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Tiananmen redux

The hard truth about the expanded neoliberal world order

Johan Lagerkvist

This book contends that the massacre of civilians in Beijing on June Fourth 1989 was a pivotal rupture in both Chinese and world history. If not for that day, China’s socioeconomic, political and cultural landscape would not have undergone the kind of dramatic transformation that has made China rich but unequal, open but hyper-nationalist, moralistic but immoral and unhappy. Through the lens of global history the book revisits the drama of Tiananmen and demonstrates how it unfolded, ended, and ultimately how that ending – in a consensus of forgetting – came to shape the world of the 21 st century. It offers a theorization on the inclusion of China into global capitalism and argues that the planetary project of neoliberalism has been prolonged by China’s market reforms. This has resulted in an ongoing convergence of economic and authoritarian political practices that transcend otherwise contrasting political systems. With China’s growing global influence, the late leader Deng Xiaoping’s statement that «development is a hard truth» increasingly conveys the logic of our contemporary world.


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Part I The Hard Truth about the Massacre in Beijing


27 Chapter 1: Background and Rise of the Movement31 Revolutionary leader and Communist Party Chairman Mao Zedong passed away on 9 September 1976. His death triggered momentous pow- er struggles within the Communist Party, which only came to an end when Deng Xiaoping stripped Mao’s chosen heir, Hua Guofeng, of his post as Party leader. Deng went on unabashedly to break with traditional Maoist politics. His own programme, which he pushed through at the legendary Third Plenary Session of the 11th Central Committee in 1978, was called gaige kaifang, “reform and opening”.32 The doors to the reclu- sive, red People’s Republic suddenly swung open onto new impressions, investments and international trade. Deng moved the Party away from the ideas that had underpinned Mao Zedong’s disastrous collectivist 31 This section draws primarily on the many leaked state documents that are avail- able in English: Nathan, Andrew, Liang, Zhang and Link, Perry. The Tiananmen papers, New York: Public Affairs, 2002. Other source books such as Han Minzhu (ed.). Cries for democracy: writings and speeches from the 1989 Chinese democ- racy movement. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990 have also ben used to retell the story of the important Tiananmen democracy movement. In addition, the present book draws significant information from more recent student memoirs, the political biography of Deng Xiaoping, and the memoirs of General Secretary Zhao Ziyang, Premier Li Peng, and Mayor of Beijing Chen Xitong, which provide new details from the perspectives of key personalities in the drama of...

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