'A New Silk Road' book review: The new Chinese narrative

A veteran journalist, Nag throws much light on the Chinese smoke and mirror game.

Published: 01st August 2021 05:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 31st July 2021 06:10 PM   |  A+A-

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To understand any skirmish, one needs to ask a fundamental question: What is the end game? When it comes to the Sino-India strife that has endured in one form or the other since the mid-1960s, most analysts often tend to forget to remind themselves of the ‘end game’ factor. Consequently, they end up looking at it in a skewed manner. One cannot blame commentators or the media for continually missing the tree for the woods, for that is how China operates—it under-reports anything that can make its citizens or the world question. Its deep pockets wield enough influence on global media, and its sympathisers in think tanks underplay anything unflattering. While the veil on China’s standard operating procedure for pushing its dream of global dominance might have shifted significantly in the last year, there is still enough bluster left in how Beijing operates. In this aspect, Kingshuk Nag’s book offers an overview of how the Chinese mind works and succeeds in creating the perfect narrative to further its one-upmanship with India. 

A veteran journalist, Nag throws much light on the Chinese smoke and mirror game. Using contemporary reality and the historical background, he gives the reader a much-needed insight into what fuels China’s new great game. A New Silk Road articulates that China’s plan is predicated on the premise that it’s extremely good at oscillating between ‘yes’ and ‘no’ right. This can be seen from the time when the PLA invaded India in the 1960s to June last year, when in an unprovoked attack, it killed 20 Indian soldiers in Ladakh’s Galwan Valley. 

China intruded into a sovereign country’s territory, attacked while talks were on and then agreed to pull back. However, the physical movement of its troops did not take place for months. Globally, most think tanks seem to believe that the Chinese action along the Line of Actual Control was aimed to deflect attention from the global coronavirus pandemic, which allegedly is believed to be a lab-made bio-weapon manufactured in China’s Wuhan city. 

While the dust is still to settle on the origin story of the virus that brought the world to a standstill, one thing is clear—China’s dream of global dominance has been in the making for a long time. Projects such as the ambitious Belt and Road Initiative are indicators of Beijing’s plans but where the book excels is how the narrative goes back in time to indicate how the desire to regain Tibet that it lost in 1912 after the collapse of the Qing dynasty changed it all for China.

The collision course set at the ‘Roof of the world’ a little over a century ago is still very much in play and keeps ensuring that China raises its head to thwart India’s rise at all costs. Add to this the Chinese premier Xi Jinping’s dreams of a Red Empire and what you have is a battle that is far from over. In 2013, Xi initiated the global infrastructure development strategy ‘One Road, One Belt’ with the objective of economic dominance. While it has been reasonably successful, the emergence of Narendra Modi in 2014 as India’s Prime Minister saw a tectonic shift in India’s foreign policy, which has caused much trouble for the Chinese Communist Party’s expansionist ideas. Nag’s lucid narrative presents deep insights into the political, economic, social and cultural factors that impact the current India-China relationship. A New Silk Road is a much-needed manual for anyone interested in international affairs.


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