Academic journal article China Perspectives

The Chinese Communist Party and June 4th

Academic journal article China Perspectives

The Chinese Communist Party and June 4th

Article excerpt

(ProQuest: ... denotes non-USASCII text omitted.)

"The victory in repressing the rioting and counter-revolutionary rebellion [of the spring of 1989 in Beijing] has deep historical significance. It has preserved the fruits of the victory of the Chinese revolution, strengthened socialism's strategic position in our country as well as the results of ten years of reform and opening, and it has provided the party and the people with an experience from which they have learnt extremely useful lessons. "(l)

7 have told foreign guests that during the last ten years our biggest mistake was made in the field of education, primarily in ideological and political education - not just of students but of the people in general. "

"In future, we must make sure that no adverse trend is allowed to reach that point. "(2)

The Chinese government believes that it learned the lessons of Spring 1989 and that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) emerged strengthened. Overall, the events of the past 20 years confirm this. The price of this success was a lasting postponement of any hopes of démocratisation in China. In this paper we will first present a general view of the means used by the CCP to strengthen its hold on the country, and then look in greater detail at the problems that the June 4th massacre continues to cause, at the way it is "dealt with" but not resolved by the regime, and the possibilities of a future solution. The Chinese regime was able to extract itself from the June 4th crisis, but will it be able to erase the scar it has left on the history of contemporary China?

Facing the challenge

According to one of the history textboob we will describe below, the Tiananmen Movement was the most serious political challenge faced by the CCP since it came to power. The Party's internal cohesion and legitimacy were seriously undermined, just at a time when Communism was in a state of turmoil in Eastern Europe and in the USSR. Contrary to the official version, the movement itself did not challenge the Party's authority at the outset. But the intransigent attitude of the hardliners supported by Deng Xiaoping and other extremely powerful veterans led to a rift between the authorities and the demonstrators that was sealed by the bloody repression that followed. In the aftermath of June 4th the Party was faced with three main tasks: to rebuild its own cohesion, to regain control of the populace (especially of "hearts and minds"), and to reconstruct its own legitimacy. Its first instinct was to return to the tried and tested methods of the Leninist party-state, which had begun to ease during the 1980s.

The return to party-state fundamentals

In this type of regime the party's own cohesion is decisive, for divisions in the senior leadership provide the sole opportunity for opponents to express themselves to any extent. That cohesion was obtained by eliminating the "liberal reformist" faction, that is to say, the one that favoured political as well as economic reforms. At the highest level, this meant putting Zhao Ziyang under house arrest, arresting his secretary Bao Tong, and ousting Hu Qili, a close collaborator of Zhao's in charge of propaganda for the Politburo Standing Committee, together with Yan Mingfu, head of the United Front Work Department of the Central Committee, and Rui Xingwen, from the Central Committee Secretariat.(3) The purge then spread to the other echelons. At the other end of the Party spectrum, the conservatives who favoured greater economic orthodoxy were gradually but efficiently edged out. An unprecedented consensus was therefore created around the idea of audacious economic reforms accompanied by the greatest possible political stability.

The consensus was obtained all the more easily since many leaders were alarmed by the 1989 movement, as well as by the spectre of collapsing Communism in Eastern Europe, the dire fate of China's great friend Ceausescu, and the fragmentation of the USSR. …

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