Detailed negotiations on the handover are still a minefield. On both sides of the Joint Liaison Group (JLG), the most battle-scarred veterans find their regular clashes a bruising, sometimes even wounding, experience. By contrast, this week's visit by General Liu Zhenwu, the future Hong Kong garrison chief of the People's Liberation Army (PLA), has been an altogether more relaxed affair. While the Preparatory Committee and its predecessor, the Preliminary Working Committee, have frequently and deliberately strayed into JLG territory, General Liu and his British counterpart, Major-General Bryan Dutton, have not been pounding away at the negotiating table or moving flags on a battlefield map. General Liu is here surveying his future domain. This is a garrison to garrison, 'getting to know you' exercise between British and Chinese soldiers. In other words, it is precisely the kind of cross-border contact the British commander has been pushing for ever since he arrived in Hong Kong. The idea was not originally embraced with much enthusiasm by the Government. But with the defence lands agreement already on its way to implementation and no diplomatic impediment to better cross-border relations at the operational level, this is recognised as one area where the handover should be allowed to go smoothly and with military precision. The visit also, quite rightly, gives Hong Kong people a chance to get used to the idea of seeing uniformed PLA soldiers here before the handover. The Chinese garrison will follow the British example of not wearing uniform outside barracks when off-duty. Nevertheless, there will be times, especially on ceremonial occasions such as the handover, when uniforms are in evidence. General Liu's handling of the media suggests he will be able to deal with life under the spotlight. With over 100 journalists and television crews dogging his every move, the future garrison commander kept his calm and seemed to be enjoying the attention. In the past, General Dutton has been said privately to be less than pleased with much of the media attention on himself and the garrison. How General Liu would feel about media scrutiny of less public events remains to be seen. But it would be a remarkable coup if China has confounded the sceptics and appointed a first garrison commander with a greater liking for publicity than some of his British predecessors.