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Smoke and Mirrors : An Experience of China
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Smoke and Mirrors : An Experience of China

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  186 Ratings  ·  24 Reviews
In order to remain in power through this period of fundamental and far reaching transformations, the Chinese communist party must walk a tight rope, balancing and mediating the conflicting needs, desires and aspirations of its various constituencies.
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published September 2008 by Harper Collins
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As a Malaysian living in China whose first (and most fluent) language is English, it is somewhat frustrating when most of the modern China expat memoirs available to me come from a Western perspective. While Peter Hessler (River Town), John Pomfret (Chinese Lessons), Michael Levy (Kosher Chinese), Rob Gifford (China Road), and Mike Meyer (The Last Days of Old Beijing) rank among my favorite authors who blend personal experience with thoughtful analysis of the country, I am always aware that, as ...more
Dec 08, 2008 rated it really liked it
A very interesting book on living in China. As a frequent traveler to Beijing, I could identify with many of the statements in the book, though I really cannot compare visiting Beijing once in three months for a week, to living there for five years.

Thank you Pallavi for the book.

I enjoyed the unbiased view of the life in Beijing and its comparison to India. I enjoyed the statement "If I was born in a middle class or above kinda family, I would prefer to be in India. If I was in a poor family,
May 25, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: politics
Book: Smoke and Mirrors by Pallavi Aiyer
"The two countries were like mirror opposites of each other. One provided roads, schools and electricity but stifled diversity, criticism and participation; the other allowed diversity, criticism and participation, yet achieved little in improving livelihoods and providing economic opportunities." (page 234)

This is probably the view that most of us Indians already have about India and China. Pallavi Aiyer's book brings home this same fact in a much nuance
Aug 06, 2012 rated it really liked it
Eye opening account of a journalist's 5 year stay in China.
China has always seemed like a mystic unknown territory to me - and reading this book reinforced that feeling of mysticism a little more - but also allowed me to understand the country better.

Some suspicions confirmed, some dispelled and many new things to ponder on. Again having Google as an extension to the book for further reading was a big boon. Reading more on "the cultural revolution" , "mao zedong", "the naming of the 11th panche
Rishi Prakash
Dec 04, 2011 rated it really liked it
China is an enigma for most of the Indians. Pallavi has just unraveled a small part of it by narrating her experience after staying in Beijing for 5 years.
Pallavi’s book provides a highly sensitive look at China; she is circumspect in her remarks on all that economic development has wrought there, particularly on religious rights and human rights in general, and on the rhythm of daily life as she perceived it.She constantly compares China with India, sparing neither their abject failings. Her s
Sep 19, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: china
Books on China are churned out with a regularity that matches the sweatshops that churn out socks in Wenzhou. Yet Smoke And Mirrors by one of India's most respected journalists, Pallavi Aiyar was different. For starters, it offered neither a Chinese or Western perspective but an Indian one.

Having lived in China myself for almost two years, I could almost feel my thoughts merge with Pallavi's. I could see her observing China from the standpoint we Indians take while visiting China - the shedding
May 11, 2014 rated it really liked it
With my broken English thus I write, I agree almost 100% with the writer's criticism of China's political structure and I also find it disheartening, as a Chinese that somehow some party managed to manufacture to a large extent homogeneous ideas regarding subjects such as " foreign invasion"," Tibet" etc etc. Every time I read about people lost their land to " progress" defined by the government I feel such an immense urge to push for political reform to transform China into a law governed land ...more
Jul 16, 2012 rated it really liked it
I am most probably not going to go too many miles beyond bangalore, but books like these make me simultaneously happy and sad. Happy that through such books a foreign country can be felt, but sad that I probably wont feel it in real time

Must read for anyone wanting to know about china, must read for anyone wanting to compare India with china ( the author does it almost on every page), must read for anyone wanting a good story
Lit Bug
It is a wonderful book, exploring not just China, but the differences between India and China, in a very objective manner... Makes me want to go to China. Not just a travelogue, or a memoir, but a commentary on politics and culture too... Very analytical, very interesting and engrossing, one of my favorite books ever....
Vijay Menon
Dec 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I'm not entirely sure of the single most reason why I liked this book. Maybe it was the travelogue-cum-political analysis style of writing that appealed to me, or maybe it was simply because of the fact that it was really well written, witty at parts, and was profound. Either way, if you're someone even remotely interested in the enigma that is China, I'd say go for it!
Chirag Shah
Jan 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Pallavi Aiyar's smart insight into China's crazy growth is a fun read and a frightful view of life and a human people. The book is written in a lively style that keeps the reader on his toes and China's story is one of the most fascinating of this century. As an Indian, the book has a deeper importance as a comparison oft made but boring usually between the two countries. What makes the book stand out from other accounts of China is her highlighting the cultural and social upheavals along with a ...more
Arun Batra
Feb 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Even though I wanted to read something on China, I was reluctant to read this book. I somehow started but got instantly hooked on it. The best thing about the book is that it is written by a mind which is very intelligent, inquisitive, fun loving and youthful, all at the same time and you will be able to feel it throughout the book...You would simply love to read this awesome piece of work explaining the most detailed and mundane things about china in such an entertaining way. And yes, do enjoy ...more
Jan 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
Pallavi Aiyer writes a fascinating and unbiased account of her stay in the middle kingdom. We get to take a sneak peek in that much talked about but less known Chinese society. She beautifully compares the Indian and Chinese societies and further points out the achievements and failings of each. An amazing read.
Rohit Verma
May 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed reading this book. It rediscovers how India and China are closely linked together through more than 2000 years of cultural and economic ties. Authors comparison of life in Mao's China to the modern one was interesting. After reading this book you will feel an affinity towards China and its Hard working people.

Jaivanth Selvakumar
May 01, 2013 rated it really liked it
Gets to the core. Greatly awakens ppl about the other face of communism and also explains how ppl are being made as machines just NOT to speak about politics in a democracy. A must read book for all Indians and Chinese.
Damon Muldavin
Nov 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
Book shows modern perspective of China's growth around 2003-2007, Author is Indian and so much comparisons between India and China are made which is a very insightful read. Very much enjoyed the book.

Feb 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This book describes Pallavi's stay in China for five years. It is amazing how China being our neighboring state is a would apart from ours. It broadened my horizons, truly. I enjoyed the author's style of writing which was factual without being boring and sentimental without being overly dramatic.
Feb 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A very good description of life in China and comparison to life in India.
Nov 07, 2009 is currently reading it
Amazing view of our powerful neighbour..
Aug 22, 2012 rated it liked it
very nice book...It gives real and inside picture of China..
Jun 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing
What I liked about Smoke and Mirrors is that I could finally read a book about contemporary China in English, not from the perspective of a western expat or traveller.
May 17, 2015 rated it liked it
A very good book especially for Indians looking for an introduction to China. I especially loved the style it's written in - part travelogue, part analysis.
Guan Hao
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