Two journalists and two editors were suspended last week after mistakenly suggesting in a news article that the Chinese president had resigned.
Editorial staff at the state-run China News Service published a story detailing a speech Xi made at a China-Africa summit in Johannesburg. But where they meant to write the phrase: “In a speech, Xi Jinping said […],” the story instead read: “In his resignation, Xi Jinping said […].”
The mixup not only went unnoticed by the journalists and editors, but also by at least 20 other news portals, which reposted the story on their own websites. Eventually it was spotted, and removed from the internet after almost an hour and a half.
The typo likely arose from the likenesses between the two words in question; not only do they sound similar, they share a character, too. The word for a speech in Mandarin Chinese is zhi ci (致辞), whereas to resign is ci zhi (辞职).
Despite the embarrassment caused, the reporters and editors are unlikely to face more severe punishment. A similar incident occurred in 2010 when the People’s Daily, a Communist Party newspaper, misspelled the name of the then-premier Wen Jiabao (link in Chinese). No punishments were given.