Asia Unhedged was amused by the musings of Nigel Inkster, former director of operations and intelligence for the Special Intelligence Service, MI6 on Chinese President Xi Jinping’s state visit to Britain this week.

While British Chancellor George Osborne extolled Xi’s visit as a bilateral opportunity to “stick together and make a golden decade for both our countries,” Inkster voiced a different view.

“China is a country that deals in hard power and it’s a country that’s never been shy about pursuing its own self interest. If the UK demonstrates any vulnerabilities, these will likely be taken advantage of,” Inkster said. He warns that vigilance is appropriate.

Scene from the First Opium War
Scene from the First Opium War

Hmm … a certain amount of time has passed, but isn’t this exactly what formerly “Great” Britain did to China in the fabled Opium Wars of the 19th Century? Not to beat a long-dead, and now stinky horse — but many in Britain’s former colonial possessions might have a word to say about his Britannic majesty’s pursuit of hard power, national self-interest and taking advantage of other countries. What about the millions of Chinese who became addicted to the sap of the Indian poppy at a time when China paid the price of commercial vulnerability?

While President Xi isn’t exactly known for his tender touch in world affairs, Asia Unhedged points out that he hasn’t arrived in the sceptered isle carrying casks of opium under his arm. Prime Minister David Cameron says Xi has brought 30 billion pounds ($46 billion) in deals and investment as part of his visit. The deals are expected to create 3,900 jobs in the UK, in sectors including the creative industries, retail, energy, health and technology, financial services, aerospace and education.

But spookmaster Inkster is unmoved. He expressed concern over “a propensity on the part of some areas of the UK government to see China as little more than a giant hypermarket, to which we can export clones of Eton and Dulwich College and the kind of Burberry rainwear that few British nationals would ever wear.”

Yes, Mr. Inkster — this is clearly a crime against humanity. Little Chinese boys in black Eaton top hats and Chinese wearing Burberry rainwear that few British nationals would ever wear. Whatever is the world coming to?