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No Hablo Chino: Argentine President Mocks Chinese Accents

Argentina's president tested out a Chinese accent on Twitter Wednesday.

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There’s no better way for heads of state to guarantee Chinese investment in their debt-ridden countries than by mocking the Chinese accent on social media.

Just ask Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, who did just that Wednesday on a state visit to Beijing to speak with Chinese business and government leaders. When speaking Spanish, native Chinese speakers sometimes replace the Spanish “R” with a sound similar to the English “L.”

Her tweet, which referenced the 1,000 audience members who came to see her speak at a conference, translates roughly to: “Did they only come for lice [rice] and petloleum [petroleum]?”

She later (sort of) apologized for the offensive tweet, saying roughly, “Sorry, the levels of ridiculousness and absurdity are so high they can only be digested with humor.”

Argentina has relied heavily on Chinese investment to revamp its economy after its second default in 13 years. Kirchner, meanwhile, is embroiled in a growing scandal at home over the death — potentially a murder — of a prosecutor who was preparing to issue an arrest warrant accusing her of conspiring with Tehran to cover up Iran’s involvement in the deadly bombing of a Jewish community center. She has strenuously denied any involvement in such a scheme.

But as a lame duck, Kirchner doesn’t seem too concerned about whether Chinese President Xi Jinping — or any other investors — are following her on Twitter.

In fact, the executive director at the Argentine China Chamber of Commerce didn’t seem to think it was a bad move at all. He even told Bloomberg he doesn’t “believe the Chinese are reading our president’s tweets all day.”

GOH CHAI HIN/AFP

Siobhán O’Grady is a freelance journalist working across sub-Saharan Africa. She previously worked as a staff writer at Foreign Policy. @siobhan_ogrady

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