Friday 23 August 2019

Foundations of China deals 'laid by Wham!'s George Michael'

Laurence has 15 George Michael costumes
Laurence has 15 George Michael costumes

George Michael's success in China with Wham! may have laid the foundations for George Osborne's multi-billion pound deals with the country, Parliament has heard.

Downing Street claimed a series of commercial deals agreed during Chinese president Xi Jinping's state visit to the UK last month were worth £40 billion, with Chancellor Mr Osborne seeking to cement the relationship between the two nations.

But Labour MP Rupa Huq noted a visit by pop superstars Wham! in the 1980s was hailed as a "big cultural thawing process", adding they broke through barriers to play on the Great Wall of China.

During her recent visit to China with a parliamentary delegation, Ms Huq said she wondered if the Chancellor's success "w as prefigured by George Michael's success there 30 years earlier".

She also labelled Wham! - famed for their hits Club Tropicana, Careless Whisper and Last Christmas - as "astute chroniclers of Thatcher's Britain" during a Westminster Hall debate discussing UK musicians performing overseas.

Conservative Nigel Adams suggested Wham!'s contribution to China may have been a "surge in bleached mullets across China".

This prompted Labour former minister Kevin Brennan to joke: " Is it any wonder that from time to time we are condemned for western imperialism by those in the Far East?"

Speaking earlier in the debate, M s Huq (Ealing Central and Acton) said: "Las t week I found myself in China on an overseas trip - my first one as an MP, and my first time in China.

"I noticed a building that looked very familiar, with chairman Mao's features adorning the side of it. I had never been there before, but I then had a memory jolt: I had originally seen the building in a copy of Smash Hits from 1985, when Wham! toured there.

"At the time, the fact that they had gone over there to play was hailed as a big cultural thawing process.

"They were an interesting early 80s band. They not only lyricised about sleepless nights on an HP bed but were astute chroniclers of Thatcher's Britain, chanting DHSS throughout some of their tunes. They also broke through cultural barriers to play on the Great Wall of China.

"While our delegation leaders, (Conservative former minister Ken Clarke) and Lord Mandelson, kept saying on every visit we did, 'This is an all-time high for relations between China and Britain,' and, 'We're entering a golden era,' I wonder whether George Osborne's success in China was prefigured by George Michael's success there 30 years earlier.

"Whenever we have these two-country international cultural exchanges between, for example, the UK and America or China, barriers are broken down, but visa issues can complicate that form of what we might call knowledge transfer."

Ms Huq then proceeded to discuss events the "post-Wham! era".

Cardiff West MP Mr Brennan, who plays in parliamentary rock band MP4, later noted of Ms Huq's comments: " She pondered on what would be the contribution to Chinese history of the famous tour by Wham! of the People's Republic of China.

"The answer may be the same as that given by Zhou Enlai when asked about the French revolution's influence on history: it is too early to tell. No doubt we will eventually find out what contribution Wham! make to Chinese history."

PA Media

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