Combining a biographical sketch with an enthusiastic gloss on Mao's ideas, this brief study does justice to neither. The biographical sections touch on Mao's marriages, his rebellion against his father, his austere personal habits, and, minimally, his career before the Communists took power. Then comes a sort of temperature chart of his rule, which provides scant idea of why anything happened when it did: ""Capitalist trends were stronger than ever,"" or Lin Piao developed ""philosophical idealism."" Nor are the phrases in question explained, a problem that recurs in the sections on Mao's thought. Though bowing to a need to compare Mao with Marx, Lenin, Confucius, et al., Bouc observes that Mao ""rarely wandered into the realm of concepts""; he was interested, not in economics, but in ""the worker,"" on whose behalf he ""wanted permanent revolution, but in stages."" Bouc, the Peking correspondent for Le Monde, might have shown more sophistication in examining Mao's power plays; the deepest venture into realpolitik is a comment that, after the 1957-59 Great Leap, Mao's authority was curbed for a while. Apropos of foreign affairs, Mao's Nixon rapprochement is described as ""a meeting,"" with the quotation ""Before we were not right to negotiate, but now it is right for us to negotiate."" A group of other Mao extracts forms a quarter of the book--a book which has the effect of making Mao look newly impressive and complex by sheer contrast with Bouc's tin-emperor presentation.