Another presidential typo

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Just a few days ago we had this colossal blunder being trumpeted all over China:

Xí Jìnpíng huìjiàn Měiguó zǒngtǒng Àomǎbā 习近平会见美国总统奥马巴 ("Xi Jinping meets American President Omaba")

See "Xi Jinping meets President Omaba in Paris" (12/4/15)

Now Al Jazeera (12/6/15) reports another lollapalooza of a typo in China.  This time the tables were turned on their own president:

"China suspends reporters over Xi 'resigns' typo:  Two reporters and two editors punished for accidentally replacing 'zhici' with 'cizhi' in article on Xi's speech."

Four Chinese state news agency staff have been suspended for a typo suggesting President Xi Jinping had resigned.

The Chinese word for "speech" – "zhici" – was accidentally replaced with "resignation" – "cizhi"  – in the article written on Xi's address to the China-Africa summit in South Africa's Johannesburg, the Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy NGO said on Sunday.

About 20 state-run media carried the report on Saturday until a correction was issued about one hour and 20 minutes later, the Hong Kong-based advocacy group said.

Two reporters from the South Africa department and two editors at the China News Service were punished for the report.

The error occurred two days after the official Xinhua news agency misspelled US President Barack Obama's name in a report about him meeting Xi, the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported on Sunday.

Like the Omaba gaffe, this error involved a transposition of syllables — "cizhi" for "zhici".  However, unlike the Obama –> Omaba swap which merely shifted the position of two characters, the "zhici" –> "cizhi" flipflop flap involved a more complicated rearrangement of two pairs of characters, with none of the four being the same:

cízhí 辞职 ("resign")

zhìcí 致词* ("deliver a speech")


*can also be written zhìcí 致辞

Given the nature of this error (different characters, transposed syllables the same but with different tones), it would seem that the person initially responsible for making this mistake was entering text via romanization without regard to tones.  It's easy enough to transpose syllables that sound similar (consonants in the denti-alveolar and retroflex series and vowels identical), but the fact that the person entering the text did not notice the horrible mistake in the characters shows that their mind was focused more on the sounds of the words than on the shapes and meanings of the characters.  As to why the editors and proofers who let this slip through, that's beyond my comprehension — unless it was due to sheer lassitude.


  1. Brendan said,

    December 7, 2015 @ 7:07 pm

    Would this qualify as a Spoonerism with Chinese characteristics? I'm sure David Moser must have more examples of this sort of thing.

  2. APOLLO WU said,

    December 7, 2015 @ 10:51 pm

    I remember in my UN days, a UN Chinese echelon translation team at the Security Council erroneously mistranslated the names of a sponsoring country of a Security Council resolution from Pakistan to Palestine ( 巴基斯坦 > 巴勒斯坦),fortunately the error was detected by a member of the Chinese delegation prior to the issuing of the document and thus avoided making a serious mistake.

  3. Lai Ka Yau said,

    December 8, 2015 @ 10:04 am

    It has happened to CY Leung before. Ming Pao's online news editor accidentally typed 辭職 instead of 致詞, too…

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