Pallavi Aiyar’s book ‘Smoke and Mirrors’ captures essence of China


Chennai : Describing Pallavi Shankar Aiyar’s book “Smoke and Mirrors: An Experience of China” as a story that is “the perception of a remarkable, inquisitive and sensitive mind”, The Hindu editor N. Ravi said the work reflected “the essence of China”.

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HarperCollins India launched the book by Aiyar, The Hindu’s China bureau chief, Wednesday evening.

Delivering the keynote address at the book launch organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) in association with HarperCollins India, Ravi said he found the book “remarkable for the insights it provides into the working of the Chinese mind”, particularly “its young people”.

“Smoke and Mirrors” highlights the ambitions of young Chinese, Ravi noted, reading a passage from the book: “It was the Communist Party that people were taught and expected to believe in rather than god. By the time I moved to China, the belief structures had once again changed and the new god lived in banks and ATM machines.”

At the launch of her book, Aiyar said: “If I was born reasonably rich, I would like to be born in India but if I was born poor, I would prefer to be born in China”.

The book is an attempt to explore the themes that define modern China – the dualities of capitalism and communism, freedom and control as well as the differential nature of achievements of modern India and China, she said.

This book on contemporary China from an Indian perspective has reportage, travelogue and memoir interwoven with socio-political observation and analysis.

It seeks to define the modern Chinese condition – ballooning economic growth, wrenching social dislocations, growing inequalities, unimagined prosperity – through the everyday lives of ordinary Chinese.

Aiyar began her journalistic career in 1999 as an on-camera reporter for Star News. She is also the winner of the 2007 Prem Bhatia Award for excellence in political reporting and analysis, the youngest ever recipient of the prize.

“Smoke and Mirrors” is a book on an emerging nation that is a must read for anyone venturing into China, Ravi said.