Boris Johnson, who resigned as British Foreign Secretary in protest at his government’s Brexit policy last week, was best known in China for his scruffy appearance.
His newly-announced replacement Jeremy Hunt is getting a different billing: as an ideal son-in-law.
Hunt spent time working as an English language teacher in Japan and is said to speak decent Japanese. However, he is regarded as more of a pro-China voice in the UK Parliament, having served as a patron of the Conservative Party’s “Friends of the Chinese” group, which promotes ties with British-Chinese communities and calls for closer relations between China and Britain.
Much more importantly – as far as the Chinese media is concerned, – Hunt is also married to Lucia Guo, who hails from Xi’an in western China.
He met his wife 10 years ago when he was establishing the educational publishing firm that made him into a multimillionaire and Hunt says that the marriage has made him highly appreciative of Chinese culture.
He even cited his wife’s nationality in a speech three years ago that argued that cuts to tax credits would make Britons work harder “in the way that Asian economies are prepared to work hard”.
The speech caused a stir and a member of parliament for the opposing Labour Party came in for heavy criticism when she tweeted in response: “If China is so great, why did Jeremy Hunt’s wife come to England?”
Since the news of Hunt’s promotion to foreign secretary, China’s newspapers have been talking up his family ties, referring to him as a “Chinese son-in-law”. The phrase has caused some annoyance on social media, however, where there was a sense that his loyalties were being overplayed. “Stop talking about the term ‘Chinese son-in-law’,” one contributor warned. “He isn’t going to help us in terms of our national interests.”
“What has this really got to do with Xi’an? Don’t make up family ties [to the city],” argued another. “Perhaps he’s going to announce that people from Xi’an can visit the UK with no need for visas?” was another sarcastic contribution.
All the same, the Global Times says that Hunt would score top marks from most Chinese mothers-in-law. In fact, talk that he is a major contender to replace Theresa May, Britain’s embattled leader, elevates him to an “absolutely world-class” choice, the newspaper adds.
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