I came across an article in the Economist and found this line.

The fresh-faced good looks have been lined and drawn by the cares of office. His immaculate English is forsaken for the dignity of immaculate Mandarin.

Here is the article

I am not able to understand what the author meant to say in the second line. Is his English good or bad? And what does the dignity of Mandarin have to do with this?

3 Answers 3


Both his English and his Mandarin are immaculate, that is, perfect and beyond reproach. However, he has chosen to use Mandarin in the interview instead of English, because he finds it more "dignified".

This might be either a way for him to show his interest in a closer relationship between Taiwan and China, as StoneyB suggested, or - more generally - simply a point about respect and not bowing down to western needs/standards/ideas.

Many non-native-anglophone (for instance) politicians worldwide, though capable of speaking near-perfect English, choose not to do so at times as a way to drive home the point that they represent a sovereign country with its own language, culture, history, politics, etc.


I suspect it means that President Ma spoke with the interviewer in Mandarin Chinese rather than English -- I see that he did just that in a December interview with the New York Times. Since his program calls for closer ties with China, perhaps he makes a point of distancing himself in this way from the West.

  • A similar line from the NYT article: "Although Mr. Ma speaks fluent English, he chose to speak in Mandarin."
    – Helix Quar
    Apr 1, 2014 at 0:34
  • @helix Yes, that's what I had in mind. Apr 1, 2014 at 1:14

His English is good, the writer seems to be lamenting the fact that he is being freindly to China. Not sure about the dignity bit, could have several meanings e.g. it is more dignified to improve relations with China than anyone else?

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