The first foreign child ever born in Nancheng, Ronning, now 80, is one of the few Westerners who can bear such long witness to the bloody growing pains of modern China. His missionary father's false pigtail was tugged off during the Boxer Rebellion; he saw the savagery of the 1927 slaughter of workers; as a Canadian diplomat, he became well aware of the Russians' aversion to outright revolution in China. During the Civil War, Ronning could meet Chou En-lai one day and Chiang the next. Unfortunately, this account -- originally intended for his family, as Ronning explains -- gives little depth to his experience. Mildly charming in tone, forthright in its partisanship for the revolutionaries as against the corrupt Kuomintang, the book remains passionless -- a Brownie-shot reminiscence of epic encounters.