MICHEL OKSENBERG WITH LAWRENCE R. SULLIVAN
Beijing has been the setting for many moments of high drama during the Chinese people's tortuous search for national wealth and righteous rule. As a center of both government and intellectual life, it has witnessed struggles for power by extraordinarily willful politicians, militarists, and popular movements. Its citizens have periodically suffered from invading armies--foreign and domestic-- while in this century the city's intellectuals, students, and workers have repeatedly voiced their grievances and hopes for more enlightened and democratic government to transform China into a modern nation.
Politically, the capital embraces a duality. It is physically dominated by the imposing structures from which the Ming ( 1368-1644), Qing ( 1644-1911), Republican ( 1911-1927), and Communist ( 1949- ) leaders and bureaucrats issued their edicts and performed the rituals of rule: the Forbidden City, the Temple of Heaven, the Premier's Office of the Republican government, the Great Hall of the People, the Zhongnanhai headquarters of the Chinese Communist Party (CPC), and the many ministerial offices in the city. But equally important are the memories associated with particular locations where protests and political actions have occurred. Scattered about Beijing, but generally concentrated within or near the Forbidden City, are the places where Kang Youwei and his associates presented their petition to the emperor in 1898; where May Fourth demonstrators paraded for democracy in 1919; where martyrs perished during the 1920s after opposing various warlord oppressors; and where December Ninth movement leaders organized their opposition in 1935-36 to the ineffectual government response to Japanese aggression. Since the Communist revolution in 1949, Tiananmen Square (whose vast space the new regime carved out of the city in 1950) has often been the focal point of mass political activity: from the orchestrated parades of the early 1950s to the massive Red Guard rallies in 1966 when Mao Zedong mobilized youth discontent to attack his political enemies in the CPC. Nearby, in Xidan, is the wall where activists pasted their posters in 1978-79 calling for democracy and freedom of expression, while also denouncing China's Communist system in terms that would reverberate throughout Beijing in the spring of 1989.
The buildings that have housed past and present governments are daily reminders