The leaders of Communist China have resolutely avoided any cooperation with biographers and not one has written a book of memoirs or autobiography, which is consistent with the Chinese emphasis upon ""the masses"" as the real subjects of history. Roots, a former New York Times correspondent born in China of missionary parents, was turned down when he sought permission to write an ""authorized"" biography of Chou, despite his family's long friendship with the late Premier. So, instead, we have this ""informal"" account which relies primarily on published sources. Wisely, Roots has adapted to this limitation and concentrates on Chou's career rather than rehashing his personal exploits. Most of the biographic material centers on Chou's early life: as the product of a prosperous family, Chou attended universities in Japan and France, becoming a Communist student leader, and later served as an organizer, military instructor, and diplomat for the Chinese Communists during the Civil Wax. Roots has added some small details from his family's experiences in China and his own return as a correspondent in the Twenties, but has nothing substantially new to offer. Generally, Roots' story of Chou is the story of China in this century (Chou was born in 1898), and he is firmly enthusiastic about both. Often drawing comparisons between today's China and the squalid misery he encountered as a youth, he credits Chou with playing a major role in China's successes. The result is a portrait of Chou and China which is heavily weighted toward the positive, and, because it focuses on the steady Premier, underplays the dramatic aspects of the post-Liberation period. Superficial as a biography, the book is more successful as a short general introduction to modern China.