It seems like the apple really doesn’t fall far from the tree after all. Former UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson’s long-standing reputation for both minor slip-ups and offensive commentary seems to have continued in the newly appointed successor, Jeremy Hunt.
The new UK Foreign Secretary found himself meeting with Chinese officials in Beijing yesterday to discuss trade deals following the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union. In order to break the ice, Hunt decided to mention his wife was Japanese.
Except, she’s not.
Lucia Guo is in fact Chinese and comes from Xi’an in central China. Considering Jeremy Hunt met his wife back in 2008 at Warwick University and the three kids they now have together, the slip of tongue seems to be an unusual one. For Jeremy Hunt, it was a “terrible mistake to make.”
Screengrabs via BBC & The Independent
The quick correction at the table may have led to laughter by the Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and his associates, but outside the room some people aren’t laughing. Foreign Minister Hunt stated he was confused at the time, because Wang and him had “spoken in Japanese at the state banquet.” He had wanted to mention that before going on to say that, “My wife is Chinese and my children are half-Chinese and so we have Chinese grandparents who live in Xi'an and strong family connections in China.”
This nonchalant explanation is what is fueling the backlash from the general public.
China and Japan have been bitter rivals for years. They’ve fought two Sino-Japanese wars and are in a constant dispute over islands in the East China Sea. An entire generation of Chinese people still refuse to go on vacation to Japan or buy Japanese products due to the history of Japanese war crimes and how it was handled post World War II. In 2012, there was even several anti-Japanese protests that had flared up in the country. It may be a gaffe to confuse one country for another in negotiations, but to confuse the country for their most controversial rival is insulting.
Not only is it insulting to the country, but also to its citizens. A huge problem for east Asian nations has been dealing with people making lazy assumptions about all of them looking or being the same. The Foreign Minister perpetuated a troublesome stereotype and didn’t even seem to mind it.
Foreign Minister Hunt is known to have a history of undiplomatic and racially-tinged remarks. It seems this time his slip-up was at the expense of his own wife.
[Cover image via Number 10/Flickr]