Ivanka Trump’s ‘Chinese proverb’ tweet leaves China totally baffled

Internet users struggle to find any Chinese sayings that match the daughter of the US president’s high-profile message on social media

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 12 June, 2018, 6:52pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 13 June, 2018, 5:24pm

A tweet by Ivanka Trump referring to a Chinese proverb has baffled internet users in China as they tried to figure out exactly which one she was referring to.

Ivanka, the daughter of US President Donald Trump, had posted on her Twitter account on Monday: “‘Those who say it can not be done, should not interrupt those doing it.’ – Chinese Proverb”

The tweet, which was pinned to the top of her Twitter account, came hours ahead of her father’s historic summit meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore on Tuesday.

Ivanka Trump made no reference to the meeting, but many internet users immediately assumed her post was linked.

Twitter is blocked in mainland China, but screenshots of the tweet soon went viral on the social media site Weibo as users debated the origin of the quotation.

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Dozens of Chinese proverbs, some dating back thousands of years, were posted in an attempt to identify the source.

Top candidates included “Those who accomplish great things do not seek opinions from the ordinary” from The Book of Lord Shang.

Another phrase suggested was coined by the former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping: “Empty talk harms the nation. Practical actions help it thrive. ”

None of them, however, perfectly matched Ivanka Trump’s tweet.

The official account of Weibo’s owner, the tech firm Sina, was also baffled.

“Our editor really can’t think of exactly which proverb this is. Please help!” it posted.

Some internet users mocked Trump for her comment.

“Maybe she saw it in a Panda Express fortune cookie,” one person joked.

Others, however, were more supportive of her attempt to reference Chinese culture.

“If you want to qualify it as a Chinese proverb, then the closest in the modern era will be the one used by President Xi [Jinping] recently. ‘It’s better to stand and take action than just sit and talk’.”

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The real origin of Trump’s proverb may, however, lie a little closer to home.

Quote Investigator, an internet blog that tracks the source of quotations, says the phrase has also been attributed to the playwright George Bernard Shaw and the American writer Elbert Hubbard.

The blog’s author, Garson O’Toole, said the quote possibly evolved from a comment about the speed of change and innovation at the turn of the 19th century, which was printed in multiple American newspapers and journals in 1903.

A version of this article was first published on Inkstone.