This is a grand historical review of China and its relations with the outside world, starting with the earliest record of Chinese civilization and then covering the rise and fall of the dynasties, the communist revolution, and the current turn to reform and pragmatism. By treating China's relations with the outside world as his constant guiding theme, Gelber is able to give a distinctive twist to the standard history. Anyone who has read that history will find a new dimension in Gelber's telling of the story. He enlivens his account by describing in some detail the competition among the "foreign devils" to get the better of China, driven by strong commercial interests. Gelber's China, meanwhile, is not an isolated and introspective place but rather a society that is responsive to international currents.