More thrills than skills – A half-life in journalism, part 108

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

THERE were an awful lot of cranes in Shanghai, to be sure, although many of them seemed to be idle.

When work on some vast new building or mall started in earnest you could almost see it sprouting up in front of your eyes: it is not uncommon to start and finish a 30 or more storeyed building in less than a year.

There can be little doubt that the most breakneck process of transition in any city in the world is going on in Shanghai.

But it would be mistaken to confuse relatively unrestrained economic development with the emergence of personal or political freedoms.

Many constants do and will continue to remain in China. The most enduring constant, and the bulwark of societal organisation, must be the PLA.

The People’s Liberation Army.