Books: Chinese Puzzle

THE CONSPIRACY AND DEATH OF LIN BIAO

by Yao Ming-Le

Knopf; 231 pages; $13.95

Lin Biao was not merely China's Defense Minister, he was Mao's officially designated political heir. But in mid-September 1971, Lin suddenly disappeared. Peking first ignored the matter publicly, later claiming that Lin, his wife Ye Qun and his son Lin Liguo had died in an airplane crash in the Mongolian People's Republic. They had, the Chinese asserted, been fleeing to the Soviet Union when their British-built Trident ran out of fuel.

Gradually, more official details emerged. Lin had masterminded an...

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