When President Trump arrived in China late last year, he streamed a video of his 6-year-old granddaughter, Arabella, singing a song and reciting an ancient text for President Xi Jinping and his wife. She even called them “Grandpa Xi” and “Grandma Peng.” And the video quickly circulated on the Internet, garnering millions of views.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at the time that “Arabella as a small messenger of Sino-American friendship is deeply loved by the Chinese people.”
But if that Chinese charm offensive earned Trump’s family some praise on social media, a tweet that Trump’s daughter and senior adviser sent on Monday drew confusion instead. Just ahead of Trump’s summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore, Ivanka Trump tweeted a saying that she labeled a “Chinese proverb.”
The problem is, the Chinese don’t seem to be familiar with it.
On Weibo, Chinese users struggled to figure out what proverb she meant. “She saw it in a fortune cookie at Panda Express,” one wrote. Others who agreed it wasn’t a Chinese proverb tried to guess what saying she may have been trying to reference. Some said it could have been “Don’t give advice while watching others playing a chess game.” Another suggestion was, “Don’t force others to do things you don’t want to do yourself.”
The news channel affiliated with Sina, the company behind Weibo, wrote, “Our editor really can’t think of exactly which proverb this is. Please help!”
On Twitter, comedian Ronny Chieng wrote in Mandarin, “This is not a Chinese idiom.”
So if not China, then where exactly did this proverb come from? According to the website QuoteInvestigator.com, a version of it may have first been published in the United States more than 100 years ago.