Scholarship to date agrees that the internet has weakened the Chinese Party-state's ideological and discursive hegemony over society. This article documents a recent intervention into public discourse exercised by the Chinese state through appropriating and promoting a popular online catchphrase—"positive energy" (zheng nengliang). Analysing the "positive energy" phenomena using Laclau and Mouffe's theory of hegemony and discourse, the authors argue that the relative effectiveness of this hegemonic intervention rests on the semantic versatility of "positive energy", which enables "chains of equivalence" to be established between the label's popular meanings, on the one hand, and its propagandist meanings, on the other.