After sharing a dubious ‘Chinese proverb’ on Twitter, Ivanka is widely mocked in China and the U.S

g.ravagnani / Flickr kika ivanka trump...
g.ravagnani / Flickr

Yesterday Ivanka Trump was doing her best to hype the meeting between Donald Trump and murderous North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un. From Singapore, she shared a “Chinese proverb” with her followers on Twitter:

Ivanka Trump shares a "Chinese proverb" that says "Those who say it can not be done, should not interrupt those doing it."

One problem … nobody can find the origin of this so-called ancient proverb. And when we say nobody can find it, that includes millions of Chinese who’ve been searching high and low. From NPR:

After a thorough search of the Analects of Confucius, Taoist texts and everything in between, nothing definitive has come up. But that hasn’t stopped millions of Chinese social media users from making wild guesses like these, straight from Weibo, one of China’s most popular social media sites:

  • 临渊羡鱼不如退而结网 — It’s better to knit a fishnet instead of standing by the river and hoping for fish.
  • 观棋不语真君子 — Don’t give advice while watching others playing a chess game.
  • 勿以善小而不为 — Don’t ignore small acts of kindness simply because they seem trivial.
  • 己所不欲,勿施於人 — Don’t force others to do things you don’t want to do yourself.
  • 吃不到葡萄说葡萄酸 — If you haven’t tasted the grapes, don’t say they’re sour.

As you might imagine, her tweet is also being widely mocked by the Chinese.

A lack of a clear source for Trump’s tweet has some people speculating the first daughter either made it up or, a more likely explanation, cut and pasted the saying from an unreliable website. In the meantime, the search for this “proverb” through ancient Chinese texts has become something of a viral Quixotic quest in China, filled with many a sarcastic comment:

“Did you get that from a fortune cookie?”

“估计是 fortune cookie 上学来的…”

“Don’t mistake something as a Chinese proverb simply because it’s written in Chinese characters.”

“不能因为某句话上面配了个鬼画符的”中国字”,就觉得那是句中国谚语。——鲁迅”

“Many foreigners make up Chinese proverbs much like we make up English ones.”

“都想多了。其实,很多欧美人说的中国谚语,都是他们自己编的,如同我们也编了他们的不少谚语。”

“I think Jack Ma said that.”

“我想是马云说的。”

“A Chinese proverb from Ivanka has killed the brain cells of Chinese netizens.”

“伊万卡一句中国谚语,累死了全中国网友脑细胞啊。”

And finally, a tweet from an actual Chinese literature scholar, Brendan O’Kane:

“You can call any old [s***] a Chinese proverb on the internet.”

— Confucius

Fortune cookie diplomacy seems about right. Back home in the states, the reaction was, to put it mildly, not a laughing matter.

The era of Trump family diplomacy cannot end soon enough.

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