Stinging, sorrowful, lucid account of China's last ten years, by the recent New York Times Beijing correspondent. Gargan was hastily transferred from Africa to Beijing in 1986 after Times correspondent John Bums, accused of espionage by the Chinese government, was ousted. That inauspicious debut sets the tone for Gargan's book, which, blending sympathy for China and its people with skepticism, traces the policy confusions, economic woes, currents of unrest, and cultural devastation under Deng's reformist regime. Gargan mixes anecdote with analysis, black humor with penetrating political acumen, always in pursuit of the elusive reality behind China's political masks. Mao and Deng are seen as partners in a continuing destruction of Chinese cultural and political freedoms; the Communist Party is blasted for spreading graft, turning a blind eye to the recent resurgence of social vices like prostitution, and squelching freedoms in Tibet while paying lip service--at least up until Tiananmen Square--to the ideals of democracy. Gargan also criticizes US waffling toward China, what he calls a "no policy" that he sees as partly responsible for last year's tragic events. He concludes with an "elegy" for China that forecasts dour times for the country in the Nineties. Savvy and wise, lively and readable: Gargan gives stable perspective here to an elusive and constantly shifting topic.