Moravia's informal, witty, rewardingly opinionated comments on his visit to China begin with the poverty, severe and egalitarian, ""proud and decent"": goes on to Mao, whom he contrasts with Stalin. He sees Maoism as a stabilizing, religious force, the Cultural Revolution as a quarrel over orthodoxies, inflamed by the ""romantic populism"" of the ""innocent, ignorant,"" Red Guards; and he fits the struggle quite plausibly into China's historic conservatism. His remarks on East-West differences (e.g. modes of violence) are fresh and sharp. The peculiarities of Maoist nationalism, the anomalies of class struggle on a cultural plane, the new ""hatred of the past"" are evaluated with a happy sense of alternative hypothesis. General readers will enjoy an eminently civilized novelist's reactions to a self-transforming civilization.