From the fringes of the Bamboo Curtain, John Scott, who has covered the Far East for Time, takes a close look at China in ferment, backs it up with historical perspective, and sees the present as prelude to the future--what are the internal alternatives, what stance should the United States take? Less penetrating than Goldstone (p.1372) on the centuries of stalemate, much briefer on the conflict with the Kuomintang (and the Japanese), its most significant sections are based on observation and analysis of Communist rule since 1949: the ""Great Leap"" (especially the communization of rural life) and the succeeding ""Great Retreat"" (occasioned by the failure of the communes and occasioning a shift of emphasis from industry to agriculture as well as reestablishment of family life); the tension between China and Russia (areas identified and described); China's relations with Taiwan, its Asian neighbors, the U.S., and the new nations; China's economy in the mid-60's (supplemented by statistics); the recent ""Cultural Revolution"" and its agents, the Red Guards. A separate chapter treats Taiwan and the other overseas Chinese. Some of Mr. Scott's tentatively advanced suggestions for U.S. policy are debatable, but he has already given the reader enough information to enable him to raise the right questions. Brief biographies of the leaders conclude. An interim report of considerable value, especially because, unlike many juveniles, it does not pretend to be the final answer.