Chinese smartphone giant Xiaomi is experiencing a potentially unwelcome wave of attention after its alluring CEO Lei Jun took the stage on April 23 in India for a product launch, and gave what can only be described as an enthusiastic speech heavily loaded with Chinglish.
Lei Jun’s speech, which took place in New Delhi to inaugurate Xiaomi’s first product for the international market, begins with a slip up where Lei Jun says he’s very happy to be in China instead of India. He then goes on to ask, “Do you like Mi, or I?”. The crowd laughs and cheers, prompting Lei to introduce the free gift for all the meeting’s participants, a free Mi band. Among the growing roars from the audience, Lei Jun starts asking the audience with increasing enthusiasm, “are you OK?”, the tagline which would almost immediately go viral and become the object of Chinese news and ridicule.
A video uploaded to Youku two days ago entitled “Lei Jun’s Refined English at India News Conference” has gained over 460,000 views and 1,000 comments as netizens rush to mock and defend Lei. According to the Wall Street Journal, the video had gained 440,000 views within its first 24 hours online, sparking Xiaomi’s president Lin Bin to acknowledge his boss’s English at a keynote speech yesterday.
“Everyone thinks it’s pretty funny,” Lin was quoted as saying in the WSJ report. “But from this event, what I see is the evidence of a Chinese entrepreneur founding and building a company and getting stronger.
“To be able to stand on the stage and self-confidently say, ‘Are you OK?’ shows the entrepreneur’s confidence,” he added.
Many web users, unfortunately, were far less charmed.
“If I weren’t good, I wouldn’t go up on stage,” netizen cooltigers wrote.
Web user konanfans asked: “Indian people, do you actually understand what he’s saying?”
“Haha, so the hot shot’s English sucks as well,” said one 大爷.
“How embarrassing,” a netizen identified as darksky16988516 said.
User 一无是处80506071 defended the CEO, writing: “You should only criticize other people’s English if your English level surpasses theirs, or it’s the pot calling the kettle black.”
Other netizens used the opportunity to jokingly practice their own stellar Chinglish skills.
User 乡村咖啡t wrote: “I am drunken too”.
“Do you nike mi band,” 单词社交网络 asked.
The majority of comments around the Chinese web suggest that many found the clip hilarious and point out how “cute” Lei’s attempts to speak English are. Others defend Lei’s English and scold netizens for laughing at a man from their own country. Wang Sicong, the son of China’s richest man, commented on his Weibo (China’s equivalent to Twitter) that a Chinese entrepreneur who doesn’t have good English should not go abroad and lose face, a comment which he has since removed and apologized for. The most popular comment on Weibo regarding the short speech was “having this type of courage, his success doesn’t surprise me in the least”.
Lei mentioned on his own Weibo that when he took the stage and spoke on Thursday, his aim was to entertain Xiaomi’s Indian fans, and that he completely didn’t expect the clip to go viral and be the subject of the nation’s mockery. He later followed up with a cheekier note, saying that due to Xiaomi’s increasingly international fan base, he should really polish up his English so as to avoid disappointing everyone.
What do you think of Lei Jun’s English? Some have drawn the comparison with Mark Zuckerberg’s Mandarin, but we can’t help have this come to mind.
Watch the clip here:
By Giulia Sciota