onto this term. In history, this term has been used for three times on People's Daily and once on Xinhua Daily Telegraph.[1][2]. After each of three usages in 1962, 1967 and 1978 come the outbreak of Sino-Indian border dispute, Zhenbao Island incident and Sino-Vietnamese War[1][3]

This term has different translations, such as don't say I/we didn't warn you before or don't blame me that I haven't give you previous notice.


The appearance of exactly this phrase is in Qing Dynasty, in the letter from Emperor Qianlong to the British King[4], as a warning that if British commercial ships are involved in business out of the limited permitted areas, the civil and military officials in China will forbid the trades immediately and deport them. The term was used here as a warning to British King, expressing the resolute attitude of forbidding foreign trades without permission from the emperor.

Diplomatic usage[edit]

Sino-Indian border dispute[edit]

In 1947, after the independence of India, the Indian government required the Chinese government to recognize the McMahon Line as the Sino-Indian border line. China, refusing the McMahon Line, have been in a long-term argument over the border issue with India.

Since June 1962, the Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru has been saying that China should not occupy Tibet. China claimed that the Indian army fired toward Chinese army on the border, and more than ten soldiers were injured, the Indian army beginning to establish outliers in Chinese territory. On 22 September 1962, People's Daily published an article titled If we suffer from this, what can't we suffer from? (an ancient Chinese saying, indicating this is a very serious offense and we should never suffer from this). China warned the Nehru government to withdraw the Indian army from the border with immediate effect, or else the Chinese army planned to use force. The last sentence of the article was "We are now seriously warning the Indian authority. Don't say we did't tell it before."

On 20 October, India claimed that it was attacked by the Chinese army. This was the beginning of Sino-Indian border war, which ended with the tactical victory of China. Both parties reverted to the previous border.

Zhenbao Island incident[edit]

From 1967 to early 1969, there were conflicts between border forces of China and the Soviet Union. An article from Xinhua News Agency on 3 July 1967 stated that "Chinese Foreign Ministry strongly protests against the illegal intelligence activities of officers in Soviet Office of Commercial Representatives in China", followed by "Don't say we didn't tell it before" at the end.[2][3]

In March 1969, armed conflicts between China and Soviet took place on the island. It ended with Chinese victory, and China controlled the island after the conflicts.

Sino-Vietnamese War[edit]

Before 1975, the Hanoi government did not formally express any objection over Chinese sovereignty of Paracel Islands and Spratly Islands. After Vietnamese unification in 1975, it claimed sovereignty over these islands and some land areas on the Sino-Vietnamese border. Private business in south Vietnam was confiscated, and a number of overseas Chinese citizens lost their properties.[5] In "critical areas", the Chinese were suffering from endless "Loyalty Tests" until being deported. Without enduring anti-Chinese conducts, the Chinese government kept condemning and accepting Chinese-Vietnamese refugees.[5] In 1978, small-scaled conflicts took place on the Sino-Vietnamese border.

People's Daily published an article on 25 December 1978, warning the Vietnamese authority. On 12 February 1979, the Central Military Commission decided to initiate the defensive war on 17 February.

China–United States trade war[edit]

On 22 March 2018, U.S. President Donald Trump signed a memo - based on Special 301 Report, require Office of the United States Trade Representative - to impose tariffs on goods imported from China as a punishment against China stealing intelligent property and a number of commercial secrets from the United States. The Ministry of Commerce of People's Republic of China announced later the fight-back conducts, imposing tariffs on 128 kinds of United States imported goods. It was the beginning of the trade war.

An article entitled "The U.S. should not underestimate the fight-back power from China" in the People's Daily, published on 29 May 2019, used the term again, ending with "Don't say we didn't tell it before".


  1. 1.0 1.1 中华网编辑. "真不是唬人!盘点《人民日报》历史上几次"勿谓言之不预"". 中华网新闻 (in 中文). 北京. Retrieved 2019-05-29.
  2. 2.0 2.1 "《新华社每日电讯》1967年7月3日北京电" (in 中文). 北京. 新华通讯社. 1967-07-03.
  3. 3.0 3.1 飞书读传. "中国3次与外国开战信号:每次都说过一句相同的话". 搜狐网新闻 (in 中文). 北京. Retrieved 2019-05-29.
  4. 乾隆58年(1793年)敕諭英吉利國王:“若經此次詳諭後,爾國王或誤聽爾臣下之言,任從夷商將貨船駛至浙江、天津地方欲求上岸交易,天朝法制森嚴,各處守土文武,恪遵功令,爾國船隻到彼,該處文武必不肯令其停留,定當立時驅逐出洋。未免爾國夷商枉勞往返,勿謂言之不預也,其凜遵毋忽,特此再諭。”
  5. 5.0 5.1 William J. Duiker (1986). China and Vietnam: the roots of conflict. Institute of East Asian Studies, University of California. ISBN 978-0-912966-89-2. Search this book on Amazon.com Logo.png

See also[edit]

  • History of foreign relations of the People's Republic of China

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