Pallavi Aiyar’s “Smoke and Mirrors” chronicles her journalistic experience in China. Pallavi’s dispatches from Beijing for The Hindu newspaper used to quite banal-so I consequently set the bar quite low when i picked up the book. But book suprisingly turned out to be quite a fascinating read. Pallavi ‘s breezy style of narrative juxtaposes Chinese and Indian perspective and then draws pragmatic inferences. Anecdotal approach adopted by Pallavi also adds much to the pleasurable reading experience that the book surely provides
Pallavi carefully guards herself from the falling prey to a myth that intelligentsia and chattering classes in India have unquestioningly internalized-benign, struggling liberal romanticized Indian democracy vs. authoritarian, draconian, emotionless China. Result -Pallavi is able to provide a dispassionate account of Chinese worldview. However if you are looking for profoundly insightful understanding of Chinese politico-socio-economic model, this book is bit underwhelming and reinforced my belief that Beijing Consensus (that is how Chinese model is known) is better understood through punditry of Western think tanks.
It’s clear that world’s greatest economic transformation with potential to lift more than a billion people out of wretched impoverished existence to secure prosperity is currently underway in China. Learning from it would require a humility and challenging conventional wisdom dished down on the virtues of overrated Indian model of ‘democracy’ (euphemistically passed on to the naïve as a great functioning anarchy)
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