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French President Emmanuel Macron (centre) and his wife Brigitte pictured on Tuesday during their visit to the Forbidden City, the former imperial palace in the centre of Beijing. Photo: Associated Press

Macron charms China as he grapples with the Chinese language

French president shown in video footage doggedly practising trying to say his climate change catchphrase ‘Make our planet great again’ in Mandarin

A behind-the-scenes video of French President Emmanuel Macron wrestling with the Mandarin pronunciation of his climate change slogan “Make our planet great again” has delighted Chinese social media.

The candid footage shows Macron sneezing and wondering when to breathe as he diligently repeats the phrase after his instructor, while a woman touches up his make-up and two bemused men in military garb look on.

Macron was able to show off his new skills in a keynote speech on the future of Sino-French relations during a stop on Monday in the northern city of Xian, the starting point of the ancient Silk Road.

But it was the video of him learning the Chinese version of the expression – a tongue-in-cheek jab at US President Donald Trump’s “Make America Great” campaign slogan – that endeared him to Chinese social media users.

“Rang,” Macron says in the clip that was posted on Twitter late Monday.

“It’s like ‘Jean’, then,” he says, referring to a French first name that sounds like the pronunciation of the Chinese word “rang”.

Determined to properly execute Mandarin’s notoriously difficult tones, the president asks: “So where am I supposed to breathe?”


Enunciating the phrase, he says, “rang diqiu zaici weida” – Make the planet great again.

Macron, who speaks fluent English, was applauded for his efforts on Weibo, China’s equivalent of Twitter.

“President Macron’s really giving it his all,” one commenter said. “In order to spread his environmental philosophy in China, he even learned how to say ‘make Planet Great Again’ in Chinese hahahaha.”

Another user wrote that Macron’s use of the phrase in Chinese showed his steadfast resolve to spread his environmental message.

Macron visited the Forbidden City on Tuesday, the former imperial palace in the centre of Beijing, and will hold more talks with President Xi Jinping following their initial meeting on Monday night.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Macron charms with Mandarin practice