Jeremy Hunt has made an awkward debut in China by mistakenly referring to his Chinese wife as "Japanese". The new Foreign Secretary sought to curry favour with his hosts on his first official visit to the country by mentioning his spouse, Lucia Guo. He might have hoped that his personal connection to China could help forge strong links with the Beijing government, but that was undermined when he got her nationality wrong. After making the embarrassing gaffe, Mr Hunt quickly acknowledged the "terrible" error. "My wife is Japanese – my wife is Chinese. That's a terrible mistake to make," he told his counterpart, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi. "My wife is Chinese and my children are half-Chinese and so we have Chinese grandparents who live in Xian and strong family connections in China," he added, referring to the ancient city of Xian in northern China. Jeremy Hunt and his wife Lucia Guo, with whom he has three children, at a Buckingham Palace garden party Credit: Jonathan Brady/Getty Mr Hunt, the former Health and Social Care secretary, married Ms Guo in July 2009 and the pair have three children together. He succeeds Boris Johnson – who once referred to Africans as "flag-waving piccaninnies" with "watermelon smiles" – after he dramatically resigned over Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit blueprint earlier this month. Jeremy Hunt shakes hands with his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, in Beijing Credit: ANDY WONG /AFP Mr Hunt is in China in a bid to strengthen trade ties with Beijing ahead of Britain's exit from the European Union next year. Other topics on the table are expected to be "the importance of multilateralism and free trade and ways the UK and China can work together on global challenges such as climate change, development, security and non-proliferation and enforcing UN sanctions on North Korea", his office said ahead of the trip. Profile | Jeremy Hunt China and Japan have been traditional rivals for centuries. Although relations have improved recently, they remain touchy due to issues such as Japan's bloody occupation of parts of China in the 1930s and 40s.