The Empire Strikes Back

Tiananmen: The Rape of Peking

by Michael Fathers, by Andrew Higgins
The Independent/Doubleday, 148 pp., £4.99

Tiananmen Square

by Scott Simmie, by Bob Nixon
University of Washington Press, 206 pp., $14.95 (paper)

Massacre in Beijing: The Events of 3–4 June, 1989 and Their Aftermath the Ad Hoc Study Group on Human Rights in China

a report prepared by the International League for Human Rights and
79 pp., $12.00

Tiananmen Diary: Thirteen Days in June

by Harrison E. Salisbury
Little, Brown, 176 pp., $10.95 (paper)

June Four: A Chronicle of the Chinese Democratic Uprising

by the photographers and reporters of the Ming Pao News, translated by Zi Jin, by Qin Zhou
University of Arkansas Press, 171 pp., $14.95 (paper)

Beijing Spring

photographs by David Turnley, by Peter Turnley, text by Melinda Liu
Stewart, Tabori and Chang, 175 pp., $19.95 (paper)

President Bush still regards you as his friend, a friend forever,” Brent Scowcroft told Deng Xiaoping in Beijing on December 10, six months and seven days after Deng ordered the People’s Liberation Army into Tiananmen Square. In Washington, the White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater was giving a lesson in Realpolitik: “We hope that we have reached the point where time heals all wounds, and that once the public gets used to more normalized contacts it won’t be focused on the past.”

Only six months, and already we are being asked to erase our memories of the Beijing massacre of June 3 and 4. (The phrase “Tiananmen massacre” permits an argument about exactly where the killings occurred and at what hour, which was used by the Chinese authorities to distract attention from what they actually did.) Despite Fitzwater’s hope, the demonstrations in China from April 15 to June 4, or what the Chinese call “the events” or “the counterrevolutionary turmoil” are not easy to forget. Beijing itself is gripped with fear and hatred of the Party, and the 110 acres of Tiananmen Square, the heart of the city, for the first time in forty years of Communist rule are empty, off-limits to the citizens of Beijing. Only a few tank treadmarks in the stones recall the violence of June 3 and 4. Eighty-four cities were involved, the government has admitted, and upward of three million students. At the main Chinese weapons testing center in Inner Mongolia work was halted for weeks, officials said, by demonstrators blocking the roads in what is a closed area. On some days, the Chinese press reported at the time, a million nonviolent demonstrators, one tenth the population of Beijing, gathered in Tiananmen Square and shouted for the government to resign. It was a unique event in the history of China.

The leadership headed by George Bush’s “friend forever” Deng Xiaoping for the first time in forty years commanded its soldiers to attack the citizens of Beijing and now accuses “enemies at home and abroad” of attempting to destabilize the country, which, it insists, has returned to normal. But even as they shout abuse at foreigners the leaders wrangle about the succession, the reforms, and even their enemies. Members of the Politburo claim that the Party is riddled with disloyal members who were at the center of the plot, and yet no internal purge of the Party has taken place.

Chief among these alleged plotters is now Zhao Ziyang, the deposed Party general secretary, who is under some form of house arrest. Zhao has been accused of everything short of counter-revolution, but no charges have as yet been laid against him. Deng Xiaoping has retired, his reform program in ruins, and a pall has fallen over the country. But no successor, certainly not the relatively inexperienced Jiang Zemin, the former Party boss in Shanghai and Deng’s hand-picked “core leader,” can claim supreme power. Frantic, lashing out at its enemies but in the …

This article is available to Online Edition and Print Premium subscribers only.
Please choose from one of the options below to access this article:
If you already have one of these subscriptions, please be sure you are logged in to your nybooks.com account. If you subscribe to the print edition, you may also need to link your web site account to your print subscription. Click here to link your account services.
Letters

The Lost Weekend October 25, 1990