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About the Book

In January 2020, the COVID-19 outbreak in China was viewed as a black swan event, threatening the Communist Party’s rule. Two short months later, however, China appeared to have controlled the virus, while the rest of the world struggled to respond.

As country after country imposed lockdowns of varying strictness and the human cost began to rise, geopolitical frictions flared up over the origins of the virus, along with Beijing’s early failures, diplomacy and discourse.


Smokeless War: China’s Quest for Global Primacy’ offers a gripping account of the Communist Party of China’s political, diplomatic and narrative responses during the pandemic. Drawing on the latest academic research and Chinese language sources, the book discusses the Party-State’s efforts to achieve greater discourse power and political primacy, as it sought to convert a potentially existential crisis into a historic opportunity.


In doing so, the author provides an insightful account of the Chinese Communist Party’s approaches to cultivating sources of strength and exercise of power.


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Advance Praise for the Smokeless War

In ‘Smokeless War’ Manoj Kewalramani has given us a granular analysis of China’s response to the 2020 Covid crisis, using her available power, integrated across domains from ‘discourse power’ to diplomacy to economics. Going beyond the headlines or just the first draft of history, the book draws broader conclusions about China’s trajectory and workings, including the ideological aspects which outsiders often find unclear. This is a book well worth reading by all those concerned about the behaviour of one of the world’s most powerful and unique countries, China.

Shivshankar Menon, Former National Security Advisor to the Prime Minister of India

‘Smokeless War’, Manoj Kewalramani’s insightful new book, details how China crafted its political and diplomatic narrative when responding to the Covid-19 pandemic. Kewalramani, a fellow at the Takshashila Institution, unfolds the CCP’s multiple levels of engagement with the pandemic, and in doing so delves into the questions of Chinese power that will define the global foreign-policy debate for years to come.”


Dr. Shashi Tharoor, Member of Parliament, Lok Sabha

Is it a smokeless war or rather a gun-less war waged behind a smokescreen? For the Chinese leadership, the fight against the pandemic is highly political. In the line of fire are nothing less than the ruling party’s legitimacy and China’s position as a great power second to none. In this engaging and thoroughly researched book, Manoj Kewalramani recalls the past year’s course of events and artfully exposes Beijing’s strategy and tactics to win the contest for narrative dominance and geopolitical primacy.


Nadège Rolland, Senior Fellow Political and Security Affairs, The National Bureau of Asian Research

In a gripping narrative on the Covid-19 pandemic that has turned the world upside down, Manoj Kewalramani offers deep insights into China's decisive handling of the crisis, the Chinese Communist Party's changed worldview under Xi Jinping, the nature of Beijing's ideological hubris, the sources of its geopolitical assertiveness, and the implications for the rest of the world. Based on a close reading of Mandarin sources and rooted in a sensible analytical framework, ‘Smokeless War’ is an important and accessible account of the meaning of China's rise.

C. Raja Mohan, Director, Institute of South Asian Studies, National University of Singapore

Manoj Kewalramani, with his usual insight, brings a riveting account of what happened in China during the first months of the coronavirus pandemic. You feel that impending sense of gloom as you look back. You wonder, could things have been different? This is a must read, if we are to make sense of what happened in 2020.

Indrani Bagchi, Diplomatic Editor, The Times of India

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