Maslyn Williams' book about China stands out from the recent travelogues, which as a group have been unusually competent, and apart from Dennis Bloodworth's The Chinese Looking Glass (p. 626), more historically focused. An Australian journalist (Five Journeys from Jakarta), Williams has written a beautiful book as a result of a tourist trip to China immediately preceding the Red Guard movement. In every respect it is hang-how--very good. As a travel book it is superb; but it is much more. One moves through China's cities and countryside with the author, a mixed bag of fellow Australians, a knowledgeable and sympathetic Western professor and such believable Chinese travel guides as Mr. Feng, the bustling Miss Ping, and Tai the innocente. While one sees the matchless country-side and beehive cities with their ""people in blue tunics, caps, cloth shoes,"" one also responds to a lovely description of the treasures of Peking's Forbidden City, a brilliant exposition of China's revolutionary history, an incisive accounting of the litany of Mao, and a real achievement in weaving together the nation's dynastic past and irrepressible present. Worth one hundred academic treatises on the problems and prospects of this megalithic entity, the book's tone is a composition of worldly skepticism, high-minded idealism, and a vision uncluttered by pretense or myopia. Aside from everything else, it is so wise, so very pleasant to read.