To the wider world, Jeremy Hunt is most famous for the many times that radio and television presenters mispronounced his surname whilst he has more recently gained notoriety for being “that boring guy trying to debate Boris Johnson”. Therefore it might come as a surprise to many that Jeremy Hunt is also Britain’s Foreign Secretary. Whilst the job of any UK Foreign Secretary at this time in history should be about charming the world so as to pave the way for a new era of post-Brexit free trade, Hunt instead displays all the symptoms of “seller’s remorse” when it comes to Hong Kong.
Of course, Britain didn’t sell Hong Kong in the formal sense as it never bought Hong Kong in the formal sense either. Instead, Britain began a hostile military occupation of Hong Kong in 1841 in the midst of the First Opium War before forcing the Great Qing to sign a 99 year lease that granted Britain formal sovereignty over the so-called New Territories in 1898. Making matters murkier, the 1842 Treaty of Nanjing granted Britain some of Hong Kong in perpetuity but in reality, by the 20th century, the entire region was viewed by both the UK and Chinese side as indivisible for pragmatic reasons.
Rather than hear politicians moan about their desired personal entitlements disguised in vomit enduing talk of human rights, let’s instead look at basic contract formation and enforcement. Because all agreements between Britain and the Great Qing were signed under duress, an argument could be made that all such agreements were null and void from the get-go. But because both sides de facto performed on the agreements, this argument may not work.
Then one must remember that during the 1980s as Margaret Thatcher and Deng Xiaoping negotiated how the end of the 1898 era 99 year lease would transpire, it became clear that Britain did not want to give Hong Kong up. But rather than do what people in the real world would have to do when wanting to extend a lease, the Thatcher government tried to impose multiple preconditions on the transfer rather than just “show Deng the money”.
Had Britain said to China, “we’ll pay you X amount of pounds to extend the least for X amount of years”, then perhaps both sides would have been satisfied. Although Deng was insistent that Hong Kong be returned, in negotiations, everything has a price. The fact that Britain didn’t put its hand in its pocket therefore speaks of arrogance overriding pragmatism. It’s only a pity that Donald Trump’s Art of The Deal wasn’t writing when China and Britain signed a declaration regarding Hong Kong in 1984.
Today, China is vastly wealthier than it was during the 1980s or 1990s and therefore, if Hong Kong were to be leased or sold, China would likely demand a higher price that it might have done thirty-five years ago. This presents a problem for some as a number of people in British ruling circles privately and sometimes not so privately yearn for Hong Kong to be ruled not be Xi Jinping but by Queen Elizabeth.
Instead of admitting this, Jeremy Hunt issued the following Tweet:
Message to Chinese govt: good relations between countries are based on mutual respect and honouring the legally binding agreements between them. That is the best way to preserve the great relationship between the UK and China
— Jeremy Hunt (@Jeremy_Hunt) July 3, 2019
Hunt later stated that China would face “serious consequences” if it did not uphold elements of the agreements transferring Hong Kong’s sovereignty back to China even though these agreements have long ago been fulfilled by China and even exceeded in terms of satisfying the decades old stipulations.
Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Geng Shuang then gave Hunt the debate that he has apparently been hankering for with Boris Johnson. Geng responded to Hunt by saying that the aspiring UK Prime Minister “seems to be fantasising in the faded glory of British colonialism and obsessed with the bad habit of criticising and lecturing on other countries’ affairs condescendingly. The UK at every turn considers itself as a guardian which is nothing but a delusion“. Boris clearly has a tough act to follow when he decides to take on Hunt.
And thus one sees that two countries whose priority should be the signing of a free trading agreement are instead witnessing relations deteriorate in real-time because Jeremy Hunt is too timid to just admit that he wishes Hong Kong was still ruled by Britain.
There are therefore a few solutions. The first would be the classic English stiff upper lip in which Hunt would have to admit that Hong Kong is China and simply get on with life. If this were to prove too difficult in an age in which the stiff upper lip has been eroded by continental style emotional incontinence, Britain could always ring up China and say “we want to buy Hong Kong and we’re willing to pay X amount for the land”.
But seeing as China now has a bigger economy than Britain, perhaps Britain might not be able to cough up the money. In such an instance a more novel solution will be required.
If Britain yearns for the pre-1997 days of sovereign over Hong Kong, a win-win deal could be achieved where Britain trades its financial centre for Hong Kong. Yes, it is time to consider a deal in which China would give Hong Kong to Britain in exchange for London being given to China.
Although most Hong Kong people actually want to be part of China under the one country – two systems model, because we live in an age where mob rule is more important than actual democracy, one could do like Hillary Clinton would have us do and just capitulate to which ever side shouts the loudest and threatens the most damage. Thus, whilst the silent majority would continue to be silent, the shouting vandals and bandits would get their wish to once again be British whilst living on the Pacific ocean made famous by the Beach Boys.
As for London, Monty Python comedian John Cleese recently remarked that London is no longer an English city. Therefore if London already isn’t English, it might as well be Chinese. Furthermore, as London is the only part of England to vote to remain in the European Union, it is self-evident that a majority of Londoners don’t care about being ruled by foreigners in any case. Beyond this, London’s soaring crime problem would probably be best tackled by a Chinese justice system that executes murderers and other major criminals.
Finally, because actual Chinese food is somewhat different from westernised Chinese food, liberal Londoners who like to pretend that they know about geopolitics because of their penchant for being to pronounce the names of otherwise obscure foodstuffs would feel fully culturally enriched by the importation of distinctly non-British cuisine food from the Chinese mainland.
Meanwhile, Britain’s ruling class could jet set from the Home Countries to Hong Kong in order to feel that in spite of of losing London, Britain is once again an empire upon which the sun never sets.
This is the true solution to every major crisis from the current China-UK row over Hong Kong to Brexit. It’s just shocking that a man as clearly gifted as Jeremy Hunt did not think of this before.