Magazine article Management Today

The MT Diary: Howard Davies

Magazine article Management Today

The MT Diary: Howard Davies

Article excerpt

Redwood at large; old familiar China; the Abbey bellwether; an OFR firms can't refuse.

The double reshuffles in September did not shift the tectonic plates of British politics. Alan Milburn's return, to spend more time with the government, was widely predicted. As was Alan Johnson's promotion - a prize for pushing through top-up fees.

By contrast, John Redwood's reappearance was unexpected. The notion of a shadow minister for deregulation is an odd one - a kind of double-negative vocation. But no doubt he will put himself about and take up the cudgels against the regulators. I'm glad I am no longer in line to be scourged.

He will need to exercise some care, though, as the continuing Conrad Black revelations in the Hollinger reports show that someone will need to keep an eye on the animal spirits of supposed entrepreneurs.

I doubt if there would be any similar reports written about Chinese entrepreneurs, at least not yet awhile.

The China Daily, which was my only newspaper for most of August, is a little tame on the business pages. It's about the only serious drawback to holidaying in China these days. With the renminbi linked to the dollar, the price is right. The food is outstanding, and it is now quite an easy place to get around.

I have an aversion to package tours, preferring to cobble together family holidays myself - which has left us in one or two tight corners over the years in Ecuador and Cuba. But in China it is possible to sort out everything through splendidly efficient websites, and cheerful e-mail strings conducted with women called Cheryl Chen or Vicky Pu. One of my correspondents was called Minimouse. I asked what she did in China for cheese, but the joke seemed to get lost over 6,000 miles.

We visited the Three Gorges dam, which is too monstrous to describe.

We cycled round Beijing, and tried to navigate the City of Shanghai using a map of the French and International Concessions dated around 1937. Oddly, although the names have changed, it is quite possible to do so. The Avenue Marechal Joffre is no more, but the houses in which Sun Yat-sen and Chou En Lai lived have been lovingly preserved. They are British-style half-timbered suburban villas with lawns and flowerbeds.

The most interesting is Madam Sun Yat-sen's house, whose front room - straight out of Acacia Avenue - houses an enormous radiogram and a large photograph of herself in front of the mantelpiece with Chairman Mao. She and Madam Chiang Kai-Shek were sisters, and both were educated, primarily in English, at a Shanghai school called St. …

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