Since the mid-1990s, ‘neoliberalism’ has grown in importance as an explanatory trope for socio-cultural anthropologists. This article seeks to unravel the various strands of neoliberalism's anthropological meaning and demonstrate the blind spots of using neoliberalism as an overarching trope. I begin by analysing the contradictions between two common forms of theorizing neoliberalism. The remainder of the article then focuses the initial discussion by examining a particular case: suzhi discourse in the People's Republic of China (PRC). Suzhi may be glossed as human quality, and suzhi discourse refers to the myriad ways in which this notion of human quality is used in processes of governing contemporary China. I discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the arguments of those who explain suzhi discourse in terms of neoliberalism and suggest ways in which this discourse might be contextualized more fruitfully than as a form of neoliberalism.