A vivid and thoughtful portrait of China by a Pulitzer Prize- winning husband-and-wife team of New York Times correspondents formerly in Beijing. Allowing for the complexity of the task, and for the sad record of China watchers (almost all of whom, for example, were unaware of the greatest man-made famine in history, which followed the so-called Great Leap Forward at the end of the 1950s and killed 30 million people), Kristof and WuDunn puzzle over the great paradox of present-day China: that, amid all the signs of a dying political dynasty, there flourishes one of the most buoyant economies in the world. All the signs of the death of the Communist Party era are visible: the alienation of the people; the loss of belief in the ideology even among the Party elite; the loss of control over information; and the growth of competing centers of power. It is a regime that has ``the worst public relations sense of any major government in the world'' and is ``too corrupt, too rotten, to be very successful at being totalitarian.'' And yet, in bringing industry to the rural areas, Deng Xiaoping unleashed a second agricultural revolution which--largely by removing Party control and instituting a regime closer to that of Dickensian England--brought about an annual growth rate of 13% in 1992 and 1993. This rate, as the authors point out, is unsustainable, but it has already raised more than 100 million Chinese out of poverty. With due recognition of the fallibility of the experts, the authors think that the most likely scenario is one of peaceful evolution, along the lines of Taiwan. The authors may not always be quite as skeptical of statistics as one would like, but this is a hard-headed, clear analysis filled with anecdote and vivid reportage.