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POLI 422 - Tsou: The Tiananmen Tragedy

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McGill University
Political Science
POLI 422
Juan Wang

TsouThe Tiananmen Tragedy The StateSociety Relationship Choices and Mechanisms in Historical PerspectiveFeatures of note1Winner takes all tradition of the CCP prevented leaders from seeking overt compromise2Despite Zhaos attempt to offer a tacit compromise tendency of students to adopt the mores of the regime prevented them from accepting it3Lack of autonomous civil society prevented formation of responsible oppositional organizations and allowed only for inherently radical mass movements4Structure of communication within party and between party and society ensured that regime could not make credible promises nor credible threats The Rejected Option and the Inaccessible AlternativethStreet protests began April 17 1989 two days after Hu Yaobang died The protests were spontaneous unorganized and followed in the wake of the CCPs culturalideological decline the loosening of political control the opening up of public spaces the emergence of networks of liberal thought the general acceptance among intellectuals of democracy and freedom and the loss of confidence in the party Students were the forefront of a struggling fledgling civil society Prior attempts to set up secret organizations to build student movements had been quickly discovered and broken up by authorities Thus the movement began with no coordination barely any leadership and was knit together with small code words eye signals and gestures Undergraduates took the lead while sophisticated and cynical graduate students remained behind the scenes There is no evidence whatsoever that the party reformers instigated the students actions 214Views on Zhaos opinion towards the student demonstration is still a matter of debate It is possible that he was opposed to it or that he had shown sympathy through the exercise of restraint by the police Another view was that all leaders had thought a show of restraint would mean that students would eventually dissipate The student demonstration was relatively orderly and was kept within certain limits The specific demands were mild the most significant being freedom to publish their own newspapers After finding safety in numbers the sympathies of Beijingers and the attention of
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