Wednesday, February 11, 2009
China is at an historical point where tradition and modernity, communism and capitalism, chaos and control, amongst other dualities rub up against each other on a daily basis. In order to remain in power through this period of fundamental and far-reaching transformations, the Chinese Communist Party must walk a tightrope, balancing and mediating the conflicting needs, desires and aspirations of its various constituencies. For Chinese people in general as well this is a challenging period requiring enormous adjustments both psychologically and materially to rapidly altering circumstances. Pallavi Aiyar's Smoke and Mirrors spotlights these contradictions as well as the different strategies that the Party and the people deploy to manage this process of negotiation. It also aims at portraying China through Indian eyes and vice versa; a mirroring that shows up the failings and achievements of both civilizations--which are in many ways each other's alter ego. It takes a look at how people from the two sides of the Himalayas perceive each other; their prejudices and miscomprehensions as well as their similarities and shared circumstances. A combination of travelogue, reportage and memoir, this warm-hearted book is the first ever written by a Mandarin-speaking Indian foreign correspondent on China.