Lost in Translation? UBS’s “Chinese Pig” Comment Stirs Controversy

A report by the UBS titled “Very Normal Inflation” caused controversy on Chinese social media on Thursday for containing the term “Chinese pig.”

The UBS, a Swiss multinational investment bank, published the article on consumer price inflation on June 12. The author, economist Paul Donovan, wrote: “Chinese consumer prices rose. This was mainly due to sick pigs. Does it matter? It matters if you are a Chinese pig.” The same text also appeared in a podcast on inflation in China.

Global Times (环球时报), a Chinese and English language media outlet under the People’s Daily newspaper, lashed out against the USB for its “insulting” and “discrimatory” remarks.

Many netizens agreed with the Global Times, and see the “Chinese pig” remark as a joke with a double meaning, assuming that Donovan was both talking about pigs in China, as well as insulting Chinese people.

Some people suggest that if Donovan did not intend to make a pun, he could have written “it matters if it is a pig in China” instead. They argue that UBS and Donovan could have avoided using the term to begin with, and intentionally wrote it up like this to insult Chinese people.

There are also social media users who come to Donovan’s defense. Author Deborah Chen (陈叠) writes on Weibo that she has known Paul for a long time and that she knows him as a straightforward and humorous commentator. “There is just one kind of translation for ‘pigs of China’ (中国的猪) and ‘Chinese pigs’ (中国猪) in English,” she says: “If you look at the context, you’ll see he’s talking about farm animals, and is not humiliating the people of the nation.”

On Weibo, multiple people called the reactions to the article “overly sensitive.”

A commenter nicknamed “Taxpayer0211809” wrote: “The way I understood is just that China’s consumer prices have inflated and that this is because of the swine fever. Is this thing important? It is important if you are a pig in China, or if you like eating pork, for the rest of the world there won’t be a big influence.”

Shortly after the controversy erupted, the UBS and Donovan sent their apologies, which were also published by Global Times:

But some Chinese web users did not accept those apologies. One Chinese author wrote there was nothing “innocent” about the remarks made.

The article in question has since been removed from the USB website.

 
Also read: Bulgari’s Noteworthy New China Marketing Campaign on a Happy ‘Jew’ Year of the Pig (Zhu)
 

By Manya Koetse and Miranda Barnes

Photo by Fabian Blank on Unsplash

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