High life

Taki: What I learned when I tried to join the CIA

27 January 2018

9:00 AM

27 January 2018

9:00 AM

Before his untimely death last year, David Tang had attended a Pug’s club luncheon with the proviso that no one ask him how he felt. So all 20 of us asked him in unison, ‘How do you feel?’ He burst out laughing.

Sir David — he threw a riotous party at the Dorchester to celebrate his knighthood at which I got a bit tipsy and asked a good friend of his the reason for the honour. ‘For inserting his face the deepest in Prince Charles’s bottom’ was the rude answer — was a storyteller nonpareil. It was he who first told me about Fan Bingbing. Fan Bingbing is a Chinese actress and apparently very beautiful. When I asked David if he had Fan Bingbinged her, he feigned anger and told me to have more respect for a great Chinese thespian. Again, I was a bit tipsy (we only met at parties, never at funerals) so I insisted. ‘Come on, David, did you Bingbing her or not? You’re talking to Taki, not some credulous hack.’ ‘If you write that I Bingbinged her I will sue, as I should have done all those years ago,’ he said.

David Tang threw a party for me the night before I left to attend Pentonville University 35 or so years ago. Some years later, in St Moritz, he asked me please not to write that he was in attendance at a particular great summer blast. (He was a very loyal Spectator reader.) Back in London, I received a telephone call from him and he was in Orlando Furioso mode. I assured him that I had not mentioned his name because I knew that he was on a dirty weekend with the lady who was to become Lady Tang. ‘But my wife showed it to me,’ he screamed. The silly Chinese boy had been Bingbinged by his Chinese wife. She had typed out an item, purportedly written by me, and had had it faxed back to her so it looked like my Speccie column, smudges included. In it I said that he had been among the swells tripping the light fantastic in St Moritz. So David spilled the beans and then called me to complain. ‘Go out and buy The Spectator and see for yourself, you dumb Chinaman,’ said yours truly. He rang back to apologise, got divorced, married Lucy, got knighted, told me about Fan Bingbing, and lived happily until his death.


Now Fan Bingbing is back in the news, xie xie (thank you in Chinese) very much. A billionaire dissident by the name of Guo Wengui, camping out in his 9,000 sq ft residence overlooking Central Park, New York City, accuses Fan Bingbing of being the mistress of anti-corruption czar Wang Qishan, whom he also accuses of having four other mistresses. Fan Bingbing is suing Guo Wengui for saying she’s Wang’s mistress, which she says is false, xie xie very much.

My personal take on Wang — he’s the corruption czar — is that he must be a great man if what Guo says is true because he apparently has at least four other mistresses according to the dissident billionaire parked on Fifth Avenue, New York 10022. The dissident Guo is as jealous as Othello.

All this is very nice but it seems that the tight-lipped Chinese Communist party elite is very pissed off. Western journalists trying to write about the inscrutable Chinese are buffeted daily by currents of propaganda and disinformation, not to mention being Fan Bingbinged by troublemakers among dissident Chinese in Trumpland. A very long time ago, when I tried unsuccessfully to join the CIA, the first lesson I learned was never to believe a word I heard in Athens, where everyone talked rubbish, and never anything a Chinese person said, because they never said anything. The story of my failure to join the agency is a long one, and it ended when the CIA bureau chief in Saigon wired Athens that I was ‘indiscreet, indiscriminate and possibly a double agent’. The bureau chief in Saigon was of Greek extraction; imagine what a Wasp would have wired.

But putting Fan Bingbing aside for a moment, the Chinese government wants Guo the billionaire dissident to be extradited — he is wanted on charges of rape, bribery and kidnapping — but the American government is refusing to send him back. The attorney general himself, Jeff Sessions, has assured Guo that Uncle Sam is not about to Bingbing him. As long as he keeps his billions, that is.

What I think the management of this magazine should do is cover the defamation case of Fan Bingbing vs Guo Wengui, whether or not Fan Bingbing committed Bingbing with Wang, the anti-corruption czar. I am not suggesting that I do it. I’ve had it up to here with the Chinese, xie xie very much. They can all go and Bingbing themselves as far as I’m concerned.

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