The Economist rephrases controversial article, clarifies it never intended to cause offense amid accusations of racism
Published: Jun 30, 2022 04:02 PM
Photo: A screenshot from The Economist

Photo: A screenshot from The Economist

The Economist magazine has rephrased the controversial comparison featured in one of their articles that compares pigs to Chinese people and clarified that it was not intended to cause offense, which, however, failed to convince Chinese netizens outraged by such racist and dehumanizing language.

On Thursday, in an email reply to the Global Times, the magazine writes: "As our intention was never to cause offence, we have rephrased the article to make our meaning absolutely clear."

"In a Graphic setting out how most of the world's grain is fed to animals or used to make biofuel, we observed that 431m tonnes of grain is eaten by pigs and that, if it were a stand-alone country, this would rank at the very top of the league tables for grain consumption. By way of comparison, we pointed out that this is 45% more than the real-life country that consumes the most rice and wheat, which is China," The Economist explained in the email. 

The Economist said it had rephrased the article and attached a note at the bottom after being "contacted by Chinese readers, who object to the comparison."

Screenshot of the now-deleted controversial tweet published by The Economist

Photo: Screenshot of the now-deleted controversial tweet published by The Economist

The now-deleted content was part of an article titled "Most of the world's grain is not eaten by humans" published on June 23. 

"In 2019 pigs ate 432m tonnes of grain, 45% more than the people of China did," it read.

On Thursday, the Global Times found that the comparison has been rephrased to "According to our calculations, if the world's pig population were a stand-alone country, it would rank at the very top of grain-consumption league tables, chomping through as much grain as 2bn people."

In a clarification note attached at the bottom of the article on Wednesday, The Economist said "An earlier version of this article compared the grain-consumption rate of pigs with that of the people of China. We selected China solely because it is the world's leading consumer of both wheat and rice."

However, the rephrase and clarification seemingly still failed to convince the outraged Chinese netizens, as The Economist did not make any apology for the mistake.

"Spitting in our face and then 'rephrasing things,' what's the point??" said a user of China's Twitter-like Sina Weibo.

The previous comparison triggered backlash among Chinese readers as well as overseas netizens after The Economist used it in a Tweet to promote the article on Tuesday. 

Although the article mainly focuses on analyzing data of food consumption per country, area, and year, the inappropriate comparison between pigs and the Chinese people was widely criticized for being "awful," "racist" and "dehumanizing."

The Tweet has also been deleted as of Wednesday.