More thrills than skills – A half-life in journalism, part 107

Over the next few weeks, is to publish, each weekday, edited extracts from the memoirs of Scottish war correspondent, Paul Harris. ‘More thrills than skills – A half-life in journalism’, is to be published March 1 next year, by Kennedy & Boyd, Glasgow, and available from

A TELEVISION show to welcome Chinese New Year at the beginning of February – a sort of cross between The Eurovision Song Contest and Sunday Night at the London Palladium (remember?) – shows film footage of furiously waving units of the Chinese People’s Army doing their good works in far-flung locations, from the border with Siberia to Xizhang.

This is all about unity, the integrity of the state and continuity. In a country with 5,000 years of recorded history, few question that concept of homogeneity.

Of course, Shanghai is not China. Shanghai is the atypical showpiece of an already diverse and vast land about which generalisations are facile. Shanghai has always been different.

I got to a lecture given in the de-luxe surroundings of the top floor restaurant, M on The Bund, with its breathtaking views over the skyscrapers of Pudong district, the relentless commercial traffic of the Huangpi River and the solid historic architecture erected by the old money on The Bund.

The lecturer makes the point convincingly. “Shanghai has always been a business-orientated city rather than a political city.”

Shanghai has been chosen by the Chinese leadership to spearhead the economic development of China.

Indeed, to symbolise it.