After working as a political policy researcher he started his career as a freelance journalist specialising in Middle East affairs. He went on to focus on business and industrial matters, working primarily at The Observer where he became the Deputy Business Editor before moving to become the Labour Editor; covering the miner’s strike, the UK’s biggest political and industrial story of the 1980s.
In 1987 Vines moved to Hong Kong as South East Asia Correspondent for The Observer. Five years later he became The Guardian’s Hong Kong Correspondent and a regular contributor to papers such as the Asian Wall Street Journal, Fortune and the Daily Telegraph. He also worked extensively in the broadcast media and became a regular contributor to the BBC, ABC (Australia) and Deutsche Welle and Radio Vaticana.
In 1993 he became the founding Chief Editor of Eastern Express, responsible for all editorial aspects of the paper’s launch; establishing a broadsheet newspaper in the record time of four months. The paper quickly established a reputation as Hong Kong’s most lively English language daily.
After a raucous ride at the paper and falling out with its owners Vines returned to working as a foreign correspondent, covering Hong Kong and the region for The Independent. He also worked for Radio Television Hong Kong as a presenter for television and radio programmes. In 2004 Vines became the publisher and co-founder of Spike, a ground breaking satirical magazine.
Before his abrupt departure from Hong Kong in 2021 he was writing opinion columns for a number of Hong Kong outlets and presented The Pulse, a current affairs television programme, as well as being a weekly contributor to the Morning Brew radio show, both of which were aired by the public broadcaster, Radio Television Hong Kong.
He is the author of several books, including Defying the Dragon: Hong Kong and the World’s Largest Dictatorship (2021), Hong Kong: China’s New Colony, The Years of Living Dangerously – Asia from Crisis to the New Millennium, Market Panic and Food Gurus.
Vines is a four-time winner of Amnesty International Human Rights Press Awards for commentary. He is a two time Society of Publishers in Asia (SOPA) awardee for Excellence in Opinion Writing and a two-time winner of industrial journalist awards.