Confusing the names Obama and Osama has tripped up quite a few news anchors in the English-language media. Several TV channels, for example, stated ‘Obama has been killed’ during news of the raid that eliminated the former Al-Qaeda leader (ABC News, CNN and the BBC all made the error).
Four journalists from China News Service have just been suspended for a spectacular blunder of their own: reporting on the “resignation” of Chinese leader Xi Jinping during his visit to South Africa last week.
This time it was an unfortunate typographical error. Instead of telling readers about a “speech” (zhi ci) by Xi, the official newswire referred instead to his “resignation” (ci zhi).
Worse, other Chinese media outlets simply copied and pasted the error into their own reports, compounding the gaffe.
Adding more confusion last week was an announcement from Shanghai-listed seasonings maker Lotus Flower Gourmet Powder that it had appointed a certain “Xi Yinping” as an independent director. It wasn’t a mistake this time (although typing ‘Xi Yinping’ into Google automatically reroutes the search to ‘Xi Jinping’, assuming the input is a typo).
The man in question not only bears a name strikingly similar to the Chinese leader but apparently, shares the same blood line.
Filings with the Shanghai Stock Exchange show that Xi Yinping was born in Shaanxi province, in the sane home town as Xi Jinping. He has also worked for the province’s Xi Zhongxun Research Association since 2014 (Xi Zhongxun, of course, was Xi Jinping’s father.)
The disclosure intrigued the media, with CBN reporting that Xi Yinping is a “distant relative” of the Chinese president and that the two share a great-grandfather. Xi Yinping’s father, in fact, was a cousin of Xi Zhongxun. This connection was more than enough encouragement for investors to pick up Lotus Flower’s stock. Within 30 minutes of the Xi announcement, the firm’s shares had surged to hit the exchange’s 10% daily limit.
But it was a short-lived spike. State censors soon stepped in and banned searches for the term “Xi Yinping” on social media. And Lotus Flower’s shares plunged the following day after it made public that it had withdrawn Xi Yinping’s directorship. Its chairman made a public apology, stressing that the company was “absolutely not intending to cause any speculation”.
If the appointment was a publicity stunt, it backfired, the Beijing News admonished. And the whole episode cast local investors in a poor light too, mused Apple Daily.
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