Tuesday, December 21, 2021

YEAR 1989

Thus the year 1989, which the Left throughout the world had planned as a celebration of the bicentennial of the French Revolution—the beginning of modern radical politics, as it was argued—turned into something quite different: a Year of Revolutions indeed, but of revolutions against the established order of Marxism-Leninism. Not all of them succeeded. In March 1989 riots in Tibet against the Chinese occupation and its policy of genocide were put down with savage force. 

The next month, Chinese students in Peking used the occasion of the death and funeral (22 April) of the Communist leader Hu Yaobang, who had been popular with the masses but deposed by hardliners in 1987, to stage a major demonstration. By 27 April this had developed into an occupation by students of the vast Tiananmen Square in central Peking. Other mass demonstrations occurred in various Chinese cities, including Shanghai. On 15 May, student demonstrators, to the shame and fury of the Chinese leadership, disrupted a visit by Gorbachev to Peking, designed to be the first Sino-Soviet summit for thirty years. On 30 May, a 30-foot fibre-and-glass replica of the Statue of Liberty was erected in the square. 

This seems to have goaded the authorities, who had been holding inconclusive discussions with student leaders about ‘reforms’, into action. Large forces of China’s Red Army, overwhelmingly drawn from peasant soldiers from remote regions, to whom city-dwellers were natural enemies and students ‘parasites’, were concentrated around Peking. On the night of 4 June, the regime attacked, using tanks and infantry in overwhelming numbers, clearing Tiananmen Square, and in the process killing 2,600 people and injuring over 10,000. Despite rumours of divisions in the leadership and army commanders, the unrest was put down everywhere with great severity, and thousands were jailed.

Johnson, Paul. Modern Times: The World from the Twenties to the Nineties.
HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

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