Source: Global Times Published: 2019-6-13
Chinese netizens were outraged on Thursday by a UBS report that used distasteful and racist language to analyze China's inflation and called for putting the Swiss bank on the Chinese Unreliable Entity List despite an apology for what it calls its “innocently intended comment.”
Some considered the UBS apology and the analyst involved not sincere, which they said reflects the deep arrogance of Western elites to Chinese culture.
The report on China's latest consumer price index (CPI), seen by the Global Times on Thursday morning, titled "Very Normal Inflation," said Chinese consumer prices rose due to sick pigs. "Does it matter? It matters if you are a Chinese pig. It matters if you like eating pork in China," wrote economist Paul Donovan.
The report sparked outrage among Chinese netizens and some economists on China’s Weibo and Twitter.
“Hey, UBS, I think it’s time for you to get out of China,” a Twitter user surnamed Zhang said, echoed by another Twitter user laughing at the Swiss investment bank and its analyst who shot himself in the foot with his pun.
The UBS report was widely circulated on Chinese social media on Thursday morning, and many strongly condemned it and asked for an official apology from the company. Later in the afternoon, UBS sent out a brief statement, calling it an “innocently intended comment.”
“We apologize unreservedly for any misunderstanding caused by these innocently intended comments by Paul Donovan. We have removed the audio comment from circulation,” UBS told the Global Times on Thursday, noting that to be clear, this comment was about inflation and rising Chinese consumer prices, which was driven by the higher prices for pork.
UBS takes this matter seriously. "We are enhancing our internal processes to avoid any recurrence of a similar situation. We remain fully committed to investing in China," the company statement said.
Donovan is the chief economist at UBS Global Wealth Management and identifies and explains key economic trends, according to his LinkedIn page. He has been working at UBS for 26 years, the page showed.
Donovan also apologized in a morning podcast in London on Thursday, saying that he apologizes unreservedly for any misunderstanding caused by his “innocently intended comments,” without further explaining.
Meanwhile, Chinese netizens seemed not to buy his apology. “Normally, white elites do not have regard for other races, and Westerners usually call Chinese people Chinese pigs,” a netizen using the pseudonym Xifan said on Weibo.
Another one who goes by Tianzheyou said it is a pun, while other netizens think that the apology was unacceptable.
UBS, the first fully licensed foreign-invested securities firm in China, became the first foreign bank to gain majority control of a securities joint venture in China in December 2018.
The Switzerland-based bank was allowed by the China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC) to increase its shares in its securities joint venture in China from 24.99 percent to 51 percent.
A netizen named Xiyoufodongyoudao suggested on Weibo that China should stop its cooperation with UBS and the firm should be put on China's "Unreliable Entity List."
China announced on May 31 that it would create an "Unreliable Entity List" of foreign companies and individuals that threaten the interests of Chinese companies.
Still, some netizens hold different views on this matter. Some considered it as an unintended mistake, which might have been exaggerated.
A Beijing-based white collar employee surnamed Wang criticized the UBS apology, claiming it worsened the situation. “Not only did it not offer a sincere apology by saying that this was about consumer prices and higher pork prices, but also implied that Chinese people could not read English properly,” he said.
“The problem is not that people do not understand what the article is about; the problem is that they chose a phrase (Chinese pig) that has clear racist connotations,” he added.
The incident also sparked uproar among some Chinese economists, who saw the UBS remarks as unprofessional and tone-deaf.
“As a professional financial analyst, he [Donovan] should have carefully chosen his words, and avoided being misunderstood,” Dong Shaopeng, a veteran analyst who advises the CSRC, told the Global Times on Thursday.
However, the UBS apology should be respected and taken into the account, he suggested, noting that China should not narrow-mindedly reject the foreign bank from participating in the country’s future financial market opening-up because of this incident.
“UBS still plays an important role in China’s financial reforms,” he said.
Dong Shaopeng is a senior fellow of Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China.