7 FEBRUARY 1969, Page 30

Sir: Cochin is in South India. The sentence in Joseph

Chapman's (Commonwealth) 'Con- ference diary' (17 January): 'How different, for example, the recent history of Vietnam might have been had Mr Lee [Kean Yew] been Cochinese' is therefore inexplicable except on the dubious hypothesis that there is some par- ticular virtue in the inhabitants of Cochin, India, decisively relevant to the problems of Vietnam.

Mr Chapman presumably meant Cochin- Chinese rather than Cochinese. But Mr Lee is a Chinese: had he been Cochin-Chinese, which is a racial or ethnic as well as geographical description, he would likely have possessed fewer of the (Chinese) qualities which in him arouse our admiration. This, of course, might only not be so had he been a Chinese inhabi- tant of Cochin-China : but other factors make even this proposition arguable and, anyway, Mr Chapman did not state it.

'If Wellington had been a Frenchman . . He wasn't. And could he have been? If he had been, would he have been Wellington? Asians are no less inhibited by similar con- siderations of race, history and environment. The kind of comparison made here by Mr Chapman can never be meaningful.

John Colvin St James's Club, 106 Piccadilly, London WI

A regrettable misprint : Joseph Chapman did in fact write `Cochin-Chinese.'--Editor, SPEC- TATOR.