It builds a structure of novel interpretation and vivid anecdote on a solid base of original research and covers the whole sweep of Chinese history, making comparative references to Western history. Huang seeks to explain the present Chinese reforms as the culmination of a commercialization trend that has broken down the old peasant society and brought China into the mainstream of world history. It is debatable whether Imperial China was as stagnant as Huang says, and his theory of the breakup of traditional China bears a resemblance to old-fashioned modernization theory. Still, his book is a boldly opinionated, freshly written synthesis that will be read with pleasure and profit by all. Andrew J. Nathan, Columbia Univ.