I find to my surprise that I am being drawn to Jeremy Hunt in the Tory leadership contest – and even more to his Chinese wife, Lucia. Of course, he has no leadership qualities whatever, no Churchillian spirit or vision, but Hunt’s lack of self-assurance is quite endearing, as is his naïve willingness to answer the questions that are put to him.
Boris is doubtless better placed to deliver Brexit – but what sort of Brexit? We hear today that he has no intention to ‘commit to bringing down net immigration’. And in his denunciation of Trump’s latest tweets, we hear of his renewed commitment to Britain as ‘a great, multi-racial, multi-cultural society.’ Well, few of us would object to ‘multiracial’ – even the English were formed from an amalgam of races (though it took hundreds of years of bloodshed for the synthesis to be accomplished); but ‘multicultural’? Do we really want the rest of England made in the image of Boris’s London? Such a global Brexit would be a monumental pyrrhic victory.
Hunt, by contrast, has declared that failing to bring down overall levels of net migration would be ‘a betrayal’ of the spirit of the Brexit referendum. He has even argued that continuing mass immigration threatens race relations in this country and would threaten the future well-being of his own children, who are of course half-Chinese.
It would be easy for conservatives to depict Hunt as the cosmopolitan who threatens our civilization, his oriental connections and affections a Trojan door to Chinese world domination. I have written on this website about the dangers of our selling off the family silver to the Chinese, and in support of Trump’s China trade policy. But it is important not to conflate the Chinese people with the nasty gang of Maoists that operate China’s police state.
Lucia Hunt brings to mind not Chinese communism but all those Chinese I have worked with and known as friends over the years, who invariably have been pleasant, intelligent, highly cultured and utterly devoid of the grotesque fixation with identity and victimhood that disfigures those minorities who consider themselves marginalised, oppressed and excluded – and that makes them so attractive a proposition to bourgeois socialists and metropolitan liberals whose guilt at being white and privileged can be expiated in an orgy of moral self-righteousness for which everyone else, including the Chinese, pays the price.
I have happy memories of sitting on the floor of my old flat playing records and exchanging favourite recordings with a British Chinese colleague, whose passion for classical music knew no bounds; of touring Prague with a Chinese American whose patriotism (American not Chinese) also knew no bounds and whose desire to imbibe the culture of central Europe was only tempered by the lack of availability of Coca Cola and automatic transmission in local vehicles; and of chatting with the Chinese lady who served at my local takeaway, whose prawn foo yung was my staple meal in those days. She had to endure her share of boorish behaviour from local yobs, but it was her children who were getting a Western liberal education at top schools and were set for professional careers.
It is striking that, like the Jews, the Chinese have a remarkably rich cultural inheritance of their own and yet integrate with the greatest of ease into Western society – not because they have been forced to assimilate, or because they lack a strong cultural identity, or even because they are operatives of Chinese intelligence, but because they recognise Western civilization is universal and has exceptional riches to offer all people of all races. The deep appreciation of so many Chinese for the Western tradition of classical music is emblematic. Of course, integration is also the way to get on in life. Small wonder that Chinese pupils and students top all league tables of achievement.
The respect held by Chinese in the West for our legal and political tradition is also emblematic. Singapore is the living embodiment of this. Not exactly liberal democracy Western style (for a start, Singaporeans have the highest rate of home ownership in the world), but deeply influenced by Western traditions, outstandingly successful, and far removed from the Maoist Marxism of mainland China. Which is not surprising given that the founding father of modern Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew, was the outstanding law graduate of his day at Cambridge. At a garden party in the 1960s given in honour of George Brown, the visiting British Foreign Secretary, Lee held forth on the state of modern Britain, the country for which he had such respect and affection. Brown listened respectfully and made the memorable reply, ‘Harry, you’re the finest Englishman east of Suez.’
A large population of Anglo-Chinese, immersed in Western and English cultural traditions, yet fluent in Chinese, would be an invaluable asset in our relations with mainland China and enhance our ‘soft power’ no end. We cannot ‘out-nuke’ the Maoist Marxists but we can get to work on them and their system from within. The Chinese elite’s appetite for British public-school education, and for the English ideal of a gentleman, surely presents us with a golden opportunity. Silky-mannered Jeremy Hunt might just be perfect for the job.
And if Hunt does not ‘deliver’ Brexit by October, or thereabouts, Nigel Farage will be on hand to put things right big-time.
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