About James Reynolds
I've been the BBC's Beijing correspondent since November 2006. I've choked on pollution, had maggots for dinner, been humiliated at ping pong, used binoculars to pick out China's identically dressed leaders, been interrogated by policemen in dark glasses, and had Chairman Mao's grandson jump down the steps of the Great Hall of the People to avoid being interviewed by me.
I joined the BBC on a trainee scheme in 1997 straight after university (Cambridge - where I studied French and Spanish). The BBC was the best option after I failed in earlier attempts to become a dictionary maker and a theatre director. (I also once set up a language school that received no inquiries whatsoever.)
I spent the next year working for the BBC in the East Midlands, and then in June 1998 I was sent to South America to run the BBC's one-man bureau in Santiago, Chile. After predicting early on that Chile's former military leader Augusto Pinochet would never be arrested, I then found myself spending the next several years reporting on his arrest and trial. (I learned never to make any more predictions after that.) I also spent time in the rest of Latin America covering earthquakes, elections and coups. Evo Morales (now the president of Bolivia) once invited me to chew coca leaves with him. And a Colombian rebel commander wearing wellington boots told me over some orange squash that his Marxist guerrillas would win the war.
After that, the BBC sent me to Jerusalem for five years. I spent much of this time in the back of the BBC armoured car, wearing a flak jacket and helmet, trying to report on bombs and incursions. I was taught how to live for several days in a plastic tent in the event of chemical or biological war (the bathroom instructions were not fun.) I interviewed Yasser Arafat - who kept on shouting at me to remember that I was speaking to General Arafat (how could I forget?) I ended my time in the Middle East watching Hezbollah's rockets fall onto the rooftops of northern Israel.
Then, in November 2006, I came to China...