By prolific historian Hoyt (Hitler's War, America's War, Japan's War, etc.), a very serviceable popular account of the past century and a half of China's turbulent history. Hoyt begins by detailing the corruption and ineffectuality of the Qing dynasty in the late 19th century. As the Chinese Imperial Court engaged in internecine battles for supremacy, Western powers--Britain, France, Germany, etc.--undermined China's sovereignty and turned huge sections of the country into virtual colonies. This sparked a number of nationalist uprisings, including the Taiping and Boxer Rebellions. Hoyt recounts how Dr. Sun Yat-sen overthrew the last emperor in 1911 and how he struggled to bring the various warlords under control of a central government. The author's analysis of Chiang Kai-shek's character is particularly insightful. Chiang was a great military leader, but his flaws as a civilian administrator--e.g., permitting rampant corruption among his supporters--doomed the Nationalist cause. Hoyt also traces Man's dogged rise to supreme leadership--achieved because his notion of peasant revolution in the countryside proved successful--and determines that in the late 1950's Mao went ""insane."" Driven by megalomania, the Chinese leader unleashed the Red Guards during the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution; only the intervention of the Chinese Army prevented China from descending into total anarchy. The author argues strongly that the Cultural Revolution set China back nearly 50 years; during Mao's last days the infighting within the Politburo was reminiscent of the old Qing Imperial Court. In conclusion, Hoyt applaudes the rise of ""pragmatists"" like Deng Ziaoping and predicts a relatively sunny future for this sorely beset country. Hoyt does his usual competent job here of summarizing without simplifying a complex history. A useful and accessible brief, then, on the coming-of-age of an important and often misunderstood nation.