It is typical of Roberson's approach that he begins this with a famous 1699 bow-and-arrow shot accomplished by the exemplary emperor Kang Xi. Typical also is his sweeping comment on Kang Xi: ""By the time he was fourteen he was considered wise enough to guide his empire himself. Confidence in his ability was completely justified."" Pausing long with Victoria's contemporary, dowager empress Ci Xi who might well serve as a Chinese Livia in another Masterpiece Theater production, he surveys a series of individual leaders and rebels through the death of Mao. But it's a parade of individuals without much cultural or political background--or analytical depth. Roberson reports the conflict between Chiang and Mao as a distant impartial observer, but gradually his regret that Chiang's underlings were too corrupt to win the people's confidence becomes apparent. Similarly the U.S. support of Chiang leaks out, almost inadvertently as it seems, from the image of a neutral power interested only in achieving peace. Once Mao is in power, Roberson's summary of his actions is negative and one-sided in the extreme; one might even conclude from his selective reporting that the people were hungrier as a result of Mao's policies. Readable, but skewed and unsubstantial.