HOW TO deliver a Chinese name in proper English? Well, it depends. If you are a man like Mao Zedong or a guy like Lu Xun, it is hard for Western curators to erase the sound of MOUTH-ZE-TONK and LEW-SHOON.
As for the billion and a half non-notable Wangs and Wongs, we monkey-flipped their family names to the back of their Kevins and Suzies, respectively. How many Kevin Wangs and Suzie Wongs do you know? None?! Oh boy, you haven‘t been to New York or California lately.
What was that? Inverted names sound unnatural to Chinese ears? You mean like “Biden Joe” or “Obama Barack” would sound unnatural to our all-American lugholes? Well, we wouldn‘t know about hurting the feelings of the Chinese people, would we?
The sad truth is this: the West owns all standards. From meters to liters, from temperature to weights, metrics and numbers. Hell, we even own time zones, sea lines, terrestrial coordinates, the ratio of pi, all mathematics and physics formulas. We even abandoned your silly lunar calendar: You are sitting right here with Joe Biden in October autumn 2021 of our Lord, Jesus Christ. Much better! See the sky and the stars? We named them! All of them!
It feels good to put Chinese people in their place. Ask our Western journos and scribblers:
“The family name goes to the back!”
But it is just two syllables, Li and Hao. Which is which?
“So it must be Mr. Hao Li then!”
I’m not so sure Tom, because Ted did the write-up. Ted might have already switched Hao and Li around for us.
“Damn it, google his surname and name again, then switch them around!”
Many Chinese, Japanese and even Koreans have tried in the past to appeal to Western goodwill: It is very polite: we have a family name, say Kim, and a given name, say Tae-hyung. So it is Kim Tae-hyung. He’s a Korean pop idol. It is NOT Tae-hyung Kim.
Interesting. Maybe because that particular Korean superstar is adorable, he managed to keep his correct name in Western teenage magazines. Or maybe it is just because Western millennials got A LOT of ring-Kims and naturally assume it always comes at-front: Kim Jong-il, Kim Jung-un and Kim Kardashian.
Naming is an important human talent. Animals can’t do it. But we. Do. Name. All. Animals. Your author knows for a fact that the globalist journos and editors and curators and censors from The New York Times to the Guardian, from Spiegel to Zeit, from CNN to the BBC, are under racist order to turn all Chinese names around. They operate on malice. Exceptions are made for artsy borfases like Ai Weiwei or pianorati like Lang Lang.
It is a slap in the face of the other, non-notable billions of East-Asians. And that is exactly why Western masters do this. I know this to be the case, because I am a Sinologist, a China expert, and I am well embedded in this ecosystem of corrupt academia and aware of its racist proclivity, and quite frankly, I have had enough of it.
Yes, it takes the mickey out of me every time when the Western powers in the former French concession Xuhui in Shanghai or in the Foreign Legation Quarter Dongcheng in Beijing print thousands of name plates with the incorrect Chinese names for their cheap Chinese colleagues and underlings, and it is a good laugh if you are part of the extraterritorial Western expat community, but it does not promote accurate historiography nor accurate scholarship.
Continue on Substack.
The author Thorsten J. Pattberg, PhD is a German writer and cultural critic.