China since Tiananmen: The Politics of Transition

China since Tiananmen: The Politics of Transition

China since Tiananmen: The Politics of Transition

China since Tiananmen: The Politics of Transition

Synopsis

China Since Tiananmen is the first book to evaluate the intellectual and political trends and to assess how China has changed since the Tiananmen Incident in 1989. Fewsmith looks at intellectual trends to capture the way China's elite has assessed the social, political, economic, and intellectual trends of the past decade. Similarly, he examines the conduct of elite politics to see how the political system has, and has not, evolved over the past decade. Fewsmith puts the rise of neo-conservatism and nationalism into historical context, evaluating the changes of the past decade to the changes after the May Fourth Movement of 1919. This more comprehensive and realistic assessment of the forces that drive China today is of critical importance to anyone trying to understand Sino-U.S. relations, for those relations are themselves intrinsic to the story of China's evolution. Joseph Fewsmith is Professor of International Relations at Boston University and Director of the East Asian Interdisciplinary Studies Program. He is the author of Elite Politics in Contemporary China (M.E. Sharpe, 2001) and The Dilemmas of Reform in CHina: Political Conflict and Economic Debate (M.E. Sharpe, 1994). He has written extensively on contemporary politics in China, with articles appearing in such journals as Asian Survey, Current History, The Journal of Contemporary China, Problems of Communism, Modern China, and Comparative Studies in Society and History. He is the editor of The Chinese Economy and serves on the editorial board of The Journal of Contemporary China.

Excerpt

Two recent incidents, one receiving extensive international coverage and the other more passing notice, suggest the distance China has traveled over the past decade. The first was the reaction of students and others in the aftermath of the 1999 U. S. bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade. What was surprising was the readiness with which students and many intellectuals believed that the bombing was deliberate. Although the best evidence to date upholds the U. S. government's explanation that it was accidental, most Chinese then and now believe that it was only one more (albeit a particularly bold) measure to “contain, ” and humiliate, China. Visiting China shortly after the bombing, I asked many people whether — if it had been, for instance, the Japanese Embassy that was struck — the reaction of the Japanese people would have been the same. Everyone I talked to said “no” but saw this apparent contradiction as perfectly logical. The United States was not trying to hold Japan down, but it was trying to contain China. The assumption that the bombing was deliberate rested on a perceived pattern of behavior, and the anger flowed from that perception. The outpouring of anger — and the bricks, ink bottles, and Molotov cocktails thrown at the U. S. Embassy in Beijing and its Consulates elsewhere — stood in such striking contrast to the raising of the “goddess of democracy” in Tiananmen Square by Chinese students just ten years earlier that it was difficult to comprehend how this could be the same country. Understandable anger at a shocking bombing of the Chinese Embassy is not enough to explain the sea change in Chinese public sentiment.

The second incident was the report in June 2000 that a Chinese publisher had declined to publish a translation of Ha Jin's acclaimed novel Waiting, winner of the National Book Award. The publishing house decided to back off after a scathing review appeared in a Chinese journal, Chinese Reading News. Censorship and attacks on writers are nothing new in China, so this item probably attracted little attention. What was different, however, was that the person who denounced Ha Jin's novel was no hidebound Marxist ideologue — the sort who routinely criticized liberal writers a decade ago — but . . .

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