The Impact of China’s 1989 Tiananmen Massacre

The 14 chapters in this volume provide a sweeping overview of the gains and setbacks in China since the 1989 Tiananmen Square crisis. The fundamental changes have been the shift to a politically circumscribed market economy and the consolidation of the communist regime. This phantasmagoric formation, which Barry Naughton describes in his chapter as a harsh and “elite-dominated form of state capitalism,” has produced two decades of explosive economic growth -- without democratization. The state has instead suppressed the history and memories of the June 4 massacre, strengthened the patriotic education of Chinese youth, expanded the policing of the population, and made little progress toward the rule of law. Chapters on foreign policy argue that Chinese leaders are wielding their newly gained economic power to shape international norms and institutions (such as those concerning human rights) and pressure Western countries and companies for political concessions. These trends have even adversely affected the democracy movement in Hong Kong. The authors trace the origins of these changes to Chinese leaders’ responses to the June 4 crisis and their determination to avert another Tiananmen-style protest. Although a few contributions cover the changing strategies of political and intellectual dissent and new types of citizen activism, by and large the volume offers little hope that China will move toward democracy anytime soon.

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