Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
July 30, 2021

Lost In Translations - The Dangers Of Being Misled By Them

Translation errors can seriously affect the relations between hostile nation states.

One prominent example is the 'Gerasimov Doctrine'. It was alleged to be a Russian strategy of hybrid war, the use of subversion to complement military force. The concept, it was claimed, had been introduced in a 2013 speech by the Russian Chief of the General Staff General Valery Gerasimov’s.

The claim was first made in a July 2014 blog post headlined The ‘Gerasimov Doctrine’ and Russian Non-Linear War by Russia 'expert' Mark Galeotti. Galeotti had used a misleading translation of Gerasimov's speech provided by the U.S. government funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. He asserted that Russia had a strategy of 'hybrid wars', combining secret and open civil, economic and military operations against an enemy.

Russia however did not have such a strategy. Gerasimov in his speech was in fact describing the U.S. way of waging 'hybrid wars' like, for example, the one against Syria.

But once Galeotti had published his misleading idea, dozens of papers and opinion pieces were written about the dangerous 'Gerasimov Doctrine' - all to underline the nonsense claim of a 'Russian threat'.

Various scholars and journalists had immediately pointed out that the assertion was wrong. There was no such Russian doctrine. It still took the author of the original false claim nearly four years to finally retracted his nonsense:

I’m Sorry for Creating the ‘Gerasimov Doctrine’
I was the first to write about Russia’s infamous high-tech military strategy. One small problem: it doesn't exist.

Today Moon of Alabama reader Bernd Neuner pointed to another mistranslation and the bad effects emerging from it (edited for readability):

Bernd Neuner @Bernd__Neuner - 9:09 UTC · Jul 30, 2021

On widespread #Sinophobia

I recently attended a seminar on doing business in #China, hosted by the local Chamber of Commerce. During the presentation of a lady representing German Trade & Invest, I was surprised to learn the President Xi Jinping allegedly had given a speech announcing his intention to "...form powerful countermeasures and deterrent capabilities based on artificially cutting off supply to foreigners."

Since the presenter mentioned the speech had been published in Quishi, the official publication of the #CCP, I started looking for the original of the speech. It did not take long, and my suspicions were confirmed. What Xi Jinping really had said was the following: "...forming a powerful countermeasure and deterrent capability against foreigners who would artificially cut off supply [to China]".

I contacted the presenter and voiced my doubts regarding the quotes she used. She was very helpful and said she had received them from a colleague in Hamburg. I got in touch with him, and upon taking a closer look he confirmed the benign interpretation above. It seems the malicious version stems from the initial translation published by the US think tank CSET, latter corrected due to feedback from the audience:  (footnote 3, p.3)

The damage is done - how many people in positions of influence are now convinced that China aims at disrupting the supply chains of "the free world"?

A few hours after Bernd Neuner's tweets I stumbled over the same error made by a different person.

I was reading a piece by Yves Smith of Naked Capitalism about the new trend towards industrial policies:

Industrial Policy Coming Into Vogue After China Cleans US Clock by Using It

Yves quotes from a paywalled Wall Street Journal piece about the return of industrial policy:

China, though, never retreated [from industrial policy]. Even after it introduced market reforms in 1979 and accelerated them after 1992, the state continued to guide economic development through ownership of enterprises and control over credit, government purchases, tax preferences, land and foreign investment. Since 2006 the ruling Communist Party has put priority on catching up to the West technologically.

Previously called “Made in China 2025,” this endeavor was renamed “dual circulation” last year. In a speech, President Xi Jinping said the goal was to eliminate China’s dependence on other countries while increasing their dependence on China. It could then threaten to cut off foreign customers to deter aggression, he said.

It seems that Greg Ip, the WSJ author, has fallen for the same mistranslation as the lecturer at Bernd Neuner's local Chamber of Commerce. This again demonstrates the danger of relying on translations without verifying them against the original text.

For the record:

The relevant part of Xi's speech is about lessons from China's shutdown in the early months of the Covid pandemic. Xi's first point is that China must increase internal consumption to buffer against the expected losses in exports. The second point is about the security of supply chains even under extreme situations:

Production chains (产业链) and supply chains cannot come uncoupled at critical times. This is an important characteristic that all large economies must possess. The current epidemic is a stress test under actual combat conditions.
In order to safeguard China's industrial security and national security, we must focus on building production chains and supply chains that are independently controllable (自主可控), secure and reliable, and strive for important products and supply channels to all have at least one alternative source, forming the necessary industrial backup system.

The entire country is now getting back to work and resuming production. We should not and cannot simply repeat past patterns. Rather, we must work hard to refashion them into new production chains, and increase the levels of S&T innovation and import substitution across the board. This is an important focus for deepening supply-side structural reform, and is key for high-quality development. First, we must build on our advantages, solidify and increase the leading international positions of strong industries, and forge some "assassin's mace"​2 technologies. We must sustain and enhance our superiority across the entire production chain in sectors such as high-speed rail, electric power equipment, new energy, and communications equipment, and improve industrial quality; and we must tighten international production chains' dependence on China, forming powerful countermeasures and deterrent capabilities based on artificially cutting off supply to foreigners. Second, we must make up for our shortcomings. That is, in sectors and segments related to national security, we must build a domestic supply system that is independently controllable and secure and reliable, so that self-circulation (自我循环) can be accomplished at critical moments, and ensure that the economy operates normally in extreme situations.

That translation was corrected on November 16 2020. The highlighted part, which establishes China as aggressor, is now defensive:

...; and we must tighten international production chains' dependence on China, forming a powerful countermeasure and deterrent capability against foreigners who would artificially cut off supply [to China]3.

Footnote 3 explains the change:

Translator's note: The translation of the final portion of this sentence ("...forming a powerful countermeasure and deterrent capability against foreigners who would artificially cut off supply [to China]") is a correction issued on November 16, 2020. As astute readers pointed out, the Chinese text here (形成对外方人为断供的强有力反制和威胁能力) strongly implies that China's "countermeasure" and "deterrent" is aimed at foreign countries considering halting their exports to China of strategically significant goods. These countries will decide against such moves, Xi argues, because China's presumed countermeasures would in turn deprive these countries of vital Chinese imports. CSET's original translation of this line, published on November 10, 2020, read: "...forming powerful countermeasures and deterrent capabilities based on artificially cutting off supply to foreigners." This is misleading, as it implies that China would be the one to take the offensive in a trade war. The language in Xi's speech suggests a more defensive, deterrent posture on the part of China.

Those who have read the CSET translation from November 10 but never read the corrected version from November 16 will have the misleading impression that China wants to use supply chains that originate in China in aggressive ways against other countries. That is however not the case. China wants a create a situation comparable to the concept of Mutual Assured Destruction as it exists in the field of strategic nuclear weapons. "If you cut my supply chains I will cut yours." It is a reasonable and strong deterrence strategy.

The issue of errors in translations, innocent as well as intentionally misleading ones, may soon become an even bigger issue. The U.S. Congress is providing money to produce many more of them:

The House bill introduced by Democratic Representatives Joaquin Castro and Bill Keating and Republicans Mike Gallagher and Brian Fitzpatrick would provide for the establishment of a federally funded Open Translation and Analysis Center (OTAC) focused on China.
It would be based on the Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS), which provided translation and analysis of Soviet bloc and other foreign government media during the Cold War.
The bill calls for funding of $80 million for fiscal 2022 and that same amount annually for each fiscal year through 2026 as well as "such sums as may be necessary for each fiscal year thereafter."
Referring to the acronyms of the People's Republic of China and its ruling Communist Party and armed forces, the aide said OTAC would "systematically translate PRC/CCP/PLA speeches, documents, reports, strategies, news articles, commentaries, journal articles, procurement contracts into English and publish them freely online."
Castro said that for the United States "to effectively both compete and cooperate with" countries like China and Russia it needed a better understanding of them.

"A nuanced understanding of foreign countries is impossible without reading how they communicate in their own languages," he told Reuters.

I fully agree with Castro's last sentence. But I for one, unlike Marc Galeotti, will not trust U.S. funded translations of foreign text.

It will always be necessary to independently verify them.

Posted by b on July 30, 2021 at 16:52 UTC | Permalink


Excellent points.
I would add that another part of the problem is the politicization of the bureaucracy. Instead of employing competent experts who understand the languages, cultures and histories of other regions/nations/ethnicities/whatever, there are instead increasing numbers of hacks, stooges, ideological plants and other forms of charlatans occupying these positions.
The WMD/Iraq is only the largest example - there are legions of other ones.

Posted by: c1ue | Jul 30 2021 17:07 utc | 1

Interesting subject, well illustrated. Remember when Iran threatened to 'wipe Israel off the map' except it was an even worse interpretation (doesn't even measure up to translation) than the examples cited in today's post.

And wow, imagine a country that wants to be self-sufficient and that is called aggression.

Orwell talks a lot about the use of language - the commandeering of language for propaganda. Purposeful mistranslation to make the opposite point of the original's words and intent is an excellent example of the continued work of the Ministry of Truth.

Posted by: gottlieb | Jul 30 2021 17:10 utc | 2

Yes, a very well made point. The escalating war of words between China and the Outlaw US Empire now has China directly accusing the Empire of outright lying for political purposes, a change that began during the Anglo Empire's attack on Hong Kong via Color Revolution, ramped up during its defense of Xinjiang, and now with the attempt to weaponize Covid origin tracing. We should also recall the multiplicity of outright lies published by the Outlaw US Empire during Cold War 1.0. Too few have learned the lesson that nothing the US federal government or national media says is to be trusted. Nothing!!

Posted by: karlof1 | Jul 30 2021 17:31 utc | 3

critical commentary and issue b... thanks..... lost in translation... the first example getting copy from ''radio unfree europe'' being a bad starting point or a good example of usa propaganda at work... same deal with newspapers... nothing is all that simple and things can get twisted with words quickly... unfree, or free as the case may be.. this -- federally funded Open Translation and Analysis Center (OTAC) focused on China - needs to be monitored closely for small traces of arsenic...

Posted by: james | Jul 30 2021 18:01 utc | 4

I appreciate very much your nuanced analysis of the lies and deceptions that appear regularly in the western mass media.

However, I liberated myself from the colonialist white Western judeo Christian mass media back in 1993. If they report that the sun shall rise tomorrow morning I will first check alternative sources before I plan my next day.😇

Posted by: Ali | Jul 30 2021 18:29 utc | 5

Buttressing my conclusion @3 is this Strategic-Culture editorial which essentially says outright lies--"disinformation and psychological operations" within "false narratives":

"... baseless assertions are casually cited as if facts, as is the common practice of the U.S. media and most of its politicians."

And that's the main reason for the current degree of "tensions" based on contrived "strained relations." In the aftermath of recent talks between Sherman and Ryabkov in Geneva--

"The precise agenda for the formally titled 'strategic stability dialogue' was not publicly disclosed, but it is understood that a priority issue was nuclear arms control and extension of the New START treaty limiting the deployment of intercontinental nuclear weapons"--

"The American side said it was 'committed to stability even at times of tensions' as if seeking praise for engaging."

"State Department spokesman Ned Price said just before the meeting: 'We remain committed, even in times of tension, to ensuring predictability and reducing the risk of armed conflict and threat of nuclear war.'

"The intimation of U.S. virtuous commitment 'even in times of tension' is derisory. For it is the Americans who have wantonly undermined strategic stability by unpicking treaty after treaty. The tensions between the U.S. and Russia (which mirror American tensions with China) have been multifaceted and are not just due to the realm of nuclear arms control. There is a pattern here. And it’s all one-way stemming from American imperialist ambitions for global hegemony." [My Emphasis]

Lies are used against Russia, against China, against Cuba, against Syria, were used against Libya, were used to escalate the war against the Indochinese peoples; were used to justify war in Korea, and were used to justify Nuking Japan. And I know I missed a large passel of other lies used to justify violence against millions of other innocents. And while we ought to vilify Edward Bernays and Walter Lippmann and their acolytes in the UK for weaponizing language and images, the Woke people ought to erect a statue to worship their two main progenitors for their actions are aimed at promoting falsehoods in place of historical accuracy.

Posted by: karlof1 | Jul 30 2021 18:46 utc | 6

François-Marie Arouet, better known by his pen name, Voltaire, is known for "History is a lie commonly agreed upon" characterization of the elite led society of his day.

We see much the same here....SSDD Same Shit, Different Day

Those elite behind the curtain are madly pulling the levers of lies and propaganda to maintain a facade of legitimacy that is not earned but enforced. The Covid lies have a potential to bring the system down as I have written before but mistranslations like this laid out by b are a career path for some and hard to build global awareness around for change or confrontation of the elite.

Posted by: psychohistorian | Jul 30 2021 19:23 utc | 7

Thanks karlof. It seems apparent that China should in turn dedicate resources to detect and expose bad translations and the motivation behind each instance.

b's example here is a particularly egregious case. It is a serious allegation.

Everyone wins with a better focus linguistics.

Posted by: David G Horsman | Jul 30 2021 19:35 utc | 8

Here's Snowden calling out Blinken over something much worse but very similar to deliberate mis-translation:

"US Secretary of State Antony Blinken became a target of sarcasm after he raised concern on Friday over the "increasing trend of surveillance, harassment and intimidation of foreign journalists in China". Edward Snowden, who is known to be at the receiving end of US pressure for leaking sensitive information on NSA surveillance programmes, took to Twitter to question Blinken over his silence on the Pegasus snooping scandal involving the US' 'close partners in Israel'....

"Great to hear, but there's no record of you speaking like this last week when your close partners in Israel—who, unlike China, you can definitely influence—were exposed by the #PegasusProject for their involvement in the actual *deaths and detentions* of journalists.

"Why not?"

China also responded to the escalation of tensions by the Outlaw US Empire:

"China, on its part, has accused the US of 'using press freedom as an excuse to play double standards and bully China'. Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian said in response to US Secretary Antony Blinken's accusations that the US 'should reflect on its own press freedom and think about whether it can do better rather than smearing China'.

"'Speaking of the harassment, censorship and intimidation of the journalists, I would like to remind the US that since 2018, the US has rejected visa applications of over 20 Chinese journalists. It has listed many Chinese media outlets as foreign missions. The US also limits the number of journalists working in the US and has expelled 60 Chinese journalists. It adopts discriminatory measures of limiting the visa stay period to only three months', Zhao said, adding that he has video evidence of a Chinese journalist being 'attacked when reporting on the storming of Capitol Hill'".

And we mustn't forget Assange or all the other whistleblowers imprisoned or hounded to suicide by the Outlaw US Empire for trying to tell the truth about the Empire's lies.

Posted by: karlof1 | Jul 30 2021 19:35 utc | 9

There is a reason that Italians tend to refer to a translator (traduttore) as a traditore ("traitor")

Posted by: PeterVE | Jul 30 2021 19:39 utc | 10

@ 9 karlof1... the way the usa-uk have treated assange and now craig murray, speaks volumes... the usa-uk are so full of shite, it ain't funny...

Posted by: james | Jul 30 2021 20:03 utc | 11

Posted by: gottlieb | Jul 30 2021 17:10 utc | 2

Who wrote:

"Interesting subject, well illustrated. Remember when Iran threatened to 'wipe Israel off the map' except it was an even worse interpretation (doesn't even measure up to translation) than the examples cited in today's post."

I well remember reading the Guardian article 'Lost in Translation' exposing this deliberate mistranslation, now , sadly hidden behind a paywall and otherwise sanitised from the new Orwellian net. Juan Cole did an accurate translation.

Rather than comparing the new 'translation' entity to Radio Free Europe, the new entity, theOpen Translation and Analysis Center (OTAC) should be likened to the Zionist mistranslation outfit MEMRI

Posted by: Paul | Jul 30 2021 20:14 utc | 12

While the intention of Joaquin Castro and his fellow House representatives in backing the bill to establish OTAC may be sincere, who would like to bet that most of the funding will go to tech companies to create programs and algorithms to translate Chinese rather than employ human translators who understand Chinese language and script with all their cultural nuances and associations with Chinese history and traditions?

Posted by: Jen | Jul 30 2021 20:22 utc | 13

Financial Empire = Empire of Mendacity = ⭕️ CREDITABILITY

Is mistranslation, Empire’s ruse to mask its deception and propaganda?
Empire’s corporate controlled media’s job is not to be accurate, truthful, or representative... but to promote ideas. Hype, that’s basically what all news is. HYPE. Media lays the groundwork for a con job through its fake work. It then comes up with excuses to hide its evil wrong doings, such as mistranslation, cultural translation,... Its logic is one can be authentically dishonest to produce a HOAX.

“In all press systems, the news media are instruments of those who exercise political and economic power.” ‘The media’ is the mouthpiece of ‘the Imperialist system’ and has always been. The assumption that ‘the media’ is here to tell us the truth or reality is completely unfounded and naive at best. Empire’s media is complicit in promoting wars of deception and disinformation. Why does it succeed at fooling? Uncritical audience, Orcs without conscience (dark souls), media credibility (isn’t it low)...

“Pentagon employs more than 27,000 PR specialists who, with a budget of nearly $5 billion a year, are working the media and circulating targeted manipulations...They manage to stir expectations and spread deceptive scenarios.”

Please name a HONEST independent media channel in (y)our nation.

Posted by: Max | Jul 30 2021 20:34 utc | 14

Oops, damn autocorrect. Fixed the error in (#14)

Financial Empire = Empire of Mendacity = ⭕️ CREDIBILITY

Posted by: Max | Jul 30 2021 20:39 utc | 15

When Britain was in the EU, it was always the case that one had to read BOTH the English AND French versions of texts to see what was decided.

Posted by: cdvision | Jul 30 2021 20:48 utc | 16

Another example of a lie traveling halfway round the world with the truth still putting on its shoes.

A bunch of engineers/scientists will never beat lawyers at PR and propaganda. It's not even a fair fight.

Posted by: Robert Macaire | Jul 30 2021 21:03 utc | 17

The mistranclation can probably be traced back to one Peter Schier in Berlin. Formerly of the "Institut für Asienkonde" in Hanburg, now earning a living in the pay of US thinktansks while reseíding in Berlin.

Posted by: Tollef Ås/秋涛乐/טלפ וש | Jul 30 2021 21:48 utc | 18

Posted by cdvision @16

Here is another example how this trick is used. Both English and French are official UN languages. The english version of the unanimous UN resolution 242, calling on the Bandit state to 'withdraw from territories" did not correspond with the French version which included the definite article, 'THE' territories. This discrepancy has provided the ugly Bandit State with a fig leaf to flout the resolution for decades.

Posted by: Paul | Jul 30 2021 22:01 utc | 19

Where are our bright Americans with conscience?

Is this the best we can do folks? Where do politicians & administrators come from?

"Day by day the money-masters of America become more aware of their danger, they draw together, they grow more class-conscious, more aggressive. The [first world] war has taught them the possibilities of propaganda; it has accustomed them to the idea of enormous campaigns which sway the minds of millions and make them pliable to any purpose.

American political corruption was the buying up of legislatures and assemblies to keep them from doing the people's will and protecting the people's interests; it was the exploiter entrenching himself in power, it was financial autocracy undermining and destroying political democracy. By the blindness and greed of ruling classes the people have been plunged into infinite misery."
– Upton Sinclair, The Brass Check - 1923

It is taking a long time for Americans to learn reality and do something. Why?

Posted by: Max | Jul 30 2021 23:56 utc | 20

B - you left out the mistranslation that has had more impact on history than probably any other. I refer to Clausewitz's

“Der Krieg ist eine bloße Fortsetzung der Politik mit anderen Mitteln”

which was translated in 1976 as
“War Is Merely the Continuation of Policy by Other Means.”

This is now so accepted as the correct translation that Google Translate renders the original German as
The war is a mere continuation of politics by other means

which does show Clausewitz's contempt for war.
The 1976 translation has been simplified by ignoring the "mere" so that most people believe Clauswitz's wrote
War Is the Continuation of Politics by Other Means.

The correct translation is
War Is a Mere Continuation of Policy with Other Means

Whether politik should be translated as politics or policy is beyond my pay grade,
Clausewitz did include in his notes for a revision (he died before he could do it).
“must be made absolutely clear, namely that war is nothing but the continuation of policy with other means”

Elsewhere in his book, Clausewitz expands on this thoughts about war:
“We maintain…that war is simply a continuation of political intercourse, with the addition of other means. We deliberately use the phrase ‘with the addition of other means’ because we also want to make it clear that war in itself does not suspend political intercourse or change it into something entirely different. In essentials that intercourse continues, irrespective of the means it employs.”

Why is this important? In WW1 if the combatants had kept the politics going, they might have realised in 1914 that once Germany had failed to encircle Paris, and the trenches extended from the English Channel to the Swiss border, the war had become pointless, and the best solution was retreat to the borders that existed at the beginning of the war and Germany making good the damage it had done in Belgium and France. Following this, it's unlikely there would have been revolution in Russia in the form it actual took and also unlikely that the WW2 would have happened.
More recently, the United States might have stayed out of Vietnam.
And we might never had the concept of Total War.

Posted by: Ghost Ship | Jul 31 2021 1:30 utc | 21

I'm a Chinese-to-English translator who has translated similar subject matter (speeches by Xi Jinping) in the past. The text that was mistranslated by the CSET translator is indeed tricky, and I have to admit that I may have made the same mistake if given the same text. However, a careful examination of the context makes clear that the latter version is indeed the correct one. This incident is a powerful reminder of the importance of the work we translators do and the potential for grave consequences when we err.

Posted by: Peter Erickson | Jul 31 2021 2:02 utc | 22

@ Posted by: Ghost Ship | Jul 31 2021 1:30 utc | 21

Both France and Germany (and also the UK, on a lesser scale) executed entire battalions for desertion during WWI. Loyalty was kept by force by the end of WWI.

Posted by: vk | Jul 31 2021 2:55 utc | 23

Mistranslations like this are often, or even usually, deliberate.

It's called PROJECTION.

Posted by: Julian | Jul 31 2021 3:55 utc | 24


The “archived copy” link points to the original URL.

Posted by: S | Jul 31 2021 6:09 utc | 25

Translation errors can seriously affect the relations between hostile nation states.

None of the examples cited are "translation errors" at all, they are deliberate and wilful "covert deception through mistranslation". The US has learnt well from diplomats of "Perfidious Albion" who have been expert in the art of deception through deliberate mistranslation and misrepresentation for years, probably hundreds of years.

The "Footnote 3" is itself deceptive and mealy-mouthed, and seems to attempt to imply that the mistranslation was in innocent error. However putting the Chinese characters above into the DeepL translator gives:

Develop a strong capacity to counteract and threaten artificial supply cuts from external parties
which, on the face of it, is impossible to distort into the original mistranslation except with malicious intent.

It is clearly not the intention of the proposed "Open Translation and Analysis Centre" to prepare accurate and "Open" translations, but to search for and make a repository of opportunities for distortion and misrepresentation to suit the Empire narrative.

Posted by: BM | Jul 31 2021 9:01 utc | 26

BM @26

Sorry, I meant to add regarding the DeepL translation that it would be good if some of our own MoL commenters who are native Chinese speakers could comment on that, as a machine translation per se is not conclusive. (A.L.? Lulu? ...)

Posted by: BM | Jul 31 2021 9:06 utc | 27

No one will pay for translation mistakes in think-tanks or the rest of the expanded MIC. Noone did for the "worst translation mistake in history" so far, either.

Posted by: fx | Jul 31 2021 9:15 utc | 28

Foreign leaders should take into consideration the high probability that their statements will be manipulated to their disadvantage, and therefore they should prepare in advance official english translations. Of course it is not always posible, but they should try since the english language is like the dollar, not the best in their their class but universal for the time being, so that has to be taken into account.

Posted by: Paco | Jul 31 2021 10:07 utc | 29

"Foreign leaders should take into consideration the high probability that their statements will be manipulated"
They do.

"---to their disadvantage"
"Exceptionalists" tend to the view that the purposes and perceptions of others are in some regard projections of the "exzceptionalist's" own.

"therefore they should prepare in advance official english translations."
This sometimes happens to encourage the continued resort to projection by "exceptionalists", thereby maintaining the utility of the hubris of exceptionalists complicity in their own transcendence.

Not all "hold that these truths are self-evident".

Posted by: MagdaTam | Jul 31 2021 10:39 utc | 30

There is no essential difference between a translator error, distortion by a reporter, distortion enhanced by the reporter having a very negative view of China and distortion enhanced even more by a bad faith reporter. It's all chinese whispers.
Translation errors by their nature however suffer from the 'privileged access' problem where even if the source is open you cannot translate it yourself so you have to trust the translator and the translator tends to be considered trustworthy.

Posted by: Tuyzentfloot | Jul 31 2021 10:59 utc | 31

There is no essential difference between a translator error, distortion by a reporter, distortion enhanced by the reporter having a very negative view of China and distortion enhanced even more by a bad faith reporter. It's all chinese whispers.
Translation errors by their nature however suffer from the 'privileged access' problem where even if the source is open you cannot translate it yourself so you have to trust the translator and the translator tends to be considered trustworthy.

Posted by: Tuyzentfloot | Jul 31 2021 10:59 utc | 32

In 1956 Nikita Khrushchev is quoted as saying to the West:
"We will bury you".
This was used as justification for major military spending.


The more accurate translation was:
"We will leave you in the dust" (as in win race or dust bin of history)

Posted by: Tom Verso | Jul 31 2021 11:31 utc | 33

BM @ 27


形成 form
对外方人 against foreigner
为 be (this is the key possible "pivot 1")
断供 cut off supply
的强有力 of strength and effort
反制 counter react (possible "pivot 2")
和威胁 defence
能力 capability

The Short Version
It can be read both ways as mentioned by b. But if were to be read as if China would be the aggressor, then the sentence would be a little awkward.

If read as China being on the defensive, then the sentence flows much better.

Unfortunately I am not smart enough to tell if the former reading was used:
1. Deliberately to twist the meaning,
2. Due to sloppy translation
3. Due to translator's own unconscious anti-China bias.

Long Version
Chinese is a very contextual language. Each character is not a letter, but either a word or a "proto word". Forgive me, I am not a linguist, so I shall use layman's terms as I know how. The protowords convey simple meanings and are combined to form larger concepts. From the first two characters above,
形 means shape
成 means complete
形成 combine they mean form, as in "form clay into a cup".

So with the sentence in question, it depends where the translator "pivots" the sentence.
If he pivots at Pivot1, it translates as "China is going to cut off supply .....". But it is a little awkward reading it so.
If he pivots at Pivot2, it translates as "China is going to counter the efforts to cut off..."

Hope this helps. Until of course a more skillful translator/linguist corrects me.

Posted by: Littlereddot | Jul 31 2021 12:15 utc | 34

Fascinating and worthwhile article. My dearest friend was born in the Netherlands and grew up speaking the language. I am constantly amazed at how nuanced the language is since, unlike English, the Dutch vocabulary hasn't changed a great deal in hundreds of years. Consequently, one word can have several different, but similar meanings. A single translation can be elegant or inelegant depending on the education and interpretation of the translator. Then there are the English sentences--not even colloquial English--that simply don't translate, in which my friend says, "A Dutch person would never use those words to express him/herself." An understanding of culture is equally important to translation.

Posted by: grayslady | Jul 31 2021 12:40 utc | 35

Hm, sorry for the duplicate. I thought that was a normal unproblematic posting. No delays or errors.
And I won't say it twice. I repeat, I won't say it twice.

Posted by: Tuyzentfloot | Jul 31 2021 13:22 utc | 36

"The damage is done - how many people in positions of influence are now convinced that China aims at disrupting the supply chains of "the free world"?"

Not that many. Most people have learned dring their life time that what matters is not what people say but what people do.

Does China economically blackmail other nations? Does China bully smaller countries?

The notion of a "Gerasimov doctrine" didn´t spread because of a translation error of some journaist, either. It gained traction because just a few months later Russia waged a war in Ukraine by the principles described in that article and outlined by Gerasimov in his speach.

Posted by: m | Jul 31 2021 15:22 utc | 37

Being a cynical old man, but isn't the nature of most public announcements/speeches to be misleading and only display one aspect of a complex issue?

The West can disrupt China's supply chain. China can also disrupt the West's supply chain.

The West can run "hybrid warfare". So can Russia.

Pointing out that bishops can only move diagonally and rooks can only move on X-Y merely points out that the rules are understood.

Of course opponents point these things out to remind us that the rules go both ways.

It seems to me that spending too much time quibbling about the "translation" misses the point of the speeches/doctrines.

The game is afoot.

Posted by: John Michael Ennis | Jul 31 2021 16:00 utc | 38

An excellent piece, b, thanks you, except that you've left out another possibility namely that it was deliberately translated the way it was, those involved in the translation knew what the war hungry mafia wanted, without being told they translated it so that it read that it was Russia that's the aggressor. Ot the recipients of the translation twisted it around, the people are capable of everything, an excellent example was the infamous Magnitsky Act creator one Bill Browder furnishing evidence translated deliberately wrongly.

This isn't impossible because a poster here under the moniker 'm' says "it (the wrong translation) gained traction because just a few months later Russia waged a war in Ukraine by the principles described in that article and outlined by Gerasimov in his speach (sic):

You see, here's a good example of people falling for the fake news that to was Russia that has been waging war in Donbas, 'm' seems oblivious to one simple fact, namely that there would have been no war in Donbas, no takeover of Crimea had the Americans not encouraged or perhaps even set up a group of 24 heavily armed, masked men to storm the Rada, chased the parliamentarians away, then rounded them up, brought them back to Rada, and under the threat of death made them vote Yanukovych out (plus few other things like banning Russian as an official language).

Baron was listening to a live podcast that day (Feb 14), the two broadcasters were also fleeing from the gunmen that were firing, one could hear the shots, (mercifully the firing was into the air only), the last two words before the podcast stopped forever were shouted by a Russian voice over and over again 'бегом бегите. бегом бегите' i.e. run run fast.

Posted by: Baron | Jul 31 2021 16:22 utc | 39

@fx #28

The nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki didn’t happen because of the mistranslation of “mokusatsu”. Neither it had anything to do with forcing Japan to surrender. It happened because the U.S. wanted to intimidate the Soviet Union. Even if “mokusatsu” was translated properly, another pretext would be found.

Posted by: S | Jul 31 2021 16:27 utc | 40

@ Littlereddot | Jul 31 2021 12:15 utc | 34

You, sir, are a star, anyone capable of furnishing an explanation of the quality you just did of a translation from a language that's harder to learn than almost any other should be congratulated, no need for another translator, Baron takes his trilby to you.

Posted by: Baron | Jul 31 2021 16:28 utc | 41

China doesn't need to kill any brain cells in order to disrupt the supply chain. The NWO-UN's WHO preempted 'em using the Fluvid hoax to do so.

Posted by: arrow | Jul 31 2021 16:31 utc | 42

Mistranslations like this are often, or even usually, deliberate.

It's called PROJECTION.

Posted by: Julian | Jul 31 2021 3:55 utc | 24

Nay, nay, thrice nay - tis called - "mendacious, dishonest, perfidious, underhand, dissimulating, slick, unprincipled, mala fide, etc",
to wit : PROPAGANDA.

I rest my case, meluds.

Posted by: Sarlat La Canède | Jul 31 2021 16:32 utc | 43

Posted by: Baron | Jul 31 2021 16:22 utc | 39

M is a bad start in latin languages, and you got it, supposedly it is a sophisticated construction, on the one hand sounds "progressive" and informed and then just let slip in the real IED, a lie way more important than the one revealed.

Posted by: Paco | Jul 31 2021 16:34 utc | 44

@Littlereddot | Jul 31 2021 12:15 utc | 34

Thanks for having a go.

I'm no linguist, but here's my take..

You considered 外方人 as a noun and 为 as a pivot which makes little sense as the word "为" on its own as a pivot will make the sentence a convoluted mess.

Cruically, in doing so you missed "人为" as it's own verb which means artificial / wilful.

Chinese sentence structure is often considered "passive" when compared to English. Also, when one is not truly fluent, trying to dice a sentence up for elemental understanding could really mess things up.

To me, this sentence can be translated as :

形成 takes shape (becomes)
对 against
外方 foreign (external places)
人为 artifical / wilful
断 cut
供 supply
的 (actions preceeding)
强有力 strong and powerful
反制 counter
和 and
威胁 threat
能力 capability

[this policy/response] becomes a powerful and capable mean of counter and threat against foreign artifical/wilful act of cutting the supply chain.

Of course i could use more flowing, eloquent and contextually appropriate English but that would be me putting words into the mouth of the original speaker or author. Ie. Translating vs. ghostwriting...

What i often do is to put the machine translated sentence back into the translator. If it looks way different then something is probably messed up.

In any case it wasn't a difficult sentence to translate. I believe any other permutation just highlights a lack of context or competence on the part of the translator, or wilful misrepresentation as suggested by b.

Machine translation is great, it has done wonders bringing all of us closer. However, there's still a long long way to go and competent work by good, contextually aware wetware translators is now needed more than ever.

Remember all those jokes and memes with badly translated English menus and signs at the Beijing Olympics? And here we are entrusting possibly the future of the planet on these half-baked products...

Posted by: A.L. | Jul 31 2021 16:47 utc | 45

... that it was deliberately translated the way it was...

Rem acu testigi.

Posted by: Baron | Jul 31 2021 16:22 utc | 39

Posted by: Sarlat La Canède | Jul 31 2021 16:57 utc | 46

Well now I know why I haven't been able to cross post your page to NC.

Posted by: jo6pac | Jul 31 2021 16:59 utc | 47

To add:

I'm not dissing anybody, especially not Littlereddot and Peter Erickson, i could understand how you came to what you wrote.

I did make the assumptions that the original text is not of a 3rd grade student and it is grammatically correct in Chinese. Which given its source, is a pretty safe assumption.

Language is not maths, it's hard and full of grey bits called context. I'm just highlighting the folly of machine translation.

May be it's time the Chinese govt start releasing its own version of translated transcripts like the Russians given the west clearly hasn't the capability to do so. /sarc

Posted by: A.L. | Jul 31 2021 16:59 utc | 48

Posted by: A.L. | Jul 31 2021 16:47 utc | 45

I just want to agree with you about translation, it is an art, nothing less. Computer translation is useful only if you understand that it is inherently inaccurate, because it lacks context, which only an educated human can provide -- if then. You would never use computer translation for real literature, unless you had no choice. Even in computer languages, context matters.

Posted by: Bemildred | Jul 31 2021 17:11 utc | 49

@Tom Verso #33

Khrushchyov uttered the phrase on November 18, 1956 at the reception at the Polish embassy in Moscow. He said:

Нравится вам или нет, но история на нашей стороне. Мы вас похороним.

Whether you like it or not, the history is on our side. We will bury you.

Of course, neither “bury” nor “you” were meant in the literal sense; Khrushchyov wasn’t saying that the Soviet Union was going to hold burial ceremonies for the ambassadors present at the reception. Clearly, Khrushchyov was alluding to this passage in The Communist Manifesto, written by Marx and Engels:

What the bourgeoisie therefore produces, above all, are its own grave-diggers. Its fall and the victory of the proletariat are equally inevitable.

The pearl-clutching over Khrushchyov’s uttering was and is ridiculous. Did the Anglo-Saxons suddenly forget their own extensive use of figurative language as a rhetorical device? Was Churchill lamenting a literal “iron curtain descending across the continent” in his Fulton speech? I mean, how was this giant iron curtain supposed to be held in place? With the help of an orbital ring, perhaps? Was Churchill objecting to the giant curtain megaproject itself, or merely to the material it was made of? Would he be happy with, say, a giant aluminum curtain? Somehow no one in the Soviet Union took the “iron curtain” phrase literally. In his 1985 song “Russians”, English musician Sting wrote:

In the rhetorical speeches of the Soviets
Mister Krushchev said, “We will bury you”

So even Anglo-Saxon musicians understood that the phrase was figurative, yet we’ll all just pretend this was a case of horrible mistranslation that led to the arms race? As if there would be no arms race hadn’t Khrushchyov uttered the phrase. Ridiculous.

Summary: yes, Khrushchyov really said “we will bury you”, but even a five-year old could understand he did not mean it literally.

Posted by: S | Jul 31 2021 17:13 utc | 50

m @37 <-- This comment is an amazing example of projection. Doubtless a delusional American (Europeans are delusional too, but it seems some have not yet completely parted ways with reality). The poster talks about "what people do" seemingly oblivious to the fact that the US is guilty of all of the dirt he tries to fling at Russia and China! It is the US that launched and is waging the hybrid war in Ukraine (recall Victoria "Fuck the EU" Nuland bragging about the US State Department spending $5 billion on that very thing?). It is the US that blackmails and bullies other countries, not China.

I challenge the intellect and honesty deficient poster to name a single country where even a single child has died due to malnutrition or lack of medicine caused by Chinese sanctions. I'm not asking the poster to try and find a match for the deaths of the half million Iraqi children that former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said were "worth it". Just name a country where Chinese sanctions caused the death of ONE child. Just one will suffice.

How about naming a single country where the Chinese have bombed or drone-struck a singe wedding party? Where have the Chinese bombed a single school? Hospital? Embassy?

The poster's comment is 100% pure psychological projection. It isn't applicable to China in even the most abstract or remote way, yet it perfectly fits American policy and actions. This projection signifies very severe psychological damage and dislocation from reality. Tragically for humanity, this mental illness is not the exception among "exceptional" Americans, but rather is a very much hard and fast rule. It is pervasive within American culture. When information is processed through such twisted minds, the information becomes twisted. This, at least partially, explains how western translators contort logic into pretzels to twist the words or America's perceived adversaries into something sinister and hostile. This is how western "journalists" then take those pre-twisted translations and twist them even further, torturing the truth to death. Finally, this is how the American mass media consumer takes the narrative being delivered, which already has been twisted to bear little resemblance to reality, and twists it into something that con only possibly exist in their warped and fractured imaginations. At every step, every retelling, the narrative diverges further from the real world.

This problem pervades American society. It isn't just an incompetent and/or malicious translator, though indeed it is that too (the translators responsible have likely never even been to China or spoken to a Chinese person in their native dialect). This is part and parcel of the mass delusion that is afflicting America that I am always carrying on about. I cannot think of any way that it might be cured. You cannot reach these people. The poster I singled out above not only cannot answer the challenges that I posted, but he won't even try. He'll just dismiss it as Chinese/Russian/Cuban/Venezuelan/Iranian/Nicaraguan/Bolivian/whatever propaganda to escape the intense cognitive dissonance that firm beliefs in utter nonsense trigger when crossed with reality. These people have gone so far out that they can never find their way back even with gentle guidance from grounded help.

And they have nuclear weapons. And biological weapons. It is worse than monkeys with hand grenades.

Posted by: William Gruff | Jul 31 2021 17:18 utc | 51

Posted by: S | Jul 31 2021 17:13 utc | 50

Thanks, that was superbe ! I really learnt something !

Posted by: Sarlat La Canède | Jul 31 2021 17:30 utc | 52

The Western elites mistake its own shadows for the reality of its opponents, perhaps semi-consciously to assuage the overwhelming guilt and popular anger that would come if they had to properly come to terms with those shadows - Belgium in the Congo, the Spanish and Portuguese in South America, the British all over their Empire, the North American genocidists, slave holders and wreckers of any good example of an alternative, the Italians in East Africa, the Germans in South West Africa, the Australians in their "empty" country and with East Timor, the Japanese in Korea, China and South East Asia. The shadows would simply overwhelm, so they must be kept at bay. Projection is the best defence against self-awareness and public exposure.

Posted by: Roger | Jul 31 2021 17:39 utc | 53

@m #37:

The notion of a "Gerasimov doctrine" didn´t spread because of a translation error of some journaist, either. It gained traction because just a few months later Russia waged a war in Ukraine by the principles described in that article and outlined by Gerasimov in his speach.

You do not understand what “hybrid war” means. Unmarked troops in Crimea, Russian military advisers and arms supplies in Donbass and strong anti-Maidan rhetoric on Russian TV is not a “hybrid war”. It is a standard run-of-the-mill military interference.

The real “hybrid war” was CIA’s post-1991 promotion of Ukrainian Nazi collaborators into Ukraine’s education system to brainwash young Ukrainians with their Russophobic myths, the funding of “master classes” and “workshops” for young Ukrainian journalists, which, again, advanced Russophobic myths, both in regards to the Soviet Union and the Russian Federation (“we, Ukrainians, are civilized Europeans; they, Russians, are uncultured Barbarians”), the manipulation of Facebook newsfeeds of Ukrainian users to hide posts critical of Maidan and to insert ridiculous black propaganda posts inciting hate towards Yanukovich and his voters, the use of snipers to gun down Maidan protesters and Berkut anti-riot police. That’s what “hybrid war” means.

Posted by: S | Jul 31 2021 17:45 utc | 54

@51 William Gruff
I agree with your assessment of China. That`s the reason why I don`t think that this mistranslation will convince many people of haing a bad opinion of China (other than those why already have a negative opinion of China). The allegations are just not based on facts.

@54 S
Moscow had decades to "brainwash" the Ukrainian into being pro-Moscow. The reason for the low popularity of Russia in Ukraine are the Soviet atrocities of the 1930`s and 40`s. Not some imaginary Western propaganda.

Posted by: m | Jul 31 2021 18:12 utc | 55

@Posted by: m | Jul 31 2021 18:12 utc | 55

The enmity that the Ukrainians (and Polish, Lithuanians etc.) have with Russia goes back many centuries, with hatred on both sides. The Kievan Rus' were crushed by the Mongols (Kiev being levelled and the population massacred), then Moscow rose as an exceptional Quisling to the Mongols until the latter became weakened. Then continuous wars, including the Polish-Lithuanians invading Moscow during the Time of Troubles before being beaten back and then the Russians removing the Polish-Lithuanian commonwealth until the WW1 settlement. Then another Polish-Russian war with the Polish taking a large chunk of the USSR (including Western Ukraine) during the USSR civil war (returned with the Brest-Litovsk settlement). A lot of shit, and atrocities from all sides.

For the 1930s I am assuming that you are referring to the drought greatly exacerbated by the class-war to exterminate the kulaks and also rank incompetence (as with the Chinese version in the late 1950s/early 1960s that killed 30-60 million), misleadingly labelled as an attack against the Ukrainian nation. Still an atrocity, plus Stalin's purges. The 1940s was the extermination of the Ukrainian traitors that had sided with the Nazis and happily murdered Jews - took a few years after WW2 to exterminate that scum (many now hailed as Ukrainian heroes, including the Nazi anti-semites!) - with quite a few being helped to escape to the West (including Canada).

The Ukrainians were misled by their own leaders to help destroy the USSR, then misled again (with extensive Western aid) to prostrate themselves to the West as true compradors rather than ally with Russia. Ukraine is now a true shit hole of a country, with the only way down with NS2 being completed (and probably soon to be NS3) and the West will never put their own territory, lives even money at risk to save it (as proven recently when Russia flexed its military to get the message across). Just like the idiot Kurds who keep believing the Western fairy tales. Useful idiots of the Western Empire - and on the wrong side of history.

Posted by: Roger | Jul 31 2021 18:46 utc | 56

Roger @ 56:

It would have been worth mentioning also that the famine that affected Soviet Ukraine in the 1930s that led to so many deaths there (and in southeast European Russia and parts of Kazakhstan) occurred in Russophone parts of the country that have resisted Kiev's ban on the use of Russian in public.

The part of current Ukraine that supplied the Nazi collaborators, and which dominates politics in the country and dictates what history Ukrainians are supposed to believe, was under Polish rule and subjected to Polonisation in the 1930s.

Posted by: Jen | Jul 31 2021 21:00 utc | 57

I see W Gruff, S and Roger have wasted their time trying to talk sense into a blockhead troll who is incapable of actually reading what they have typed but instead twists their words into something else so as to distort and divert the comments thread into something else.

Posted by: Jen | Jul 31 2021 21:10 utc | 58

@S (40)

[The bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki] happened because the U.S. wanted to intimidate the Soviet Union.

I even heard that the bombing also served as a prelude for a similar program to be used against Soviet Russia.
Let it serve as a reminder for the next time anyone in an otherwise pro-Russian site like RT, Sputnik or Kommersant says stuff like "two nukes weren't enough" every time (US-occupied) Tokyo says/does something stupid.

But I digress.

Posted by: joey_n | Jul 31 2021 21:44 utc | 59

The old Goon used to introduce himself as "Spike Milligna, the well-know typing error".

Posted by: Patroklos | Jul 31 2021 22:02 utc | 60

@m #55:

The reason for the low popularity of Russia in Ukraine are the Soviet atrocities of the 1930`s and 40`s. Not some imaginary Western propaganda.

Stalin’s failure to create sufficient grain reserves to prevent famines (which were occuring frequently in the Russian Empire) and his lack of supervision over the food requisition process during the 1932–1933 famine led to 1,350,000 residents of the Ukrainian SSR dying from hunger (2,500,000 in the entire Soviet Union). Ukrainian history books, journalists, politicians make false claims of 6 million, 7 million, even 10 million deaths in Ukraine, say nothing about the deaths in other parts of the Soviet Union, and make false claims of the famine having been caused on purpose to “punish Ukrainians”. This is a purposeful distortion of history.

The food requisition teams in the Ukrainian SSR were staffed by Ukrainians and Jews, not Russians. Many were overzealous careerists who ignored clear directives to only take the excess food and instead took everything, causing the peasants to die from hunger. When the scale of the disaster became known, these people were arrested, sentenced and executed. Ukrainian history books, journalists, politicians say nothing about this. Instead, these people are counted as “innocent victims of communism”. This is a purposeful distortion of history.

Ukrainian Auxiliary Police, staffed by pro-Reich/pro-independence Ukrainians, killed 1,500,000–1,600,000 Jewish residents of the Ukrainian SSR—a quarter of all Holocaust victims. Later these Ukrainians formed the basis of UPA (Ukrainian Insurgent Army). Ukrainian history books, journalists, politicians say very little about this and never mention who killed these Jews—you’d think they were killed by Germans. They present members of UPA as virtuous heroes. This is a purposeful distortion of history.

During WW2, 150,000–250,000 Ukrainians were members of UPA, 155,000 of them killed by the Red Army and, after the war, by NKVD. At the same time, more than 6,000,000 Ukrainians served in the Red Army, 1,377,400 of them killed by Germans and their allies (15.5% of total 8,900,000 deaths in the Red Army). Ukrainian history books, journalists, politicians say very little about this. It’s as if Ukrainians were mere spectators of the war between Russians and Germans. This is a purposeful distortion of history.

According to Generalplan Ost, Nazi Germany planned to resettle 65% of Ukrainians to West Siberia. Ukrainian history books, journalists, politicians say nothing about this. This is a purposeful distortion of history.

From 1950 to 1991, the population of the Ukrainian SSR grew from 36,905,000 to 51,944,400. The Soviet Union poured in enormous resources into Ukraine, not only restoring what was destroyed during the war, but making it the most industrialized republic of the Soviet Union. The Ukrainian SSR had better equipment than the RSFSR, better food supply than the RSFSR, etc. Ukrainian history books, journalists, politicians say nothing about this. This is a purposeful distortion of history.

Posted by: S | Jul 31 2021 23:34 utc | 61

@ Posted by: S | Jul 31 2021 23:34 utc | 61

This is not true. A plethora of decrees signed by Stalin himself prove, beyond all reasonable doubt, that he and the requisition teams did what they could to alleviate the situation in the Ukraine. The requisition teams asked the Politburo to lower the quantity of grain requisitioned for the affected Ukrainian regions many times during the famine, and it accepted all of them.

The famine of 1932-33 was caused by a new mutation of lice, which was killed even the resistant varieties. It had nothing to do with a failure of planning. The CPSU had been estimating and requisitioning grain from the entire USSR since the times of the NEP; they never made crazy estimations of grain output, and were never caught by surprise even when it was below the expected (we have access to the numbers, it is documented).

You don't need advanced capitalism to foresee grain output with decent precision; human civilization survives from agriculture since the earliest times. Humans never had much problem estimating their harvests for tax collection purposes. To claim the CPSU suddenly decided to miss the target for requisition in the Ukraine by a lot is nonsense.

Posted by: vk | Jul 31 2021 23:55 utc | 62

S @61--

Thanks for your comment. The Famine was a repeat of the 1917-1921 famine that future POTUS Herbert Hoover tried to help mitigate. The Robert Conquest school of historical propaganda spawned much of the garbage that gets regurgitated here.

Posted by: karlof1 | Aug 1 2021 0:45 utc | 63

@ 56 roger and all comments down to @ 63... thanks for articulating all that...

my question is only to @ 62 vk... vk never responds to my question, but maybe this time will be different... when you make this general statement - "This is not true." what specifically are you referring to in @ 61 s's post?? it would help for you to articulate that.. it wasn't obvious from your comments...

Posted by: james | Aug 1 2021 1:36 utc | 64

per B. I .. will not trust U.S. funded translations of foreign text. It will always be necessary to independently verify them.

<= the problem B is that it takes a while to learn sufficient Chinese or Russian to self check translations.

I tried to get on line schooling in Chinese, but was not successful in finding a suitable course.. maybe someone could suggest how best to learn Chinese and Russian well enough to check translations.

Your article raises a concern with world importance.. thank you..

MaX at 14 Please name a HONEST independent media channel in (y)our nation.
MoA is the only dependable news source AFAIK..
most independent media channels are independent of nation states. ?

When we have open comment time I will try to answer your question @ 20
Why is it taking so much time for Americans to learn reality and do something.

Even if the deplorable understood reality, what can they do to fix it?
knowledge about corrupt activity produces not only a no-can-do-something-about-it <=frustration but broadcasting<=that corrupt wrong (reality) can only be done in an environment that brands the reality announcer as a non-conforming traitor, a conspiracy theorist, or God forbid, anti Semitic. .

Posted by: snake | Aug 1 2021 2:07 utc | 65

@ Posted by: james | Aug 1 2021 1:36 utc | 64

The part where he said "Stalin" failed to plan for the famine in the Ukraine (you never plan for a famine, famines happen by surprise), and the part that there was a Jewish-Ukrainian conspiracy by the administrators of the Ukrainian SSR.

Evidence showed the polar opposite: not only Stalin lowered the requisitions for the affected areas in the Ukraine constantly; he only did that because the administration of the Ukrainian SSR asked for it. And there were even attempts of humanitarian relief. They did everything they could to mitigate the effects of the famine.

Posted by: vk | Aug 1 2021 2:26 utc | 66

Cruically, in doing so you missed "人为" as it's own verb which means artificial / wilful.

You are spot on! I did totally miss out that possibility.

Thank you for being my teacher today.

Posted by: Littlereddot | Aug 1 2021 2:26 utc | 67

A.L. @ 45

Oh, sorry I forgot to address @67 to you.

Also, no offence taken as per @48. I do like being corrected, that way I learn, no?
You were also polite and respectful in the way you did it, and I appreciate it. It is rare to find such civility on the internet.


Posted by: Littlereddot | Aug 1 2021 2:35 utc | 68

@22 Peter Erickson

I have often offered thanks and salutations to the translators of this world, and I want to do so again, directly to you. The translators are the heroes on the front lines, without whom the struggle would not even begin to appear in words. Many thanks to you and your kind - without you we would have no global discussion.


But the issue is not translation. To believe that a rendering of a statement in another language is definite is to believe that the original statement is definite. And this is often not the case. Even with official communiques, there can be many doubts as to import and nuance.

This is why we have press conferences, and question & answer sessions, so that journalists and interested parties can clarify the deepest and most granular meanings of any statement.

The issue is not translation. The issue is the lack of journalists and other questioners, chewing on each semantic bone at its very source of issuance, to derive the maximum nutrition from any pronouncement.

The translators are the angels. The lack of journalists is the devil.

Posted by: Grieved | Aug 1 2021 2:59 utc | 69

@ vk | Aug 1 2021 2:26 utc | 66... thanks for clarifying that point for me... cheers...

Posted by: james | Aug 1 2021 4:01 utc | 70

@vk #62:

The famine of 1932-33 was caused by a new mutation of lice, which was killed even the resistant varieties. It had nothing to do with a failure of planning.

Good planning plans for unforeseen events by creating reserves.

The CPSU had been estimating and requisitioning grain from the entire USSR since the times of the NEP; they were never caught by surprise even when it was below the expected…

“Never”. Except this one time, right?

To claim the CPSU suddenly decided to miss the target for requisition in the Ukraine by a lot is nonsense.

I never claimed this. I said that sufficient grain reserves would have prevented the deaths.

Posted by: S | Aug 1 2021 5:10 utc | 71

@vk #66:

The part where he said "Stalin" failed to plan for the famine in the Ukraine (you never plan for a famine, famines happen by surprise), and the part that there was a Jewish-Ukrainian conspiracy by the administrators of the Ukrainian SSR.

I have never indicated my gender on this website. Why do you assume I am a male? You don’t know my gender, and therefore you should use “he/she” when referring to me.

“You never plan for a famine” is how you get people dying from hunger when a famine happens. Yes, “famines happen by surprise”, which is exactly why you should plan ahead and create sufficiently large grain reserves. By the way, the Soviet Union had one, it just wasn’t sufficiently large, in my opinion.

I never wrote anything about “a Jewish-Ukrainian conspiracy”. You are inventing things. I wrote that the members of the requisitioning teams in the Ukrainian SSR were Ukrainians and Jews, not Russians. The reason I wrote this is because some Ukrainian nationalists describe the famine in the Ukrainian SSR as “Russians taking food from Ukrainians”, which is not true. As of 1926, the ethnic composition of the Ukrainian SSR was 80.0% Ukrainians, 9.2% Russians and 5.4% Jews, so I really should have written that the members of the requisitioning teams were Ukrainians, Russians and Jews. My bad. What I meant to say is that these were not RSFSR Russians coming into the Ukrainian SSR to take food from Ukrainians.

Posted by: S | Aug 1 2021 6:26 utc | 72

@ Posted by: S | Aug 1 2021 5:10 utc | 71

You can plan for bad harvests, but not for natural catastrophes. What happened in 1932-33 was a natural cataclysm. Indeed, it never happened again.

Yes, catastrophes happen. Countless are the number of cities in Ancient Rome that were wiped out in one year because of a catastrophic harvest or a plague. But, overall, statistically, from the point of view of the central government, you cannot foresee them. Nobody foresaw the COVID-19 pandemic with modern technology and methods, it is not absurd to think the VKP(B) - in a completely dire situation, where merely finding literate workers was hard - couldn't foresee a new variant of lice that ravaged even the already existing lice-resistant grains cultivated in the USSR.

The crisis happened precisely during the first years of collectivization of agriculture. There was no way the VKP(B) could build any significant reserves of grain at that time. The Soviet Union was in a period of transition. Periods of transition are when nations are the most vulnerable.

After the chaos of War Communism and NEP, the only year the harvest collection went below the planned was 1928-1929. But it was a scenario that involved much more than bad harvests, as it included the political factor of the conflict between the kulaks and the impulse of collective, large-scale farming.

If you want a living proof the 1932 famine was a natural tragedy and not some kind of evil social engineering, just look at Gorbachev. His family was a victim of that famine (on the Russian side of the border), and his grandparents barely survived. He told the story in his autobiography, and it seems clear his grandfather never treated that famine as a State-made catastrophe. Gorbachev lived during the de-Stalinized era, if it really was Stalin's fault, he would have mentioned it openly and tirelessly.

Western historians argument that Stalin caused the famine is borderline nonsense. They basically rely on a single quote by Stalin himself, barely one line long, where he states that the first years of forced collectivization brought the most hardship for the peasants. They treat it as an admission of guilt. Any people with the bare minimum reading and comprehension capacity can see that that was not what Stalin meant. Famous Cold Warrior historian Wheatcroft recently published a little article based on some loose documents released after the Soviet archives were open that there were silos full of grain in the Ukraine whose access was denied by Stalin, so, long story short, Ukrainians starved to death while silos full of grain remained untouched in their own territory. The documents he quotes do not tell us that at all; that's an absurd extrapolation based on a fantasy built in the mind of the author - it would not even pass an undergraduate class.

Curiosity: you know who starved millions of Chinese to death while silos full of grain remained untouched? Liberal-democratic hero Chiang Kaishek. Maybe Wheatcroft was projecting the liberal atrocities on the Communists.

Posted by: vk | Aug 1 2021 14:40 utc | 73

@Littlereddot 67&68

Just as I had kind friends and teachers showing me the varied nuances and contradictions in the English language many lives ago, you're most welcomed.

Posted by: A.L. | Aug 1 2021 17:12 utc | 74

A more accurate description of the Americans' "accidental mistranslations" is Lies by Translation.

Is there anyone who really believes that these "mistranslations" of Russian and Chinese policy were purely accidental and completely innocent?

Supposedly professional think-tanks, experts, or "journalists" like Mark Galeotti, CSET, Yves Smith, or the Wall Street Journal are so incompetent that they regurgitate a defamatory mistranslation that a humble blogger like Moon of Alabama can fact check as being false?


Mistranslating and misrepresenting an "enemy" nations' policy is standard practice for the United Snakes of America.

It is typical of the cowardly, passive-aggressive infowar tactics that the USA has always engaged in.

Another egregious example is the "lost in translation" canard that former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called for "Wiping Israel off the Map."

What's more, these examples reveal more about America's own malign policies than it does about its hated enemies, as the USA has been waging Hybrid War and economic siege warfare/sanctions against dozens of countries for decades (See the USA's decades long Hybrid War/economic war on Cuba, Iran, Venezuela, North Korea for a few examples).

Lies by Translation.

Posted by: ak74 | Aug 1 2021 22:13 utc | 75

So in a thread about bad translation, nobody has pointed out that the name of the Chinese periodical cited - QIUSHI - was mis-spelled "QUISHI" multiple times. The error is obvious to anyone familiar with even BASIC Chinese because QUI is not a permitted string in Chinese "pinyin" transliteration.

Worldwide, Chinese is the language with the greatest number of native speakers (and readers), and the second-highest number of speakers if second-language users are included.

In the U.S., it is STILL considered perfectly acceptable for high-ranking diplomats to be illiterate in Chinese. Even ignoring the obvious risk of mistranslation and miscommunication in the process of translation, this "letter-blindness" can increase reaction times from minutes to days.

In China and Russia, to even get on the bottom rung of a diplomatic career, applicants would need the ability to read English and one other language at an educated level. While there are, of course, many highly gifted and dedicated linguists at the State Department, this still seems to be regarded as a luxury and/or as a mere clerical function at the higher tiers of the bureaucracy.

Posted by: JingWen Xu | Aug 2 2021 21:10 utc | 76

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