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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Tiananmen Square, Most Recent at Top [Help]
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1. How long was my century?

In 2002 I faced a dilemma relating to an editorial project that perhaps only another historian can appreciate. Scrambling to complete the Introduction to Twentieth-Century China: New Approaches, I had to figure out how long to say the eponymous period had lasted.

The post How long was my century? appeared first on OUPblog.

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2. On This Day in History: Tiananmen Square Protests

On this day in 1989, 100,000 Chinese citizens gathered in Tiananmen Square. I wanted to learn more about the event so I turned to Oxford Reference Online which led me to The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Politics edited by Iain McLean and Allistair McMillan. Below the entry on Tiananmen Square is excerpted.

Tiananmen Square
Tiananmen, the Gate of Heaven’s Peace, the main square of Beijing, where in the early hours of 4 June 1989 a huge pro‐democracy demonstration was repressed by armed force.

The democracy movement began during the Cultural Revolution when many Red Guards, while accepting Mao ’s instructions to attack the Party establishment, realized that rebellion would be fruitful only if it aimed at the achievement of democracy. The first expression of this was the Li Yi Zhe Poster of 1974 which while supporting the aims of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution argued for democratic institutions. The second was Chen Erjin’s book, Crossroads Socialism, written just before the death of Mao and published during the Democracy Wall demonstrations of late 1978 . This sought to extend Marxism by arguing that violent socialist revolution inevitably produces yet another exploitative social formation, the rule of the authoritarian revolutionary elite. A second revolution is always necessary to put real power in the hands of the people, through the establishment of democracy.

Mao’s successors, themselves victims of the Cultural Revolution, had an interest in strengthening the rule of law, and an interest in relaxing political control enough to prevent another outbreak. Deng Xiaoping had a personal interest in mobilizing democratic sentiment against the left. He supported the Democracy Wall protest of late 1978 until the young radical factory worker Wei Jingsheng demanded democracy ‘as a right’ and poured contempt on Deng’s half‐measures. Wei was sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment, fifty other participants were arrested, and the right to use ‘big character’ posters (which Mao had approved) was abolished. Thereafter, however, Deng sought to maintain a balance between the democratic elements within the Party and the conservative veterans. At the same time he supported his protégé Hu Yaobang (Secretary‐General of the CCP from 1980 ), who had gone so far as to affirm (as Chen Erjin had done) that the forms of democracy have universal validity, whatever the content may be in terms of class.

However, when Hu refused to suppress the next great democratic demonstration in 1986 at Kei Da University where the radical democrat Fang Lizhi was Professor of Physics, Deng forced Hu’s dismissal. In early 1989 Hu died. By this time he was the hero of the democratic movement. When the leadership arranged a demeaning low‐key funeral, students marched to Tiananmen Square to protest. Thus the demonstration began.

There were at this point three groups involved in democratic dissent. The first was among intellectuals who hoped for democratization from the top. The second was led by former Red Guards who encouraged democratic revolution from below and were engaged in mobilizing workers and peasants. The third called themselves ‘Neo‐Authoritarians’; they argued that continued authoritarianism was required to carry through economic changes which would create a pluralist society capable of sustaining democracy. In spite of their views, they nevertheless supported the demonstrators.

In 2000 , tapes and transcriptions of the debates within the Secretariat of the Politburo on how to handle the demonstration, drawn from materials to which only the five members of the Secretariat normally had access, were smuggled out to the USA (translated and published in

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