In China, Argentine President Cristina Kirchner makes fun of Chinese accents

Did Argentine President Cristina Kirchner actually say in Beijing the following?

“Whoa! bu nung jong when huhweh shwoah de hun how, eenweigh whoa! shwoah da boo how!”

No, not really, though it would have been very interesting to hear how good her Chinese pronunciation was (“Wo bu neng zhongwen hui shuo de hen hao, inwei wo shuo de bu hao!”

Instead she made fun of the difficulty in Western stereotypes of Chinese speakers being able to pronounce “R” correctly, which in folklore comes out as “L”.

According to the Wall Street Journal, she tweeted the following:

Mrs. Kirchner, who is in China trying to drum up investment in infrastructure projects, sent out a tweet in which she swapped L’s for R’s in the Spanish words “petróleo and arroz”—petroleum and rice—to caricature a Chinese accent in Spanish.

“Vinieron sólo por el aloz y el petlóleo?” (They came just for rice and oil?), she tweeted rhetorically, referring to hundreds of people at an event where she was speaking in Beijing.

–Taos Turner, “In Beijing, Kirchner Mocks Chinese Accent; Argentine Leader Courts New Controversy on a State Visit to China When She Mocks Chinese Pronunciation,” Wall Street Journal, February 4, 2015 (8:00 p.m. ET).

See also,

Mariano Obarrio, “Viaje oficial; Cristina firmó 15 convenios con China y ofreció invertir en recursos naturales,” La Nacion ( Buenos Aires), 05 de febrero de 2015.

The first point to be made is that she obviously has has very little contact with educated Chinese speakers of English or Spanish, who in 2015 are demonstrating an impressive mastery of foreign languages, particularly in English but also in Spanish.

The second point to be made is that this “gaffe” is not likely to draw attention away from the apparent murder of Alberto Nisman, a government prosecutor who was drafting an arrest warrant for Mrs. Kirchner at the time he was killed, for her alleged involvement in a conspiracy with Iran to not pursue the perpetrators of a terrorist attack on a synagoge in Buenos Aires in 1994 which killed 85 people. The judicial proceedings which followed were marked by irregularities, which in 2005 led Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, later to become Pope Francis, and 84 others to sign a petition calling for new proceedings.

Nisman was scheduled to testfy and present his evidence to Congress the day after he was found dead in his apartment, on January 18. A clumsy government story that he had committed suicide soon fell apart, and even Kirchner tweeted she didn’t believe the suicide story.

The final point is that Argentines need to get a grip, forget Eva Peron, and put Cristina Kirchner and her deceased husband, Nestor, who preceded her in office, completely behind them.

it is time for Argentina to join the modern world of truly democratic countries with a high reputation for transparency and lack of corruption. They need to look for role models to outstanding leaders such as Raul Alfonsin, the first civilian president after the “dirty war” of the 1970’s and the disastrous invasion of the Falkland Islands in 1982, and not to Juan or Eva Peron.

To redeem herself, Prsident Kirchner should begin working on her Chinese pronunciation forthwith, even if she has to take classes from behind bars.

One of the first things she will learn is that perhaps the hardest letter for a Westerner to prounounce in Chinese is “R”. Key words she will want to practice are “Zhongguoren” (Chinese people) and “Renminbi” (Chinese national currency).

She better get her “R’s” right!

The Trenchant Observer

About the Author

James Rowles
"The Trenchant Observer" is edited and published by James Rowles (aka "The Observer"), an author and international lawyer who has taught International Law, Human Rights, and Comparative Law at major U.S. universities, including Harvard, Brandeis, the University of Pittsburgh, and the University of Kansas. Dr. Rowles is a former staff attorney at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organization of American States OAS), in Wasington, D.C., , where he was in charge of Brazil, Haiti, Mexico and the United States, and also worked on complaints from and reports on other countries including Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. As an international development expert, he has worked on Rule of Law, Human Rights, and Judicial Reform in a number of countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and the Russian Federation. In the private sector, Dr. Rowles has worked as an international attorney for a leading national law firm and major global companies, on joint ventures and other matters in a number of countries in Europe (including Russia and the Ukraine), throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, and in Australia, Indonesia, Vietnam, China and Japan. The Trenchant Observer blog provides an unfiltered international perspective for news and opinion on current events, in their historical context, drawing on a daily review of leading German, French, Spanish and English newspapers as well as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and other American newspapers, and on sources in other countries relevant to issues being analyzed. Dr. Rowles speaks fluent English, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish, and also knows other languages. He holds an S.J.D. or Doctor of Juridical Science in International Law from Harvard University, and a Doctor of Law (J.D.) and a Master of the Science of Law (J.S.M.=LL.M.), from Stanford University. As an undergraduate, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree, also from Stanford, where he graduated “With Great Distinction” (summa cum laude) and received the James Birdsall Weter Prize for the best Senior Honors Thesis in History. In addition to having taught as a Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School, Dr. Rowles has been a Visiting Scholar at Harvard University's Center for International Affairs (CFIA). His fellowships include a Stanford Postdoctoral Fellowship in Law and Development, the Rómulo Gallegos Fellowship in International Human Rights awarded by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and a Harvard MacArthur Fellowship in International Peace and Security. Beyond his articles in The Trenchant Observer, he is the author of two books and numerous scholarly articles on subjects of international and comparative law. Currently he is working on a manuscript drawing on some the best articles that have appeared in the blog.