by Peter Franklin
Monday, 13
September 2021
Explainer
13:30

Emma Raducanu’s overlooked heritage

Using the tennis star for political point scoring obscures her background
by Peter Franklin
Do commentators really care about her heritage? (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

Emma Raducanu’s Twitter bio lists four cities: “london | toronto | shenyang | bucharest”. Those, respectively, are where she grew up, where she was born, where her mother came from and where her father came from.

From a British perspective, we obviously all know about London. Toronto, Canada’s largest city, is also pretty familiar. Bucharest, the Romanian capital, is probably less so — but at least most of us have heard of it. 

But how many of us could honestly say the same about Shenyang? Certainly, we ought to have heard of it. For a start, it’s huge — with a population of five to nine million depending on where you draw the city limits. If it were in Europe or North America, it would be world famous. But like so many other Chinese cities, it is all but unknown in the West.

Or perhaps should I say forgotten. Shenyang is one of the most significant locations of the first half of the 20th century. In fact, it should be right up there with Sarajevo, Verdun and Stalingrad as a turning point in the course of world history — and in Shenyang’s case, not once, but twice.  

Shenyang is better known to western historians as Mukden (the city’s name in the Manchu language). In 1905, the Battle of Mukden took place between the Russians and Japanese, who were vying for control of Manchuria. At the time this was literally the most explosive battle there had ever been — a warning of what was to come during the First World War. 

The outcome was a Japanese victory, which was an almighty shock not just for the tottering Tsarist Empire, but to all the nations of Europe. Their superiority over other parts of the world could no longer be arrogantly assumed. 

Perhaps of even greater significance was the Mukden Incident of 1931 — a false flag operation that provided the Japanese Empire with a pretext for its invasion and occupation of China, starting with Manchuria. 

It can be argued that this was the real start of the Second World War.  Indeed, after the war, China was given the honour of being the first country to sign the United Nations charter — out of recognition of having been the first to be attacked. 

Hopefully, those taking so much interest in Raducanu’s family heritage will take the trouble not just to make facile political points, but also actually learn something about the places in question. 

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Giles Chance
Giles Chance
1 year ago

Shenyang/Mukden IS interesting (Frank Admission: I have been there) but what I want to say is that there is something very important about Emma Raducanu.. She GREW UP IN ENGLAND (Bromley, Kent is not London any more than Luton is). This intelligent, capable, modest, skilful, hard-working and just all-round NICE girl GREW UP IN ENGLAND, with a Rumanian dad and a Chinese mum. I think we Brits should be proud, of creating an environment where a girl from Toronto, aged 2, comes to England and not only fits beautifully into everything, but learns how to be a tennis star ! Yes, we are doing something right. Hurray for us ! And hurray for Emma and her family !

Last edited 1 year ago by Giles Chance
Keith Merrick
Keith Merrick
1 year ago
Reply to  Giles Chance

They were also my thoughts. I asked myself whether Emma’s choice not to go down the schmalzy route of ‘You New Yorkers are so resilient’ yada yada in her winner’s speech was due to the non-schmalzy influence of her mother’s culture, her dad’s or her English upbringing. I’d like to believe it was the latter. Either way, the fact that she has turned out so well, the kind of daughter that any parent would want, must surely mean that England can’t be that bad. Watching and listening to her gives me the same feeling I get when watching University Challenge: genuine pride and the sense that things might actually turn out alright after all.

Frank Wilcockson
Frank Wilcockson
1 year ago
Reply to  Giles Chance

Agree absolutely. Can we English learn from her and her family? Apart from her obvious talent, how can other girls and boys build on their talent in order to achieve their own goals?

Giles Chance
Giles Chance
1 year ago

Obviously, yes, we can all learn. Starting with humility.

David Smith
David Smith
1 year ago
Reply to  Giles Chance

Ive also been to Shenyang and enjoyed it and its history enormously . Its the original capital city of the last Chinese dynasty with its own version of the Forbidden City . As with so many other “unknown” Chinese cities well worth spending time in .

Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
1 year ago

No-one has any problem with immigrants like the Radacanus. Self starters, ambitious, plenty to offer. Millions of Islamists with multiple wives, claiming benefits and contributing nothing not demands for submission to sharia, homeless EU citizens, Romanian pickpocketing gangs, sex traffickers and just those undercutting our own citizens. And not just a few, enough to change the character of whole towns and cities. Emma is not entirely representative of the benefits of mass immigration.

Ingrid Nozahic
Ingrid Nozahic
1 year ago

She is a young athlete, against all rankings won one of the most difficult competitions in the world. This is the story……or should be. Well done to her.

Andrea X
Andrea X
1 year ago

Well, for one I didn’t know anything about it. Thanks.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrea X

A very good book is Peter Flemming book ‘News from Tartary where he visits Mukden touring ‘Manchuko’, the Japanese puppet state of Manchuria, and you can get a bit of a feel for the brooding situation pre WWII as the Japanese SE Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere took off. His other wonderful book is ‘Ones Company’ on China, and others like ‘Brazilian Adventure’ must be read if you love wonderful writing and travel of the most wild and weird kind. His history of the British war with Tibet, ‘Bayonets to Lhasa’ is a must read for many reasons.

This is also where the Russian-Japanese war was fought over – the one which shocked the world when Japan won, and where ‘The Last Emperor’ movie was set, when Japan made Manchuria a puppet constitutional Monarchy, and where Unit 731 was, the most evil medical experiment camp in world history (WWII) If you read of Military, as I do, Manchuria has been one of those endlessly conquered, and conquering states.
Of the travel writers Peter Flemming is my favorite, wonderful to get a feel for old China – Chinese Puppet, Xinjiang (Uighurs). Thesiger also – and a vital writer if you wish to get a feel for Arabia and the MENA and Horn.

And Emma is very admirable, amazing set of accomplishments even outside her tennis. Plays table tennis with a pro team in China!

The thing is her exceptional – and her parents exceptional, qualities does not mean the door should be open to the world’s rif-raf, which is surely what the MSM will be saying.

Peter Francis
Peter Francis
1 year ago

Full Disclosure: I loathe and detest all spectator sports.
Of the 1931 Mukden incident, the article says “It can be argued that this was the real start of the Second World War.” That depends on what status you give to Mussolini’s invasion of Libya in the 1920’s. By 1931, Mussolini had already killed an estimated 100,000 Libyans on the battlefield and in concentration camps.
Mussolini’s claim to Libya had about as much merit as Emperor Hirohito’s claim to Manchuria.

Last edited 1 year ago by Peter Francis
Giles Chance
Giles Chance
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter Francis

It can also be argued that the following marked the beginning of WW2:
The Treaty of Versailles 1919
Hitler’s accession as Chancellor 1933
The buildup of Germany’s army in contravention of the Versailles Treaty
The Anschluss
The German invasion of Poland
The German invasion of Czechoslovakia
and a few other events

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
1 year ago
Reply to  Giles Chance

And in writing of historical ‘What If’ I sort of believe if USA had just stayed out of WWI then the Treaty of Versallias would not have happened (even although USA was not part of the treaty, but the war would have just stalemated) and maybe WWII would have not, and the world be 100% different, and likely better.

Clive Mitchell
Clive Mitchell
1 year ago
Reply to  Giles Chance

An argument I have read is that in effect there was only one world war and that in reality WW2 was an extension of WW1.

Giles Chance
Giles Chance
1 year ago
Reply to  Clive Mitchell

I think that is an interesting and relevant perspective. I suppose then we have to examine Kaiser Wilhelm and his relationship with the British royal family.

Keith Merrick
Keith Merrick
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter Francis

Wow, ‘Loathe AND detest’! You really don’t like it. Even so, I’m not sure the Mukden Incident can go down as a spectator sport, even if we didn’t intervene.

Will R
Will R
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter Francis

Why do you loathe AND detest something? is tautology your hobby, bit like some people watch sport?

James Joyce
James Joyce
1 year ago

I think this is a bridge too far, mate. What’s the point? If you would like to educate us about a certain city, or the first Asian victory over a European power, is the US Open the best way to do it?
Perhaps Emma’s Twitter bio is a way of keeping her advertising options open: I’ve heard China is a big market. Think “Japan’s” Naomi Osaka.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
1 year ago
Reply to  James Joyce

“Think “Japan’s” Naomi Osaka.”

She is athletically equally amazing – but got sucked into that American Race war, and so is as much political as an athlete, and that is a terrible thing. The politicizing of sport has made me refuse to watch it – not the Olympics even. F those athletes using the podium to bring grievance politics into it. I like the Patriotism though – as it is uplifting in how it honors the society which gave you the opportunity to represent it – but all other politicizing on the field? NO!

Annette Lawson
Annette Lawson
1 year ago
Reply to  James Joyce

I should have thought the last thing Emma Radukanu would have been doing in listing the 4 cities in her Twitter account would be advertising! She is clearly not only young and highly intelligent as well as a totally brilliant athlete but also a completely delightful person. No – those are the four cities that make up her sense of self. She is English, she was born in Canada and her parents give her the two languages and backgrounds of China and Rumania as well as England (well, the UK) and English.

Michael James
Michael James
1 year ago

Hope so. We need helpful journalists who do that.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
1 year ago

This history is very interesting, but talking in the same breath about the sheer size of this Chinese city and its claim to fame in respect of size is not relevant. Just a simple wiki (based on 2017 stats, so this tally would have climbed enormously) tells you that there are 19 cities with over 5 million inhabitants and 50 cities with over 2 million inhabitants.
I have visited exactly one of these cities – the biggest one – and being frank the only major current interest I have in visiting any of the others is Beijing. And definitely not Wuhan!

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
1 year ago

Actually if you read a lot of history Manchuria is a place a great amount of it took place.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
1 year ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

Chinese history is fascinating indeed. It is present day China that I take issue with.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
1 year ago

I spent a long time thinking on ‘Military Ethics’ and read military history greatly, mostly WWII, but the historical range as well. I found it one of the most interesting concepts, as I believe man is a product of war.

Most of our formation, politically, economically, scientific, technologically, economically, geo-politically, and cultural, is because of war. It made us what we are, from hunter gathers to agriculturial towns, and then walled, and gave the need for professional leaders, and then military, and war was the primary consideration in everything, always. Tech appears in Bursts from conflicts, as do political concepts, and so culture – a fascinating subject.

David Smith
David Smith
1 year ago

present day china is quite stunning in so many ways but the problem , and its a big one , is its government.

Giles Chance
Giles Chance
1 year ago

Probably.