emocratic presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg recently threw some shade Donald Trump’s way through the use of some “ancient Chinese wisdom.”
At a rally last week in Florida, Trump sarcastically mocked the idea of Buttigieg representing the United States in world affairs. “He’s got a great chance, doesn’t he? He’ll be great representing us against President Xi of China. That’ll be great. I want to be in that room, I wanna watch that one,” Trump jeered about the 37-year-old openly gay mayor of South Bend, Indiana.
Buttigieg responded that he wasn’t worried about Trump’s name-calling and insults, adding: “I was thinking of a Chinese proverb that goes ‘When the wind changes, some people build walls, some people build windmills.’ You got to recognize we need something completely different than what we have in this White House.”
A quick Google search brings up a number of inspirational images of windmills featuring this quote which cite the sentence as an old “Chinese proverb,” however, we’ve never actually heard anyone in China say this. Often, words that sound vaguely wise are misattributed to ancient Chinese sages to give the sayings some extra weight.
The quote does at least appear to have an official Chinese translation (当风向改变时,有的人筑墙,有的人造风车), however, there are far more results for the English version than the Chinese and nowhere is there an actual source listed. Over the years, Chinese netizens have also wondered about where the quote comes from and why it is attributed to China, pointing foreigners towards an actual Chinese proverb that is, admittedly, less compelling: “To see the wind and set the helm” (见风使舵).
In addition, the context of Buttigieg’s proverb doesn’t make a ton of sense for China, a land which is much better known for its walls than its windmills.
By citing bogus Chinese wisdom to make a point, Buttigieg is following in the footsteps of Trump’s own daughter, Ivanka, who tweeted a “Chinese proverb” last year in support of her father which left Chinese netizens scratching their heads.