Papers Cast New Doubt on China Reform Views

By Gertz, Bill | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), January 9, 2001 | Go to article overview

Papers Cast New Doubt on China Reform Views


Gertz, Bill, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


Internal Chinese Communist Party documents made public in a new book contradict key U.S. intelligence judgments about China and reveal the current party chief to be a hard-line leader opposed to democratic reform.

The party documents present a rare inside view of Chinese leaders, who regard the United States as an enemy bent on overthrowing the communist system by backing pro-democracy protesters in the days before the bloody military crackdown in Beijing's Tiananmen Square in the spring of 1989.

According to U.S. government and private China specialists, the material compiled by a Chinese government official with access to top-secret information also shows China's leaders were much closer to carrying out democratic political reform at the time than previously believed.

It also indicates successive U.S. administrations cultivated ties to China's current Communist leader, Chinese President Jiang Zemin, and shunned reform-minded party leader Zhao Ziyang, who backed pro-democracy activists and was ousted for opposing the military crackdown.

Mr. Zhao was forced out two weeks before Chinese military forces were ordered into Beijing to impose martial law and break up peaceful protests on June 4, 1989. His ouster came after he voted against using force at a meeting of a five-member ruling Politburo Standing Committee.

According to the documents, China's rulers feared arrest during the crisis and were so divided that party "elders" - mostly retired generals - eventually stepped in to appoint Mr. Jiang by fiat and orchestrate the bloody attack.

The crackdown resulted in thousands of deaths and ended a nationwide movement in favor of democratic political reform.

According to the documents, Mr. Jiang was hand-picked to take over the ruling party apparatus by the elders on May 27, 1989. He was selected to "oppose bourgeois liberalization" and reinforce the "people's democratic dictatorship."

He also was chosen as someone who could project a false "image of reform and opening."

The leader of the elders, Deng Xiaoping, called Mr. Jiang "a proper choice" for party general secretary.

Mr. Jiang won the post through what analysts say was an unconstitutional process after he supported an edict calling the protesters in Tiananmen Square "criminals" - the first step in preparing for the crackdown. He also shut down a pro-reform newspaper in Shanghai.

"This is documented proof that Jiang is no moderate," said one congressional China specialist.

Mr. Jiang has been praised by U.S. leaders as a reformer who sings Elvis Presley songs and once attended Christian missionary school.

The papers are part of a collection of 15,000 pages of Chinese language documents turned over to U.S. academics, which will be published in a book this month. They include transcripts of meetings of top Chinese leaders, decoded intelligence reports and fax communications ordering arrests of senior officials.

They provide unique insights into Chinese decision-making in the days before and after Chinese troops and tanks crushed protests in Beijing on June 4, 1989.

"These documents show that Deng Xiaoping and the [Chinese Communist] Party view the United States as out to overthrow their government and as clandestinely controlling students," said one defense official.

In Beijing, a government spokesman yesterday denounced the documents as fakes. "Any attempt to play up the matter again and disrupt China by the despicable means of fabricating materials and distorting facts will be futile," Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhu Bangzao said in a statement quoted by the official Xinhua News Agency.

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