Pinyin Info 1, Condoleezza Rice 0

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has joined Al Gore, John F. Kennedy, and other prominent U.S. politicians in spreading the crisis/opportunity myth. Fortunately, though, Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post found Victor H. Mair’s essay danger + opportunity ? crisis here on Pinyin Info:

At one point, Rice said that the difficult circumstances in the Middle East could represent opportunity. “I don’t read Chinese but I am told that the Chinese character for crisis is wei-ji, which means both danger and opportunity,” she said in Riyadh. “And I think that states it very well. We’ll try to maximize the opportunity.”

But Victor H. Mair, a professor of Chinese at the University of Pennsylvania, has written on the Web site http://pinyin.info, a guide to the Chinese language, that “a whole industry of pundits and therapists has grown up around this one grossly inaccurate formulation.” He said the character “ji” actually means “incipient moment” or a “crucial point.” Thus, he said, a wei-ji “is indeed a genuine crisis, a dangerous moment, a time when things start to go awry.”

sources and further readings:

5 thoughts on “Pinyin Info 1, Condoleezza Rice 0

  1. There was a good bit on this on the Daily Show. I believe they ended it with Rice having the character for “pig” appear to be tattoed on her shoulder.

  2. I’d forgotten about that, J.B. Thanks for the reminder. My friend Tian of Hanzismatter blogged on that back in August 2006 and even put up a video clip. I guess it’s no surprise that Condi — or anyone else in the Bush adminstration — doesn’t watch the Daily Show. But somebody there probably does at least look at the Washington Post. Of course, given how things are going, it wouldn’t be too surprising if the White House has simply banned newspapers from the premises.

    So, to get back to what Ben L. said, one of the things I like best about being an expat is that it provides me with a certain amount of emotional distance from U.S. politics, which would otherwise enrage me. (Not that they don’t sometimes do that anyway, no matter how far from the United States I may get.)

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