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6 July 1989
... of Premier Li Peng, whose handling of the whole affair was inept. The Premier had other things on his mind. The students’ demonstration came at a crucial moment in his personal struggle with ZhaoZiyang (then the Party chief, having succeeded Hu Yaobang) for the succession to Deng Xiaoping’s power. The decline of Deng, now 84, was flashed onto the world’s TV screens when he was seen dropping his ...

Zhao’s Version

Andrew Nathan: Zhao Ziyang

17 December 2009
Prisoner of the State: The Secret Journal of Chinese Premier Zhao​ Ziyang 
by Zhao Ziyang, translated by Bao Pu, Renee Chiang and Adi Ignatius.
Simon and Schuster, 306 pp., £20, May 2009, 978 1 84737 697 8
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... In the afternoon of 23 April 1989, China’s highest-ranking official, the Party’s general secretary ZhaoZiyang, left from Beijing railway station for an official visit to North Korea. Zhao had considered cancelling the trip because of the student demonstrations that had broken out in Beijing eight days earlier, but decided it wasn’t necessary. The crisis seemed to have peaked, and he ...
24 May 2001
The Tiananmen Papers 
by Zhang Liang, edited by Andrew Nathan and Perry Link.
Little, Brown, 513 pp., £20, January 2001, 0 316 85693 2
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... has a political mind, is in the prime of life, and can be trusted.’ That was apparently all it took to become China’s next dictator. The dismissals of Jiang Zemin’s predecessors, Hu Yaobang and ZhaoZiyang, were handled in a similarly imperious way. Link said recently in Hong Kong that he felt sure that one day the official line on Tiananmen would be changed and that this book’s revelations ...


Jon Cannon: In Chengdu, China

13 December 2001
... are being spearheaded nationally by Chairman Deng Xiaoping, who is Sichuanese, and tested locally – in advance of the rest of the country – by his protégé, the provincial Party Secretary, ZhaoZiyang. In 2001 a new dual carriageway cuts across the street. Further along are two new office blocks, one half-finished, the other with a fake baroque doorway and a liveried goon. It’s early summer, hot ...

Tiananmen Revisited

Philippa Tristram

19 November 1992
... strongly engrained. Until 9 May an entente between the students and the leadership was possible. Beyond that point, though every sign suggests they wanted to avoid a showdown, even after the fall of ZhaoZiyang, the factors that combined to make one inevitable were multiplying. On 10 May Wang Dan reversed his decision: demonstrations would be held when Gorbachev arrived. Two days later the first ...


Chaohua Wang: Remembering Tiananmen

5 July 2007
... for the student protests of the next year. But these economic grievances were unambiguously transformed into political protests in the movement of 1989. Their target was the way Deng Xiaoping and ZhaoZiyang, then secretary-general of the Communist Party, ruled the country. Particularly powerful in mobilising protest was Zhao’s description of his reforms as ‘crossing a river by stepping one by ...

Taking the Bosses Hostage

Joshua Kurlantzick: China goes into reverse

26 March 2009
Factory Girls: Voices from the Heart of Modern China 
by Leslie Chang.
Picador, 432 pp., £12.99, February 2009, 978 0 330 50670 0
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Capitalism with Chinese Characteristics: Entrepreneurship and the State 
by Yasheng Huang.
Cambridge, 366 pp., £15.99, November 2008, 978 0 521 89810 2
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... showcase to investors the country’s new openness and the availability of cheap labour. Deng structured the reforms in such a way as to protect the party politically. As Bao Tong, a former aide to ZhaoZiyang, Deng’s premier, has noted, Deng never had any intention of abandoning one-party rule or embracing political reform. But he realised that without economic reforms, the Chinese people might ...

Little Old Grandfather

Thomas Meaney: Djilas and Stalin

18 May 2016
Conversations with Stalin 
by Milovan Djilas, translated by Michael Petrovich.
Penguin, 160 pp., £9.99, January 2014, 978 0 14 139309 4
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... has to do with his experience as a dissident, now a familiar type in the West. If you cast around for parallel figures in the authoritarian regimes of the postwar decades, several come to mind, ZhaoZiyang first among them. But if you search the liberal capitalist regimes of the West of the same period for dissenters who occupied comparable positions of high office, an unusual set of characters emerges ...

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