More thrills than skills – A half-life in journalism, part 116

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 was a poster which could be seen all over Shanghai during the period I lived there. I asked my wife what it said.

“It says Chinese civilisation flows like a great river,” she explained.

The implications of that poster, which would automatically be understood by any Chinese, would rarely be interpreted by a foreigner.

In a city, ‘invaded’ by tens of thousands of foreigners, it was felt necessary to remind Chinese that their civilisation is ancient and unstoppable.

The intrusion of foreigners is brief and of little consequence. The Chinese have always, and will continue to, take a long view. That is where the West fails. We have no real long-term vision; our view of the world is coloured by short-term political and economic imperatives.

That’s why I believe the Chinese will rule the world; I suppose I have to admit that.

On August 23 2003, I married Sun Yumei, the woman who fled Sri Lanka with me, in Shenyang, northern China.

We celebrated the marriage at the end of October by hiring a riverboat and cruising the Huangpu River through Shanghai.

On August 3 2004, our daughter – Lucy – was born in Shanghai.