The Struggle for Tiananmen: Anatomy of the 1989 Mass Movement

The Struggle for Tiananmen: Anatomy of the 1989 Mass Movement

The Struggle for Tiananmen: Anatomy of the 1989 Mass Movement

The Struggle for Tiananmen: Anatomy of the 1989 Mass Movement

Synopsis

This work examines the events of the spring 1989 Tiananmen Square tragedy. Lin argues that the mass movement, which climaxed in Beijing, can be understood only if attention is given to the external environment that provided both opportunities and constraints to the interactions of participating groups, to the shifting participants and their goals and interests, and to the historical and cultural factors that guided the behavior of those participants. Unlike other works on this topic, The Struggle for Tiananmen analyzes the movement from its beginning to its end--presenting the entire process, providing information from both the authorities and non-student participants.

Excerpt

Much has been written about the June 4, 1989, incident at Tiananmen Square in China. The student marches, demonstrations, hunger strike, occupation of Tiananmen Square, the erection of the Democracy Goddess, and the "massacre" on June 3-4 have been amply portrayed and are readily available in both the English and overseas Chinese literature. These narratives present a picture of the struggle for Tiananmen Square as a movement led by students for democracy. This view, of course, is both oversimplified and often false. It is wrong to see the movement as one that involved a single set of students, a single group of leaders, or a simple set of goals. Instead, the struggle for Tiananmen was a process involving many different groups and individual participants, unfurling varied goals and objectives, and under changing constraints and opportunities. Of particular interest is how the authorities engaged in the process--how they viewed and debated the issues, how they acted and reacted to internal conflicts, how they mobilized resources, and how they reached critical decisions regarding the "turmoil" and its termination.

This small volume explores these dynamics. I chose to analyze the struggle for Tiananmen as a mass movement. As such, it was seen as being precipitated by a number of factors and triggered by certain events, some of which were not anticipated by participating groups. It gathered momentum because of the presence of certain opportunities and took certain directions because of changing circumstances and actions and reactions among the groups. Its ultimate conclusion, not necessarily the inevitable conclusion, carried its own logic. I emphasize that this mass movement . . .

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