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Full Circle

Day 58: Tai an to Shanghai

Shanghai, China 
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Traffic control, Shanghai.
Michael Palin - Full CircleLater, at our hotel, we are rudely reminded that the wind of change blows only in certain directions. Economic liberalism should not be mistaken for political relaxation. Over the weekend we have lined up three interviews with Chinese who have benefited in different ways from the Shanghai boom. Despite the fact that we have a fixer from Beijing accompanying us, and dealing with all the relevant permissions, our two Shanghai fixers are not at all happy. They are content for us to go out into the streets and shoot views of their city, but not to talk to those who live here. Clearly their interpretation of 'views of the city' is different from ours. But they will not be moved. We are faced with little choice. These Foreign Relations departments have tentacles all across China. If we try to talk to people in Shanghai whom they don't want us to talk to we may well find life becomes very difficult on the way down to Vietnam. On the other hand to retreat in high dudgeon and re-route through Taiwan and Hong Kong would waste our chance of a rare glimpse of the Chinese interior.

So we capitulate and agree to cancel the interviews. Despite the fact that tomorrow will be an unscheduled day off, it's a low point of the journey, only slightly relieved by the almost comic reaction of the Shanghai apparatchiks to the idea of a day off. What does 'day off' mean? Where will we be going? At what time?

Basil is of the opinion that the interference is not politically motivated. It's most likely that the Shanghai people want some of the money we're paying the Beijing people. And he's Chinese, so he should know. One good thing about this little crisis is that the flow of banquet invitations has dried up.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Full Circle
  • Day: 58
  • Country/sea: China
  • Place: Shanghai
  • Book page no: 86

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