Newspapers and Magazines

Piers Morgan and me

December 18, 2009
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I went to Shanghai to give talks to chambers of commerce and a book club. I was also interviewed by Piers Morgan for his ITV travel programme, but he didn’t mention me in his Daily Mail column so I won’t write about him in this one. I’m obviously not famous enough, which is no bad thing. The talks concerned my previous life as a Shanghai-based magazine publisher and the sudden and (for me) tragic end to it. Despite the fact that it happened five years ago, the story is still popular. Judging by the turnout, I still have a certain notoriety on a local scale—nothing like Piers’s worldwide renown of course, but then apparently no one recognised him in Shanghai. I told my story (see Prospect, April 2006) to the foreign business executives and entrepreneurs, slipping in my warnings about building a business in a one-party state where that party has the monopoly to end all monopolies. On camera, I gave Piers the “dissenting voice” that he said he was looking for. In between talks, I wandered the streets that I used to know well. Of course they have changed. The side street where I lived is packed with coffee shops, restaurants and boutiques. After a few days in China’s leading commercial city, whose motto is “Better City, Better Life,” its spell began to work again. It does look good. It does seem that opportunity waits round every corner. But I’ve been there and done that, and it’s a façade. I gave myself a slap and ran back to the mountain. It’s time for someone else to be a locally famous failure.