Liu Xiaobo, who has died aged 61, was a former literary critic turned Chinese dissident who became the first representative of his country to be honoured by the Norwegian Nobel Committee when he won the 2010 Peace Prize. Liu first came to public attention aged 33, in 1989, when he cut short a visiting lectureship at Columbia University, New York, to return to China and take part in the student occupation of Tiananmen Square. He was one of the "four gentlemen" – older intellectuals – who went on a hunger strike in support of the students. When troops and tanks moved in on the night of June 3, they persuaded the remaining few hundred protesters to leave the square, saving hundreds of lives. Liu spent 18 months in prison for his role in the protests, and was then subjected to a further three years of "re-education through labour" in the late 1990s for advocating an end to one party rule in China and co-writing a paper on policy towards Taiwan that was at odds with government policy. On Christmas Day 2009 he was given an 11-year prison term for a "inciting subversion of state power" after co-authoring Charter 08, a manifesto based on Charter 77, the document that became a rallying point for those opposed to communist rule in Czechoslovakia. Published on the 60th anniversary of the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Charter 08 called for freedom of speech, human rights and the election of public officials. The announcement in October 2010 that Liu had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for "his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China" was interpreted by the Chinese authorities as an affront. China called Liu's award an "obscenity" that should not have gone to a man it labelled a criminal and a subversive. In response, the authorities severed diplomatic ties with Norway and cut imports of Norwegian salmon, depriving Norway of its largest market. In China, meanwhile, they did all they could to frustrate celebrations of the honour, breaking up parties of revellers in several Chinese cities and pressurising foreign diplomats to boycott the award ceremony in Oslo, scheduled for December. Dozens of Liu's friends in China were banned from leaving the country and his wife, Liu Xia, although not charged with any offence, was held under house arrest. Liu himself remained in prison having reportedly rejected an offer to be released into exile in exchange for a signed confession. Liu Xiaobo was born on December 28, 1955, in the city of Changchun in chilly north-eastern China, to an intellectual family; his father was a Communist party member. Liu was 11 when Mao Tse-tung closed his school along with nearly every other school in China so that children could go into the countryside to "oppose revisionism", "sweep away freaks and monsters," and generally participate in the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. Liu and his parents spent 1969-1973 at a "people`s commune", and while he recognised that the Cultural Revolution had been a disaster for China, he claimed that his years of lost schooling had given him freedom from the mind-numbing effects of Maoist education – freedom which he used to read books, both approved and unapproved, and to think for himself. After Mao died in 1976 Chinese universities began to reopen and in 1977 Liu went to Jilin University, where he took a degree in Chinese literature in 1982. From there he went to Beijing Normal University, where he continued to study Chinese literature, taking an MA, followed by a PhD on Aesthetics and Human Freedom. The university invited him to stay on as a lecturer, and his classes were highly popular with students. They were not universally popular with his fellow academics, however. He dismissed the literature of the post-Mao era as mostly worthless (in a speech to some of its leading practitioners); dismissed an older set of intellectuals as "cultural pets" of their foreign Sinologist "discoverers", and in 1987, his first book, Criticism of the Choice: Dialogues with Li Zehou, challenged the ideas of Professor Li Zehou, a rising ideological star. According to the regime, Liu's had been a "black hand" behind a "counter-revolutionary riot" in Tiananmen Square. He was imprisoned for 18 months in Beijing's Qincheng Prison, where he was kept in a private cell, but not severely mistreated.On release, he was sacked from his job at Beijing Normal University. He resumed a writing career, publishing articles on politics in Hong Kong publications and US-based magazines such as Beijing Spring and Democratic China. In May 1995 the government arrested him again, after he released a petition entitled Learn from the Lesson Written in Blood and Push Democracy and Rule of Law Forward: An Appeal on the Sixth Anniversary of Tiananmen. He spent seven months in jail. In August 1996 Liu joined with fellow dissident Wang Xizhe to publish a statement critical of China's policies towards Taiwan and demanding the impeachment of then-President Jiang Zemin. In October he was arrested again on charges of "spreading rumours and libel" and "disturbing public order" and sent for three years to a re-education-through-labour camp in his home province of Liaoning. Returning from the camp, he resumed his relentless criticism of the Chinese authorities. In November 2003 he was elected chairman of the writers' group Chinese PEN, serving until 2007. In October 2006 he took over editorship of the internet magazine Democratic China. In the run-up to the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, he accused the government of breaking its pre-Olympic promises and rejected the view of some in the West that awarding the games to China would encourage greater political freedom and improvements in human rights. Then he became involved in drafting Charter 08. More than 300 activists in China signed at first – and many more did later, both inside and outside the country. Liu was not the only person punished – most of the original signatories were "invited to tea" (a euphemism for interrogation) by the security services – but his 11-year prison sentence surprised many observers for its severity. At first he was held at the Beijing Number One Detention Centre, then in May 2010 was transferred to Jinzhou Prison in his home province of Liaoning, where he was reported to be sharing a cell with five other inmates and suffering from chronic hepatitis and stomach problems. Although he became a hero to Chinese dissidents and highlighted China's abuse of human rights, thanks to China's strict censorship most Chinese have probably never heard of Liu, or if they have, know of him only through the government caricature. In the 1980s Liu was married and had a son, but was said to have divorced his first wife in 1989, hoping to protect his family from repercussions following the Tiananmen Square protests. In 1996 he married Liu Xia, an artist and a poet who remains under house arrest.
At the award ceremony, the prize medal, resting inside a box, and the prize certificate, in a folder bearing the initials "LXB", were placed on stage on an empty chair. Within hours the authorities in Beijing had banned the phrase "empty chair" from the Chinese internet.
On 26 June 2017, he was granted medical parole after being diagnosed with liver cancer; he died a few weeks later on 13 July 2017. Liu rose to fame in 1980s Chinese literary circles with his exemplary literary critiques. He eventually became a visiting scholar at several international universities.
I am just trying to remind myself, as one of those “influential” figures, of the true facts of the Tiananmen Massacre. How was it that university students and high-level intellectuals led the 1989 movement, but when the dust settled all the people who were massacred, went out to rescue the wounded, or received heavy sentences were common people? Why is it that we scarcely hear the voices of the people who paid the heaviest prices, while the luminaries who survived the massacre can hardly stop talking? . . . To look squarely at the suffering of the ordinary people whose misery is recorded in the transcripts makes me feel that I am not qualified even to be called a “survivor.” It is true that I was one of the last people to leave Tiananmen Square on June 4th, but I did nothing to volunteer myself during the bloody terror of the massacre’s aftermath, nothing to show that a kernel of my humanity had survived.
“Westerners would forget.” From Vogel’s account: There is no evidence to suggest that Deng showed any hesitation in deciding to send armed troops to Tiananmen Square. At 2:50 p.m. on June 3, he gave the order to Chi Haotian to do whatever was necessary to restore order… Deng’s family reported that despite all the criticism he received, he never once doubted that he had made the right decision. Many observers who saw the dwindling numbers in Tiananmen Square toward the end of May believe it may have been possible to clear it without violence. But Deng was concerned not only about the students in the square but also about the general loosening of authority throughout the country, and he concluded that strong action was necessary to restore the government’s authority.
Vogel, who writes from a position of respect for Deng’s achievements and his unique preparedness to govern China after the failure of the Cultural Revolution, condemns the tragedy and the suffering of 1989. But he sees Deng as a leader whose pragmatism improved the lives of millions of Chinese, and argues that we can’t know the degree to which those achievements would have been compromised had Deng not chosen to put so much emphasis on the maintenance of Party authority in his Tiananmen crackdown:
As much as we scholars, like others concerned about human life and the pursuit of liberty, want to find clear answers that explain the causes of that tragedy, the truth is that none of us can be certain what would have happened had different courses of action been taken. Nor is it possible, only two decades after these events, to make a final judgment on the long-run impact of Deng’s decisions. If Chinese people in the decades ahead acquire more freedom, will the path to that freedom be less tortuous than that taken in the former Soviet Union, and will the events of the spring of 1989 have been a major factor? We must admit that we do not know.
The Tiananmen Square killings can be understood as one, particularly savage, swing of the pendulum between official calls for reform and official
repression of and violence towards those Chinese pushing the limits and pace of reform (with other more or less repressive movements occurring in 1978–79, 1981, 1986, 1989 and 1998). But because of the very public ferocity of the government’s response, as well as the timing of the incident following some years of political openness and discussion within China, and at the beginning of the end of the Cold War internationally, the Tiananmen massacre also stands as a watershed. The massacre has etched itself sharply into Western impressions of and responses to China, on a popular level as well as in official and academic circles. But it also marked quite deeply a turning-point, or a road not taken, in China’s political direction, as well, arguably, as a complex shift in the relationship between the regime and large sectors of the population. Certainly 4 June is a date that the government must keep in mind uncomfortably every year, watching anxiously to quell any disturbance. The pseudonymous compiler of The Tiananmen Papers Zhang Liang noted the 4 June protests (by the 1989 Democracy Movement) as ‘the culmination of the biggest, broadest, longest-lasting, and most influential pro-democracy demonstrations anywhere in the world in the twentieth century’ (quoted in Nathan and Link; 2001: xi). This is an expansive description; but, however the Democracy Movement is judged, the full impact and consequences of the 1989 demonstrations and of the massacre in which they culminated have yet to be played out. During April and May of 1989, Beijing was the site of an extraordinary series of demonstrations and political actions that came to be known as ‘the Beijing Spring’. Protesters called for democracy, freedom, dialogue with the government, the accountability of authorities and an end to corruption. Although initiated and in many respects dominated by students, for the first time in many years the demonstrations attracted widespread public support, most significantly from urban workers. Similar – smaller – actions erupted in hundreds of centres across the country, accompanied by the formation of a clutch of independent labour organisations.1 For some time the central leadership was itself seriously divided on how to respond to this volatile public mix – a struggle that had the effect of sending contradictory messages to the demonstrators and delaying response. Eventually, in Beijing on the night of 3–4 June 1989, People’s Liberation Army (PLA) tanks converged on the unarmed people in the streets around Tiananmen Square, the large public space in the heart of the capital. Estimates by various observers put the number of dead (shot or crushed) as a result of this action – workers, students, those caught up in the melee and soldiers – as ranging from approximately 240 to 5,000. ‘[N]ever before had the regime unleashed the full firepower of the . . . PLA on unarmed civilians’ . Repressive follow-up operations were mounted throughout the country to investigate, punish and eradicate suggestions of support for the demonstrations. According to internal Party reports, 4 million Party members were to be investigated, indicating the extraordinary extent of the support for the students’ activities (Mirsky, 1997: 33). An unknown number of arrests were made (at least 6,000 by the end of 1989 according to interpretation by Western journalists of official statistics) on a wide variety of charges, and forty executions were officially announced in the months immediately following the protests (400 executions according to the Hong Kong journal Ming Pao). The focus of this chapter is less the events of Tiananmen Square in early 1989 per se, however, than some of the ways we talk about or approach those events. The Tiananmen massacre has become for many people in the West almost an icon of the violation of human rights – of a spontaneous outpouring of the desire for freedom and democracy (two of the students’ principal slogans) crushed by the repressive state. The natural drama and tragedy of Tiananmen speak directly to our own stories of political heroism and destruction, resonating with some of our constitutive political images of and ideals about natural universal man facing the state-as-tank. This chapter considers this representation of events and some of its effects. It is argued that this representation, which may have given the disaster of Tiananmen some, although certainly not all, of its potency and grip over our imaginations (a grip that, for example, Chinese security forces killing demonstrating Tibetans in Lhasa the previous year clearly did not have), is also part of what obstructs the practical pursuit of human rights in China and other places. Might our assumptions about the relationship between individual and state, as articulated by a certain idea of rights, both demand and shape our response to certain instances of grave abuse and hinder our understanding of events like the Tiananmen massacre and our ability to work with the infliction of injury? It is important, in the light of this question, to look more carefully at some of the terms of the drama and in particular to question the simplification of the roles of the students, the leadership and the state – to point to the elements of myth making without in any way reducing
the gravity of the events and their implications. After noting the sharp emergence of human rights onto the agenda of dealings between China and the West following the Tiananmen killings, the chapter looks at the terms in which the story of the massacre was presented in much Western commentary of the time – terms with which, arguably, it continues to resonate. This is not, however, an attempt to reproduce a detailed account of
events surrounding the killings – several such accounts are available.2 The chapter then endeavours to situate both the leadership and the arms of the state and the students within the conflicts and the fragmentation of their political circumstances. This discussion draws on a range of commentaries on both the Tiananmen killings and China in the latter part of the 1980s more generally. Although certainly not as nuanced or as authoritative as the work of specialist historians, this discussion nevertheless allows consideration of the central issue of the chapter, that is, the extent to which efforts to undo systemic infliction of injury and to respond to abuse become preoccupied with reductionist Lockean constructions of the state and of the individual, thus overlooking the actual dynamics of the situations in question.
Confucianism seems to have been one of the major thoughts and ideas for 2000 years in conventional Chinese culture, and has been leaving a great effect on Chinese culture, economy, politics, and social psychology. However, with communist took over in 1949, Marxism ideology has replaced neo-Confucianism in China. With the influx of industrial development and intrinsic development of Chinese society in the modern era, emergence of significant social and ecological challenges have become quite common these days. Hence, a number of scholars are recommending to go back and follow the Neo-Confucianist thoughts again. It has been argued by Kim (2016) “human being can find much resourceful and valuable wisdom in Confucianism thoughts” which is mostly required and highly suggested in this quick changing and highly frustrating Chinese society. This particular essay is hence particularly aimed at analyzing the concept of Neo-Confucianism after 1949 in a broader sense, throwing light over its history of origin, conceptual and theoretical framework, highlighting the strategical approaches and pointing out the overbearing differences of this concept. The essay eventually argues that Neo-Confucianism has been one of the concepts that has undergone the serious modifications to fit with the modern thoughts even after being an archaic thought, developed ages back. The essay first develops the background, then goes on highlighting a brief history of its origin, followed by presenting its deep-rooted thoughts in simpler approaches, analyzing them from the different standpoints and finally summarizing all the aspects effectively at the end. Neo-Confucianism seems to have a significant impact on the different fields like religious, economic, environmental, social and others which evidently helped China to grow and get developed. The movement known as Neo-Confucianism started during 11th century with factional disputes among the intellectuals: between the reformists led by Wang Anshi and the conventionalists led by Sima Guang, between the rich-minded philosophies and traditional principles of governance. The movement went through a number of hectic period and got evidently changed and modified in the hands of Zhu Xi and later in the hands of Wang Yangming. However, both earlier and after falling of Qing dynasty in 19th century, Confucianism had undergone serious criticism and had been slapped as New Culture Movement. China’s traditional culture, as pointed out by Jung (2017), has been the only vector holding the nation back from becoming a modern nation-state. Considering science and democracy in China, in the growing intensity of Communism, the potential reformers after 1949 felt that salvaging in Confucianism may not seem to be worthy. Also, the intellectuals have been of this view that Confucianism, in order to match with the changing environment of these days, too, needs to undergo serious reformation. Especially they have referred to carpeting Neo-Confucianism with Buddhism and Western philosophy. Considering the effectiveness of ‘New Confucianism’ thought, a strong manifestation with the current challenges and contemporary issues have been developed in order to manage the issues (Lee, 2015). The new thought was although different from that of the Neo-Confucianism thoughts of the past, it has a significant simile with the current rapidly changing economic, social and political structure. The concept and the main ideas of Neo-Confucianism philosophy is perpetually based on the social and ethical aspects of metaphysical ideas, considered as more humanistic and rationalistic in nature, stating that the human being of the universe can be recognized through the human reasons and activities (Kim, 2016). The concept is more critical to state that this is completely up to humanity responsible for the “creation of a harmonious relationship between the universe and the individual” (Nam-Ho, 2014). The thought of utmost rationalism and forward thinking approach in Neo-Confucianism stands in evident contrast to that of mysticism which is considered to a dominant thought of Chan Buddhism. Lee (2015) has been of this view that unlike the conventional Buddhists, Neo-Confucians are of this view that reality exists, and can be highly understood by application of the humankind. However, the explanation of reality has been seemed to be somewhat specifically dissimilar to that of the actual and archetypal Confucianism thoughts, depends more on unconventional thought of the school of Neo-Confucianism. Unlike Buddhism and Taoism, the concept of Neo-Confucianism checks into reality as a “tool of gradual realization of the Great Ultimate” that drives towards attaining more in-depth knowledge and also helps in seeing the universe from the detrimental and more humane viewpoint (Jung, 2017). Buddhists and Taoists in some respect have been seen depending on meditation to have the insight of the supreme reason Neo-Confucianists, in more higher degree, choose to follow the reasons, presuming that it is the thought and the reality that would help in developing the relation between the human life and the expectations (Goldin, 2014). Hence, it can be understood that the concept of Neo-Confucianism is more dynamic and strategic, rational and coherent to be practiced and followed that helps the followers to lead a more simpler life than leading a luxurious life.
The Tiananmen Square massacre, following upon the heady months-long Beijing Spring, has for many in the West become at least a kind of touchstone and point of reference to contemporary China, standing alongside economic growth figures in an awkward patchwork of seemingly incommensurable indices. Initially it called powerfully upon an obdurate confusion with which atrocity, particularly when highly public, often seems to confront us. The images of tanks, the staccato of repeater rifles, the anguished voices on the mass media, particularly in the context of China’s prominence in world affairs, engendered a double effect. A strong sense of the need to respond became coupled with an awareness of not knowing how to respond effectively. This frustration seemed to intensify the sense of indignation and blame.
Starting with the United States, George Bush Sr was the president. His administration was already being criticised for its "do-nothing" approach. The US Congress was up in arms. It wanted George H.W. Bush to make his stand clear. The White House announced the suspension of government-to-government sales and commercial exports of weapons to China. But the US refused to end ties completely with the Communist leadership.Bush Sr said: "What I want to do is preserve this relationship as best as I can.""I want them to know that I view this relationship as important and I view the life of every single student as important," he added.31 years down the line there's no such balancing act. America not only wants China to acknowledge the Tiananmen massacre. It is slapping sanctions over what's happening in Hong Kong. Donald Trump, now the president of the US held a very different view in 1989. Then, he endorsed China's crackdown at Tiananmen Square. He called the protests, a "riot".And he praised China for showing what he called the "power of strength".
Then there was the United Kingdom, Margaret Thatcher was in power. On the day of the massacre she said: "It is a reminder that despite some recent easing of east-west tension, a great gulf remains between the democratic and communist societies.''
She further said, "Communism stands ready to impose its will by force on innocent people. Clearly, normal business with Chinese authorities cannot continue."
Today the United Kingdom not only wants justice for the victims. It is standing shoulder-to-shoulder with pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong.
Next, is France, it said China's actions run counter to the cause of history. On June 8, 1969, French president Francois Mitterand decided to freeze relations with China at all levels. He urged member-states of the European Union to do the same. Today, France and most of Europe is backing Taiwan's sovereignty. In the erstwhile eastern bloc, the USSR was still intact. On June 6, the Soviet parliament condemned all outside attempts to put pressure on Beijing. It labelled the massacre a mere clash between troops and civilians. It said this was China's internal affairs and that some nations were whipping up passions and not promoting stability. Not much has changed there. Russia is still backing China. It hasn't commented on the Tiananmen anniversary and it remains tight-lipped on what is happening in Hong Kong. Japan was unsparing. The Japanese Foreign Ministry called the Chinese regime's actions "intolerable from a humanitarian standpoint". The Japanese parliament pushed for economic sanctions against Beijing. Today, Japan along with the rest of the world is seeking an independent probe into the Wuhan virus outbreak. The then Australian Prime minister, Bob Hawke joined Chinese students in solidarity on the streets of Sydney. He granted them a four-year asylum to stay in Australia. A decision which he is said to have taken without consulting his cabinet. Today, Australia is at the forefront of seeking accountability from China for the pandemic. In 1989, Rajiv Gandhi was the Prime Minister. Fresh from his visit to Beijing, he or his government did not say a word about the massacre. Reports say the Indian government told the state television which was the only kind of television then to tone down the coverage of the Tiananmen Square protests. It was believed to be a signal to Beijing that India would not revel in China's domestic troubles. Even today, India does not comment on China's so-called internal matters. No official statement on Hong Kong or Taiwan. But India has backed the international call for a probe into the Wuhan virus outbreak and India is facing China at the border.
Throughout his life, Liu Xiaobo showed an unshakable determination to speak truth to power, in full knowledge of the personal cost he might have to pay.
Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International
The events of Tiananmen have pointed to a number of quandaries for Western responses to China. These are often couched in terms of a conflict
between what are too easily characterised as pragmatics and principle (reflecting realism’s division of politics and ethics). That is, in this context, the need for good state-to-state relations – maintaining reasonable patterns of communication, particularly with a major power, across a wide range of interaction, interdependence and tension – versus the importance of upholding, even symbolically, principles intermittently identified as fundamental to orderly relations within and among states. And yet the Tiananmen ‘incident’ caused such an intense reaction in part because relatively little emphasis had been given by the West to questions of human rights in China over the preceding decade. While not insignificant, human rights diplomacy in general during the last decade of the Cold War remained comparatively low-key. Economic growth figures, against the background of relative strategic ease with which China was viewed during the later Cold War years, had loomed large in many relationships at the
state level and allowed the growth of considerable warmth in both national and community links. Moreover, modernisation policies within China had enabled an increasing exercise by certain sectors of the population of informal political and civil rights – ease of publication and circulation of a range of political views for example – creating a general impression of positive trends. There has been an implicit belief in some Western circles that through ‘modernisation’ China would become more like ‘us’. Questions of principle were thus, in practice, left for the confusion and abnormality of a crisis, as for the rest of the time pragmatism seemed to be undertaking all tasks so well. As well as formal statements of shock and protest, states (particularly Western states), organisations and international bodies such as the World Bank imposed international trade or financial sanctions following the killings. Some sanctions were tied specifically to the release of certain prisoners; some involved questioning, at least for the moment, the wisdom of sales to China of military or surveillance equipment; others were more simply statements of indignation.
These actions drew some concessions and were an emphatic message to the Chinese government. But beyond this reasonable but highly generalised goal their aims and effects were unclear, and most sanctions were lifted by June 1991. Criticism by human rights groups and others, upholding the primacy of principle, of the speed with which Western states resumed full trade links with China may perhaps only have been matched by the feelings of frustration, confusion or aimlessness on the part of the many officials called upon to use general commodity trade to affect, suddenly, the orientations of the Chinese government. As with many debates about trade sanctions against not fully industrialised states engaged in gross public and attention-drawing human rights abuse, Tiananmen again stirred the murk of our complicated assumptions about the civilising effects of market disciplines and international trade. China - The dominant public reaction of shock and uncertainty was gradually overtaken or at least matched by the belief that there was nothing to be done except continue business. Over time, however, another issue became increasingly significant in the more public international activity about rights in China – a more classically geostrategic concern. The events in Tiananmen Square, occurring on the eve of the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, could stand as the marker for a significant shift in the relationship between China and the United States, and more broadly of China’s increasingly assertive international posture.
In the two years after the killings, China was criticised in both the UN Human Rights Commission and the ILO. But continuing efforts by states within the UNHRC or by the United States (or the US Congress) to penalise China over human rights were largely unsuccessful. The issue became explicitly a test of strength and strategy between the remaining and the potential superpower. In this light, the killings, in China’s own heartland and in full international view, could stand as an assertion by the government (or the faction that emerged victorious from the struggle played out behind the Beijing Spring) of its determination to pursue its own agenda and its own definition of the proper state as ruthlessly as seemed necessary, in defiance of the convictions and conventions of the US and others. The assertion of principle and of ‘rights’ in this context
becomes absorbed into the struggle for power and influence described by realism. The sense of frustration and impotence on the part of China’s critics hardened and was rewritten as a version of the ‘clash of civilisations’. Since 1991 the Chinese Government appears to have maintained a doubletrack policy (or a strategy of ‘attacking the few, and winning over, dividing and reforming the majority’); that is, signalling a carefully contained willingness to cooperate with selected (and significant) proposals, while adopting attack as the best form of defence. Thus, throughout the early 1990s the Chinese Government made clear its willingness to engage with the United States and other Western states on the symbolic ground of human rights. Efforts within the UNHRC to condemn China on the grounds of abuse seemed to operate essentially as a litmus of China’s ability to wield influence and threat in its international relationships. But the government also took some major steps of longterm significance – signing the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in 1997 (and accepting the principle at least of Red Cross access
to prisons in the same year) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) the following year. Shortly after signing the ICCPR, however, Beijing gave long prison sentences to activists who had taken the unprecedented step of establishing a new political party, the China Democracy Party, charging them with attempting to overthrow the government. China wishes to engage, cautiously, with notions and regimes of rights, but on its own terms and without challenging the control of the Communist Party.
Liu and his fellow hunger strikers posted four slogans:
1) We have no enemy! Don’t let hatred and violence poison our wisdom and the process of democratization!
2) We all need to examine ourselves. China’s backwardness is everyone’s responsibility!
3) We are first and foremost citizens.
4) We are not looking for death, but are seeking a true life!
Geremie Barmé’s essay, “Confession, Redemption and Death,” delves in great detail into Liu Xiaobo’s role in the 1989 demonstrations
1991 The First Arrest
Liu was arrested on June 6 and spent 20 months in prison, released in January 1991.
He was deeply moved by the events at Tiananmen, and the protests remain one of the primary subjects of his work.
Liu’s book of poetry, June Fourth Elegies, reflects on the events in the square.
In Liu’s words, he was “haunted by the grave responsibility of being still alive.”
Hatred is corrosive of a person's wisdom and conscience; the mentality of enmity can poison a nation's spirit, instigate brutal life and death struggles, destroy a society's tolerance and humanity, and block a nation's progress to freedom and democracy.
Read more at https://www.brainyquote.com/authors/liu-xiaobo-quotes
In the course of my life, for more than half a century, June 1989 was the major turning point. Up to that point, I was a member of the first class to enter university when college entrance examinations were reinstated following the Cultural Revolution (Class of '77). Liu Xiaobo The Internet is truly God's gift to the Chinese people. Liu Xiaobo For those of us in the opposition movement under dictatorships, part of our job is confronting police and spending time in prison. So, a dissident not only needs to learn how to oppose oppression but also how to face the crackdowns and time in prison.
Liu Xiaobo My searing desire to atone for having survived helps me resist the temptations to join the world of lies. Liu Xiaobo I have no enemies and no hatred.
None of the police who monitored, arrested, and interrogated me, none of the prosecutors who indicted me, and none of the judges who judged me are my enemies.
Liu Xiaobo It took Hong Kong 100 years to become what it is. Liu Xiaobo My tendency to idealize Western civilization arises from my nationalistic desire to use the West in order to reform China. But this has led me to overlook the flaws of Western culture. Liu Xiaobo In China the underworld and officialdom have interpenetrated and become one.
Criminal elements have become officialized as officials have become criminalized.
Liu Xiaobo If there has been any progress in the Chinese society and politics over the last 20 years, it is all because the citizens have been pushing for change.
Liu Xiaobo Our political system continues to produce human rights disasters and social crises, thereby not only constricting China's own development but also limiting the progress of all of human civilization.
I have been obsequious toward Western civilization, exaggerating its merits and, at the same time, exaggerating my own merits. Liu Xiaobo If you want to enter hell, don't complain of the dark; you can't blame the world for being unfair if you start on the path of the rebel. Liu Xiaobo
China’s official international position on rights draws on its role as a great power within the developing world and its desire for unchallengeable status as a global great power, as well as on the dynamics of the ‘Asian Way’ debate and selective quotation of its Marxist ancestry. While endorsing the importance of the idea of rights, Chinese spokespeople remark that the West has no copyright on its content. The rights given first priority in statements in international fora (e.g. the 1993 Vienna Conference) are those pertaining to the selfdetermination and sovereignty (both economic and political) of states – the elimination of colonialism and racism, and of abuses resulting from invasion and occupation or from underdevelopment. China here claims ground as spokesperson for developing states, ‘which make up the overwhelming majority of the world population’, and so proposes an alternative – quantitative – universality to the principles put forward by many Western powers (Liu Huaqiu,
1993: 1). It also implies the guilt of the West, as coloniser and imperialist. By contrast, Western efforts to promote rights are portrayed as selective and aimed at undermining the growing power of developing states, thus threatening their independence. The concept of rights is thus placed firmly within the context of sovereignty. This is done not on a strictly utilitarian or even a Marxist basis but rather by virtue of the (somewhat Hobbesian) argument that only a strong state can both protect the Chinese people against the depradations of and exploitation by foreigners and provide subsistence (which is otherwise threatened by both natural disaster and social turmoil). Making reference both to historical materialism and to the argument concerning the necessary limitations imposed by different stages of development, official statements frequently provide a short history of rights in China. In common with the position of many other developing states and the traditions of the former Soviet bloc, the ‘foremost human right’ is subsistence. But the foundational achievement, upon which even subsistence depends, is national independence – in historical terms, ridding the country of the imperialists and ‘alien powers’ at whose hands China had suffered ‘dismemberment, oppression and humiliation’ (State Council, 1991: 4). This history enables a listing of pre-communist atrocities against Chinese people that establishes a kind of pre-emptive indignation in the face of whatever charge others may lay at the door of the Chinese State. It also stands as a contemporary assertion of the pre-eminence of the state in any weighing of the claimed rights of individuals or groups within China. (Constitutional guarantees likewise remind the reader that the interests of the state are primary.) In a more scholarly and classically Marxist reflection, Chen Xianda, (1992) writing in
Qiushi, contrasts liberal concepts of rights as the abstract rights of ‘the universalised capitalist’ with the proletarian citizen’s rights within the concrete life of society, which means simply the state: ‘Thus the sovereignty of the state is the most important substance of human rights.’ China
But China’s posture has also been shaped by the leadership’s own reading of the collapse of the Soviet bloc and the end of the Cold War. For some, the country stands as the last bulwark of socialism, beset by forces working for ‘peaceful evolution’ (that is to say, subversion) on every side. Human rights universalism is seen as a direct attack on national sovereignty and an affront to the orthodox Marxist identification of citizenship rights as the only rights. Chen Xianda (1992) put this quite clearly: Those people who glibly argue that . . . ‘human rights have no national boundaries’ are in fact . . . subverting human rights ...While they mouth the language of human rights, their hearts are bent on hegemony and their hands are wielding powerful weapons . . . The struggle of the proletariat for human rights is the struggle to establish the socialist system.
This suggests the broader international context within which discussion of human rights in China takes place. It was not altogether the atmosphere in which the Tiananmen killings occurred – indeed those killings and their aftermath were rather the nominal source of the heightened suspicion and tension between China and a range of Western states. It is the context, however, in which much contemporary discussion of or reference to the massacre must now proceed. According to statements by the Chinese delegation to the UNHRC in 1990, the demonstrations were ‘an anti-government rebellion aimed at overthrowing the government of China’ which jeopardised the lives and well-being of the whole population. Western representations are often almost the precise opposite of this (hardly plausible) account of the state as national bulwark struggling to save
the masses from an impending chaos wrought by demonstrating students. Many of the stories told about Tiananmen in the West revolve around the broad theme of the individual versus the state – the youthful idealist and heroic individual, ‘the student martyrs of Tiananmen’ (Johnson, 1990: xiii), staking everything on the desire for freedom and unfettered expression, crushed by the organised violence of the repressive and illegitimate state. Variations of this understanding of events have been put forward, particularly by the popular Western press, by some Western academic responses and by some Chinese participants in or supporters of the demonstration. This representation was captured visually and
with great iconic power in the poignant television image of the youth holding up the flower to the gun of the tank, which all at once invoked traditions of heroism, sacrifice and peace in the face of aggression and force (‘speaking truth to power’). There are subsidiary themes to this story, not necessarily occurring together but linked loosely by a strong current of indignation and disgust at the killings.
The social and economic model that emerged out of the Tiananmen crisis was profoundly different from that contemplated on the eve of Tiananmen. China made a firm transition to a high-input, high investment, high growth model of development. The broad but vague social consensus in favor of political and economic reforms that underlay the Tiananmen protests crumbled, while the economy boomed and some people became much better off. In the postTiananmen period a strong economic logic and a strong political logic coincided to produce a policy regime that was remarkably consistent and strongly self-replicating One is a preoccupation with the evilness of the Chinese regime. Generally that evil is identified with the communism of the regime; it may additionally, more occasionally and faintly, refer to certain culturally Chinese traits or to the difference or threatening exoticness of this large and powerful Asian place. ‘Last June in Beijing, the beast of communist totalitarianism suddenly stripped off its beguiling Oriental masquerade and showed itself, contemptuously naked, on the television screens of the world’ (London, 1990: 246). The evilness of the regime is counterposed to the innocence of the demonstrators, ‘the student martyrs of Tiananmen’. The opposition between students and the regime becomes easily totalised into a confrontation between good and evil, or between fundamentally different and antinomic things. Businessmen and politicians now ‘return to sit at the banquet of the murderers, and meanwhile, in the cellars of the secret police, with one bullet in the back of the neck, the youth, the intelligence, and the hope of China are being liquidated’ (Leys, 1990: 157). ‘June 4 is likely to prove only the first salvo in a long battle between ideas and bullets’ (Hicks, 1990: xx). President Reagan commented at Oxford: ‘You cannot massacre an idea.’ The totalising of the opposition between the demonstrating students and the state, between good and evil, allows other forms of totalisation. Thus Simon Leys, for example, can write of ‘the entire nation rallying round the Tiananmen demonstrators’ (1990: 156), offering this not as an empirical observation but as the expression of a prior truth awaiting its moment of expression. The demonstrating students become the symbol of the Chinese people who, yearning for freedom, will one day, like ‘the irrepressible surge of the tidal wave’, sweep away
the regime and the ‘last remains of Chinese communism’ (Leys, 1990: 156). ‘For five glorious weeks the Chinese people showed where they stood and raised a Goddess of Democracy [identified as a replica of the Statue of Liberty] to show where they wanted to go. The final chapter has yet to be written’ (McGurn, 1990: 244). In this account, the Chinese people sometimes yearn not only for freedom or democracy but for a completely free market system. ‘China’s experience with partial economic changes and halfway reforms since 1979, culminating in the Tiananmen massacre and systemic recidivism, is an object lesson in the futility of taking the capitalist road without going all the way to advanced democratic capitalism’ (Prybyla, 1990: 187). Because the Beijing Spring happened to coincide with the Bicentennial of the French Revolution, and because it was (not coincidentally) resonating with the excitement of the momentous changes in the Soviet Union and the Eastern bloc, the events in Tiananmen can also be absorbed into a larger picture, ‘celebrated as a new watershed in revolutionary behaviour’ (Johnson, 1990: vii) to the extent that they threaten to disappear altogether, except as a sign of something else. China The presentation of the confrontation as one between good and evil was echoed by official representations of the event within China. Those elements of the leadership which gathered the forces to crush the demonstrators referred to the protest as a counter-revolutionary rebellion, led by a small clique of ‘beaters, looters, smashers and burners’ (a reference to the violence of the Cultural Revolution) and backed by insidious forces in the West. They became the ‘enemy’. Within Chinese constructions of rights, those who are deemed enemies of the state forfeit citizenship – since citizenship exists only by virtue of the state
– and so are without rights. ‘The People’s Liberation Army . . . serves the people wholeheartedly. They are ruthless to the enemy, but kind to the people’ (Chen Xitong, then Mayor of Beijing, in Yi Mu and Thompson, 1989: 75). We have tended to romanticise Tiananmen in a way that we do not romanticise the extraordinarily high proportion of indigenous and black people in the prisons of many states, for example, or the sale of women into prostitution or abusive labour conditions. This is because Tiananmen echoes so pointedly an idealisation of themes running through our own political mythos. In the words of George Hicks: ‘The West looks at China and sees not what it is but an Oriental mirror image of its own hopes and dreams’ (1990: xvi). The events of the Beijing Spring are testimony to many things, including the aspirations for political change and more participatory political forms, however understood, among the urban Chinese population. In the same way, the consequent response of the
government – the needless and irreparable moment of the armed killing the unarmed, the subsequent repression – demonstrates again the extent of the rigidity, stupidity and ultimately of the violence allowed or produced by certain political and social forms, communist or non-communist. The moral drama of this is not disputed. But many representations of Tiananmen construct from these potent elements a confirmation of the categories of person, state and rights embedded in the Lockean story of man, discussed earlier. The students called for freedom of expression; for the removal, within this story, of the fetters of the oppressive state to reveal the autonomous, selfpossessed individual. The individual confronts the state, which appears as other than ‘human’ and merely a form of vicious restraint. In some versions (as some of the statements quoted above suggest), the ‘state’ is all that stands between the people and advanced democratic capitalism, as if that complex form of economic, political and social life were waiting, embryo-like, within the Chinese people. The ‘human’ and the old emperor struggle for sovereignty. In an inversion of official Chinese statements, the emperor is ‘an enemy occupying power’ (London, 1990: 256). The natural subject protests the state, while the image of demonstrators, young, enthusiastic and ultimately tragic, in the heart of the political space of the state appears again as focal point of all rights. From the midst of the jumble and the contradictions of our political and economic institutions, Tiananmen can thus be held as a talisman for the ideals that ‘advanced democratic capitalism’ claims as its own, and at times at least cultivates, and against the dangers of overtly repressive political and economic control that it endeavours to reject. Tiananmen seems to attest that people have again found these ideals worth dying for.The problem with this kind of representation is that it abstracts the Tiananmen massacre from its own social and political context and reality. It abstracts it, too, from our own grasp – from the dense and ambiguous (and sometimes brutally clear) world of human interactions – and places it in an idealised domain of almost pure moments. It is celebrated as tragedy and inspiration, but an inspiration that sheds little light on the painstaking, costly and uncertain efforts of working to change abusive institutional and social structures. This has a most practical consequence. By the time an army is crushing its own fellowcitizens with tanks in the streets there is nothing (short of the very mixed and politically and ethically fraught benefits of military intervention) that anyone or any entity can do, except express displeasure after the event. It is in the mundane webs of social practice, which either support or obstruct events such as Tiananmen, which lower or raise the threshold of acceptable violence, that practical action may sometimes be possible. To focus on the drama of the individual versus the state is to overlook the specific social, political and legal institutions that make up the state and in which the dividing line between state and person becomes unclear. But it might be in the messy realities which involve the state in various, sometimes contradictory, positions that efforts to strengthen participatory political forms, or render public institutions more accountable, may be possible. The next two sections of this chapter, then, provide some discussion of the leadership and the general political context of China in the 1980s as well as ofthe student demonstrators. While necessarily brief, the function of the discussion is not to offer new insight on China but to allow events a significance, particularly in any consideration of questions of human rights, extending beyond the retelling of ‘man’ versus ‘state’. There are numerous accounts of the Beijing Spring, the massacre and the intensified repression following it – many of them very full. This study does not attempt to reproduce or summarise them beyond some essential references. The political context – the ‘state’ For some commentators the Chinese state is evil and confrontation with the more politically conscious sectors of the Chinese population is therefore inevitable.3 But as, for example, Lowell Dittmer’s examination of events leading up to the killings suggests, ‘the Tiananmen massacre was not inexorable. Rather, it was the outcome of a subtle interplay of developments whose complexity must be thoroughly examined’ (. Any focus on divisions within the leadership on how to handle the Beijing Spring, however, itself draws on the broader context of rapid change within China – in particular the climate of increasing economic expectation and uncertainty coupled with growing political openness and underlying dissension, within the leadership and the population, on the structure of the state and the nature and scope of political and economic reform. China’s leadership, certainly in the 1980s, was deeply divided. These divisions, however, were not solely a matter of generational cleavage and succession, or of the factionalism of court politics, although these elements were powerful enough. Rather, they were part of far-reaching transformations of political, social and economic life in China, and of fundamental struggles about how state power was constituted, and how it might be wielded. Thus the role of the Communist Party and of the people, the nature and basis of political legitimacy and the need to recreate or strengthen legitimacy for political rule within China, and the mechanisms by which political power in its broadest sense is exercised and communication or participation is made possible were and still are ‘unresolved and festering questions’.
China’s poverty, the chaotic violence of the Cultural Revolution, and for some the desire to strengthen China’s international security, power and prestige, led in late 1978 to the leadership committing the country to a process of ‘modernisation’. Modernisation was envisaged as the route to an increasingly prosperous, orderly and secure state. An indication of the scope of these changes is perhaps clearest in the economic sphere, which has been central to the modernisation project and where the country was set on a path from a command economy towards increasing scope for market forces. Movement towards a market economy, however, involves not merely removing direct state controls but establishing a broad network of indirect controls for setting the rules of the game and making government policy possible – a workable taxation
system or some system for raising revenues, for example, methods for redistribution, for the provision of welfare and for social investment, a reliable system of commercial and administrative law. But such processes of transformation are hugely complex, costly and need time; as well as movement towards the desired outcomes, they generate confusion, disruption and contradiction. Throughout the 1980s, China was a ‘neither this nor that economy’ (Raby, 1990: 1). Moreover, there is a ‘fatal interconnectedness . . . between industrial reform and the political and social systems’ (Kent, 1993: 79). Ann Kent characterises the social and political changes that modernisation involved as necessitating a shift from the overwhelming preponderance of traditionally embedded Gemeinschaft practices to intermittent and fledgling reliance on more formal and juridical Gesellschaft practices, contributing to an ‘increasing gap which the modernisation process opened up between state and society in China’ (Kent, 1993: 79). This characterisation provides some indication of the nature and depth of the social and political revolutions underway in the and beyond. Legal reform – ‘strengthening socialist law’ – has been a crucial element of modernisation with the independence of the legal system
from party cadres widely seen as critical to economic restructuring and combating corruption. But the introduction of a substantial body of new statutory law may have rendered more complex, without fundamentally altering, the more traditional elements of the structure and the orientation of Chinese law, often described as ‘principally a system of punishments for ordering society’ – of ‘law from above’ or ‘rule by law’ in contrast to the ‘rule of law’ (McCormick, 1990: 96). Traditional Chinese law draws also upon an extensive system of grassroots security and mediatory functions as well as adhering explicitly to policy directives from the Communist Party. ‘The resultant condition of law has been conceived as a complex intertwining of the jural (formal) and the societal (informal) models of law’. In the mid-1980s, around the time of movement from the initial stage of agricultural reform to reform of the urban economy and more complex rural changes, the coalition of economic ‘modernisers’, from which Deng Xiaoping had drawn his support and which formed the basis of direction and stability within the leadership, disintegrated. For the remainder of the decade, two factions, the more orthodox communists and the relatively radical reformers, were increasingly bitterly divided over the nature and direction of reform. Much of the debate focused on loss of party control over economic and political directions – over the degree of predominance of centralised economic planning and over the means by which ‘leadership’ by the party should best be achieved. This debate was intensified by the fear not only of the direct loss of dominance by the party but of the potentially chaotic social and economic consequences of removing the command structure in an economy and society which lacked established alternative mechanisms of management. Opening production to market forces required removing the ‘iron rice bowl’ of employment and subsistence security, but this was to destroy the network which had assured that
most people’s basic needs were met without there being another means for meeting these needs in place. By the mid-1980s China was operating on two economic systems with two pricing systems – a fixed system, to protect supply of basic or essential commodities, and a market system. This situation gave tremendous scope to and in many circumstances necessitated corruption. Whereas the conservatives argued for a continuation of the pattern of saturation leadership and more orthodox Leninism, the more aggressive reformers, including Hu Yaobang and Zhao Ziyang, argued for a revitalisation of the party through an increasing separation of party and administrative powers. Borrowing initially from European Marxist humanism, but later from China the Singapore and Taiwan models of ‘new authoritarianism’ (or ‘Leninist Confucianism’), the new legitimacy would be based on a meritocratic, streamlined and executive-style party – better educated, able to deliver on economic management, less enmeshed in the details of implementation, more open to the expertise of non-party intellectuals and advisers and more open to the scrutiny
of other loyal but non-party bodies (particularly the national and provincial people’s congresses). There was considerable emphasis on introducing rulegoverned order, predictable, legally based and in principle accessible to all, into
the political and economic domains. None of this, however, envisaged any real
diminution of the party’s overall dominance or ‘leadership’. This pattern of
political reform produced considerable tension, particularly between the levels
of independence needed to make systems of scrutiny effective and constrain
misuse of power and the dominant understandings of political leadership
and ‘harmony’. Commenting on legal reform in China, McCormick (1990: 96)
proffers a frequently drawn interpretation of this tension:
On the one hand, ‘law from above’ has patrimonial implications and therefore fails
to adequately order society or steer the state. On the other hand, an accessible,
autonomous legal system would threaten the autonomy of the state and the Party’s
leading role. Consequently, reforms to date are incomplete and contradictory.
This tension remains a significant feature of China’s political system.
In effect, throughout the 1980s the legitimacy of the leadership and the Communist Party was based increasingly on successful economic management and people’s increased buying power, plus increased personal and economic autonomy. In the early 1980s improving living standards and the prospect of on-going economic benefit maintained an optimistic atmosphere. But the urban reforms and the second stages of the rural reform proved highly destabilising. While many benefited from market reforms, millions lost employment or faced a suddenly insecure employment future – in an environment where social welfare, education and health care, as well as social identity, have been tied to employment. Spiralling inflation in the late 1980s fuelled intense anxiety and eroded real incomes in the state and collective sectors, especially in the cities: Were one to single out one single factor conditioning workers’ support for communist regimes, it would be the expectation of protection from insecurity, inequality and uncertainty by a strong welfare state. Deng Xiaoping gambled on being able to compensate Chinese workers with greater prosperity in exchange for any erosion of security, equality and certainty.The prevailing tactic of tightening and loosening economic controls, the removal and reimposition of price controls for example, left many farmers and enterprises unexpectedly exposed. Moreover, this decade was marked by the
relatively sudden, and for the Chinese people the novel, emergence of significant disparity in income. This resulted in acute social envy, particularly among those on fixed wages (the formerly privileged industrial workers in state enterprises and other state employees), so that even those who benefited from the economic policies suffered a sense of relative deprivation (Walder, 1996). The ethical goals of socialism – equality, solidarity and security (Kornai, in Saich, 1992) – which had formed the moral universe for many Chinese, and were a source of social consensus, were being dismantled. The erosion of the social value structure became particularly sharply focused around questions of corruption. Because the economy and the broader allocation of benefits and privileges remained primarily patrimonial, success or wealth was often perceived to reflect not skill, effort or luck but the right connections and corruption. Moreover, the maintenance of party dominance at all levels of economic organisation, together with the double pricing system, created the perfect conditions for corruption. By the late 1980s, ‘Chinese society had become “on the take” where, without a good set of connections and an entrance through the “back door” it was very difficult to partake of the benefits of economic reform... Abuse of public positions and the privatisation of public function . . . reached extreme proportions’ and was highly visible (Saich, 1992: 50). The legal, political and administrative structures struggled to respond. The process by which the party experimented with more flexible forms of ‘leadership’ and economic control, however, created conditions of increasing economic uncertainty and division that were not underpinned by corresponding changes in social welfare structures. It also both enabled and presupposed an expansion of political toleration, or openness. In the period up to June 1989, citizens enjoyed ‘increased access . . . to greater freedoms of movement, of speech, press, publication, association and assembly, and of the right to more personal space’ (Kent, 1993: 232). This situation constituted an almost complete reversal of the traditional communist division of and hierarchy between subsistence and political rights (Kent, 1993). These freedoms facilitated a more widespread political confidence and heightened critical awareness of the contending forces and potentials simmering within Chinese society. But increasing political awareness served to make corruption or the manipulation of power only more apparent. Addressing the changing politics of the factory, for
example, Andrew Walder points out that the consequence of greater openness in the decision-making processes was ‘to make cadre privilege and abuse of power more transparent than before, and since this is open subversion of the democratic process promised by the committees, it may make cadre privilege appear to be even more illegitimate and intolerable than in the past’. At the same time, despite tentative movements towards rule-governedorder and nominal constitutional guarantees, greater political openness and ‘expanded civil rights of expression ...were not anchored in any enabling legislation and were therefore vulnerable, as in the Maoist era, to arbitrary cancellation at the leaders’ whim’ (Kent, 1993: 232). Moreover, the abuses of power that were repeatedly coming to light and the evident gap between government rhetoric and practice – or the tensions between competing policy directions – remained largely unattended. To reverse these problems would have required embarking on a deeper or more extensive reform of the political structure, including a reorientation of the mechanisms through which the Communist Party exercised authority, a reconceptualisation of the party’s role in society and most importantly the party’s preparedness to let go of many of its direct levers of control while enabling the growth of alternative channels for the legitimate exercise of power – a difficult task. But greater political openness increased the expectation of and demand for reforms of just that magnitude. Intellectuals, encouraged to contribute to the revitalisation of Marxism-Leninism, became increasingly active through the decade, pressing not for an end to party dominance, but for various forms of genuine power sharing. The fragile results of the political reform process throughout the 1980s and the relative reliance of the continuing implementation of these reforms on patronage within the leadership rather than institutionalised guarantee became a source of increasing disillusionment and discontent amongst intellectuals. By 1989 the ‘regime was confronting the beginnings of a “desertion of the intellectuals” ’. Within the leadership Deng maintained his own pre-eminent position and some semblance of unity between the competing factions by alternating support between the two groups, playing one off against the other. But this tactic actually underlined reliance on personal power and so weakened the process of institutionalising the political system that was part of the platform of ‘modernisation’ which Deng had championed. ‘The lack of institutionalisation
has meant that the fate of the reform programme has depended on the disposition at any given moment of influential individuals’ (Saich, 1992: 12). The rapid swings between the loosening and the tightening of economic, political and cultural controls produced an atmosphere of uncertainty and a tendency to paralysis within administrative apparatuses. Perhaps most notably, the party failed to create any mechanism for succession, which remained trapped within the model of personalised power. The question of succession only sharpened factional tension, leading to the destruction of the careers of Deng’s first two anointed successors, Hu Yaobang and Zhao Ziyang. Despite efforts to create a more rule-governed society, ‘when the system came under stress, individual power relationships built up over decades proved to be more important than the rule of law or the formal functions people held’ (Saich, 1992: 58). Fear of loss of control leading to chaos worked to obstruct and erode exactly those
kinds of institutions that could enable predictable and potentially more accessible decision making and implementation. In the early years of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) the credibility and legitimacy of the Communist Party was based on its success in overcoming the
chaotic, corrupt and impoverished conditions that had characterised much of the first half of its century. The unquestionable dogma and idealism that characterised the first decades was in part rooted in widespread experience of this success. Party rule provided an effective (if slowly stagnating) subsistence economy underpinned by what was in the economic domain a relatively egalitarian value structure. The painful political education that was a by-product of the Cultural Revolution, however, ate away at the practice of unquestioning faith. Over subsequent years the ‘manipulation and mobilisation of the population to support the goals of the various factions increased the tendency towards a deep, bitter cynicism on the part of many’ (Saich, 1992: 20) – a cynicism only compounded by the fact that Marxism remained a fundamental point of reference, if experienced as increasingly empty. In short, economic modernisation produced the promise and, to a lesser but still considerable extent, the reality of prosperity. But it also removed the guarantee of subsistence, introduced an entirely new dimension of both expectation and anxiety, and undermined the dominant egalitarian social value structure. Corruption emerged as a particular source of contention and threat to the legitimacy of the party’s rule, while the significantly freer political climate to some extent unmasked both the operation of economic corruption and the manipulation of political power. The more tolerant political environment thus intensified dissatisfaction at the lack of accountability. But it also encouraged people to think that change was desirable and possible, and that their own actions might bring it about (Kent, 1993; Shi, 1997). The Democracy Movement was not essentially an expression of despair, or of frustration at lack of rights. Rather, ordinary social and political life was caught in an intensifying contradiction between discontent and optimism, ‘a revolution of rising expectations in the arena of civil and political rights, and of a combination of rising expectations and relative deprivation in the area of social and economic rights. The 1989 Democracy Movement was the ultimate point of collision between the old structures of Maoist rights and the new rights of the modernisation decade’
(Kent, 1993: 167).As Dittmer (1989) and others (most recently Nathan and Link (eds) (2001),The Tiananmen Papers) have detailed, both the leadership and the broader arms of the state were deeply split on how to respond to the demonstrators. This split reflected both tactical differences and the growing divergence of views on the nature of the state and the basis of its power and legitimacy – and a divergence China
in the ways power was operating within the state itself. The Democracy Movement was itself made possible by this de facto heterodoxy of the state. The violent suppression of the movement was in part the product of the factional battle which destroyed, for the time being, the pro-reform grouping and stripped Communist Party Secretary Zhao Ziyang of his power. Zhao himself clearly had some sympathy with the demonstrators – certainly his handling of the protests was consistently conciliatory. According to The Tiananmen Papers, ‘if left to their own preferences, the three-man majority of the Politburo Standing Committee would have voted to persist in dialogue with the students instead of declaring martial law’ (Nathan and Link, 2001: xviii). (The declaration of martial law on 20 May proved crucial to the final outcome: by sharpening the opposition between the ‘party state’ and the students and casting by the students as near-traitors, the declaration all but closed off any effective avenue of retreat to the demonstrators.) Indeed a united party leadership, whether more reformist or more orthodox, may well have avoided the destructive extremity of the final response. But perhaps more important than this was the extent of support throughout the party for the Democracy Movement and the rejection of the use of force against the students. [N]ewspaper and television stations, retired generals, university presidents,
members of the National People’s Congress and the democratic parties, and even the All-China Federation of Trade Unions – expressed public sympathy for the student demands for negotiation, or donated money to the student hunger strikers’ while factory workers drove trucks to the square in solidarity. (Walder, 1996: 61) The declaration of martial law in Beijing was met with widespread resistance and protests, an estimated 1 million people demonstrating in Beijing in support of the May hunger strike and later against the declaration of martial law. Subsequently, the question of the use of force against unarmed civilians reportedly ‘created a crisis of loyalty within the military’ (Byrnes, 1990: 132). The crisis of legitimacy within the arms of the state themselves which had been gathering force, particularly in the latter half of the decade, was ‘so severe that
in the spring of 1989, it was unclear whether the army would respond to the political leadership’ (Dittmer, 1989: 3). ‘One of the PLA’s elite units, the 38th, [near Beijing] initially demonstrated reluctance to participate in putting down the student demonstrations. The 38th’s commander . . . was removed, along with a number of his subordinate leaders’ (Byrnes, 1990: 137). According to Dittmer (1989), direct appeals to Deng or Yang Shangkun, or clear statements of opposition against the use of force to suppress the Democracy Movement were made by more than 150 top party cadres, China’s two surviving marshals, the former minister of defence and the former chief of staff, seven generals, some serving high-ranking military officers as well as twenty-five retired senior veterans and almost half of the Standing Committee of the National People’s
Congress. None of this was sufficient to stop the killings. The decision to enforce martial law and use the PLA to clear Tiananmen Square was taken by a meeting of only three members of the five-member Politburo Standing Committee plus those ‘retired’ party elders whose support was crucial to a decision. It thus bypassed the institutionally designated channels of both party and state formally required for a direction of such gravity. While the relevant leaders issued clear instructions to troops not to fire on civilians, even in the face of violence (according to The Tiananmen Papers), and while it appears that the army may have lost self-control, the use of troops to respond to civil disturbances produced the result
here that it frequently has had elsewhere. In the end, the system of political rule, plus the individuals involved, both allowed and produced the massacre. Neither faction of the leadership, the more reformist or the more orthodox, was able to negotiate a peaceful resolution with a large and vigorous, but not essentially antagonistic, demonstration. (It is worth noting that demonstrations in many other Chinese cities were dispersed without deaths.) But just as the final outcome was hardly inevitable, so the system of rule – the state – is not to be reduced to a merely repressive and homogenous layer. It is rather a complex, contradictory and to some extent changing set of institutions with a range –now further limited by the choice taken at Tiananmen – of different potential directions. The students Students initiated, led and acted as spokespersons for the demonstrations throughout urban China in 1989. Nevertheless, the participation of workers was a crucial element of the political activities. Earlier demonstrations by students (1986–87) had not attracted significant support from other sectors of society and had, at least partly as a result of this, been relatively easily contained. The possibility of a successful coalition between students and urban workers was a source of considerable anxiety to the party leadership, for not only did workers represent a potentially far more significant proportion of the population and a real reservoir of power, e.g. through coordinated strike action, but as in Poland the growth of independent and aggressive unions could challenge, ideologically and pragmatically, the supremacy of the ‘workers’ party’. Across the country during the Beijing Spring, ‘close to thirty “illegal organisations” . . . made an effort to form an independent union or workers’ association’ representing workers’ interests (Walder, 1996: 64). But the crucial debate about what leadership of the party should mean was – and remains – precisely a debate about the possibility of organisations genuinely independent of and sharing power with the party. Deng, here backing the conservative faction,The political crisis of June 1989 was the catalyst for a shift in the overall pattern of Chinese economic transition. In both political and economic terms, the crisis gave urgency and legitimacy among the ruling elite to a model of concentrated power wielded more effectively. This led, on the one hand, to a regime more capable of mobilising resources for economic development. On the other hand, it resolved the ongoing discussions about ownership and hierarchy in a way that strengthened the alliance between politics and business, and integrated economic and monetary considerations into the fabric of the political hierarchy. These changes, in turn, led to a harsher and more elite-dominated form of state capitalism. For better and for worse, they also paved the way for the explosive phase of economic growth that followed from 1992 through September 2008. In and of itself, the Tiananmen crisis did not have a large impact on the Chinese economy. Economic growth dropped took several years for the political dynamics unleashed by Tiananmen to coalesce into a new economic policy regime,it is clear that the Tiananmen crisis was one of the most important events pushing the policy-making equilibrium from one stable state to another. What, then, is the relationship between Tiananmen and the shift in policy-making stance between the 1980s and the 1990s? The fundamental difference between the two periods is that in the 1980s, before Tiananmen, China’s leaders were willing to subordinate other national interests to the quest for a viable economic reform model, and thus a better economy and society. After Tiananmen, while reformers still pursued a vision of a transformed economy, that vision was linked to, and often subordinated to, strengthened, stabilised, and more effective government power. The most direct measure of the difference is the provision of public goods and growthoriented public investment. In the 1980s, this was low and declining, while in the 1990s it was high and rising. The low public goods regime of the 1980s had the advantage of purchasing “space“ for economic reform and freeing up resources for new organisational forms. After Tiananmen, a steadily accelerating drive for a more capable state led to a large increase in growth-oriented public investment and other public goods. In order to mobilise the resources required for these purposes, China’s leaders sacrificed important opportunities. They closed off alternative paths to reform, imposing a uniformity on policy-making choices and processes that has been, on occasion, suffocating. They ushered in a harsher, less transparent, and less “harmonious” society, marked by strengthened Communist Party dominance of public property and decision-making. The Tiananmen debacle deprived Chinese society of precious flexibility and adaptability. While the crisis and its immediate aftermath were primarily political, it is important to stress that it had economic roots and consequences as well. The reform model of the 1980s would inevitably have changed and developed in the 1990s, but the particular form of the transformation was due largely to the post-Tiananmen
dynamics of leadership. The first half of this paper examines the economic policy frameworks that prevailed preTiananmen, and reviews the road to crisis. The second half of the paper examines the ways in which the interplay between politics and economics shaped the specific character of the post-Tiananmen regime sharply in the wake of the crisis (1989-1990), but as Figure 1 shows, the economy bounced back quickly and even made up for lost time during the over-heated years of 1992-93. When the crisis is juxtaposed with China’s recurrent economic cycles (Figure 2), it is easy to see that the economic cycle was one of the causes of the crisis, but it is not easy to see the crisis having any effect on the pattern of economic instability. Figure 2 shows inflation rates as a measure of cyclical imbalance: The Tiananmen crisis was clearly related to inflation, since it broke out after a socially destabilising peak in inflation. But the crisis didn’t immediately cause any particular change in the dynamics of the economy. Quite the contrary, there were surges in inflation before Tiananmen, and there was one after Tiananmen, in 1993-95. If there was any clear change in macroeconomic regime, it came later, after 1996. In simple economic terms, Tiananmen was not a particularly important event. And yet, Tiananmen stands at the watershed between two different approaches to economic transition and two different policy regimes. Tiananmen may not have been the watershed, but it certainly was located on the watershed. It is widely recognised that in many crucial dimensions, the 1980s in China were different from the 1990s. The 1990s policy regime emerged with unmistakable clarity only a few years after the Tiananmen Crisis, in 1993-94.
Beijing rejected international criticism for not allowing its most prominent critic to be treated abroad for liver cancer and claimed that the case is an internal affair and other countries were "in no position to make improper remarks". Meanwhile, Nobel Committee called Xiaobo's death "premature" and said the Chinese refusal to allow him to travel was "deeply disturbing," the Communist Party's mouthpiece, Global Times has called Liu "a victim led astray" by the West. China had even scoffed at his Nobel Peace Prize (he was the first Chinese person still living in the country to receive a Nobel award of any kind) in 2010. Chinese authorities had gotten furious and send out a disclaimer to Norway, stating that the decision would hurt relations between the two countries. "Liu Xiaobo is a criminal who has been sentenced by Chinese judicial departments for violating Chinese law," the Chinese foreign ministry had said in a statement. Xinhua and CCTV only issued a brief on their English site stating Liu Xiaobo, "convicted of subversion of state power," has died. However, the paper defended China, stating that the country was focused on the treatment of Xiaobo's and some western forces were attempting to steer the issue in a political direction by hyping the treatment as a "human rights" issue.