Conversations With My Mother

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If you want an idea of the success with which the Communist Party is inspiring a sense of Chinese nationalism, speak to my mother, who is ethnically Chinese but holds British, Irish and Australian passports. “I love the Communists,” she declared over a glass of rosé last Saturday night. “The Chinese were despised by everyone. Now China is strong and everyone is scared of us and it’s thanks to the Communists!”
Could this be the same woman who, when I was a small boy, would threaten that “Communists” would march into Hong Kong to take me away, whenever I misbehaved? The same woman who married a member of the white colonial establishment? And who, when stopped in her car and asked for money at a Maoist roadblock during riots in the 1960s, swore at the demonstrators beautifully, flung a fistful of copper coins in their faces and floored the accelerator while they gave chase?
That seems like such a long time ago.
We were having a meal in an ex-British military club in Kowloon that my family has belonged to, on and off, for over thirty years. When we first joined, Chinese members like my mother would be suspiciously regarded by the general manager and asked for their membership cards, while white members came and went unchallenged. (Since those days, the management and membership body have been entirely replenished and are exemplary in their multiculturalism.)
After spending much of her life dealing with petty racism, which it would be gratuitous to detail here, my mother is delighted to see her own people rise up and take on Whitey – or the Japanese, the Malaysians or the Indonesians or anyone else who ever lorded it over the Chinese. And if it’s the Communists that have got the Chinese to this point, then perhaps they’re not poet-gagging monsters after all. “So what if they made mistakes?” cried my mother, raising her voice. “All humans make mistakes!”
I don’t think our club’s dining room has ever witnessed such an ardent defense of Chinese socialism. Whatever else I thought would my mother would become in retirement, left-wing apologist was never one of them.