ST writer's book captures China's rise and stumbles

Journalist Peh Shing Huei’s book will be launched tomorrow at the Singapore Writers Festival. -- PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI FOR THE STRAITS TIMES
Journalist Peh Shing Huei’s book will be launched tomorrow at the Singapore Writers Festival. -- PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

FROM celebratory Olympic fireworks and dazzling economic growth to political machinations and ethnic strife, the many facets of China's meteoric yet tumultuous rise are captured in a new book by Straits Times journalist Peh Shing Huei.

When The Party Ends - China's Leaps And Stumbles After The Beijing Olympics charts the rise of this "steroid superpower" and the political intrigues between its communist leaders.

But it also captures lesser- heard voices, like those of an environmentalist tortured for trying to save a lake from pollution, and an ageing former Red Guard undertaker who cries when he recalls the atrocities of the Cultural Revolution.

Mr Peh was based in Beijing as The Straits Times' China bureau chief from 2008 to 2012, a period bookended by the Sichuan earthquake three months before the Olympic Games and the dramatic fall of Bo Xilai last year.

"I had a front-row seat to the biggest story of our generation - the rise of China," said Mr Peh, now deputy news editor of The Straits Times.

"This book captures the views, the voices and the vignettes of that ascendancy, gleaned from my vantage position. I hope to share it with all those who are interested in this amazing country."

The 320-page book, published by Straits Times Press, will be launched tomorrow at the Singapore Writers Festival.

It will be available in bookstores for $28 before GST and also at www.stpressbooks.com.sg.

The Straits Times has been investing heavily in its bureaus "to bring the global story home to our readers", and this book "shows how well that investment is paying off", said Straits Times editor Warren Fernandez.

"Reporting China objectively, without taking sides, is a tough assignment," said Mr Patrick Daniel, editor-in-chief of Singapore Press Holdings' English and Malay Newspapers Division and chairman of Straits Times Press.

"Peh managed this well, and this book is proof that he kept a sharp eye on both the news as events broke as well as the wider trends - and kept above the fray."

Among China watchers who have praised the book is Mr Ian Johnson, Pulitzer-prize winning correspondent for The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, who calls Mr Peh "a sure-footed guide through this more complicated period, weaving on-the- ground colour with shrewd analysis".

There will be a meet-the- author session at the SPH News Centre Auditorium on Nov 15, organised by Straits Times Press and the Singapore Press Club.

janiceh@sph.com.sg