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Introduction

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  03 May 2010

Brantly Womack
Affiliation:
Northern Illinois University
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Summary

The turbulence of Chinese politics in the twentieth century has given a peculiar twist to the utility of historical perspectives. Clearly, the projection of trends, the most obvious application of history, has been notoriously unreliable in Chinese politics. There have been times at which China has appeared to be threatened with national extinction, and it has variously been offered as proof of the international character of world communism, exemplar of a profoundly revolutionary and egalitarian societal model, and a confident pioneer in decentralizing politicaleconomic reform. Each of those impressions was based on a particular course of events, and each proved misleading when projected into the indefinite future.

The most recent – and convincing – experience of the changeability of Chinese politics concerned the events now permanently associated with Tiananmen Square in Beijing. First, those demonstrations could not have been projected on the basis of previous events, although retrospectively we can make sense of them and figure out their origins. The death of Hu Yaobang played an important role in ensuring a sudden and protected beginning for the student movement, and the peculiarly dissonant situation within the top leadership raised hopes and mobilized forces on both sides. Second, the violence of the mass repression on June 4, 1989, was unprecedented. The deeper one's familiarity with Chinese politics, the more profound one's sense of shock and outrage at the massacre. Third, the chief feature of the postmassacre regime has been its unpredictability.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 1991

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  • Introduction
  • Edited by Brantly Womack, Northern Illinois University
  • Book: Contemporary Chinese Politics in Historical Perspective
  • Online publication: 03 May 2010
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511664250.002
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  • Introduction
  • Edited by Brantly Womack, Northern Illinois University
  • Book: Contemporary Chinese Politics in Historical Perspective
  • Online publication: 03 May 2010
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511664250.002
Available formats
×

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

  • Introduction
  • Edited by Brantly Womack, Northern Illinois University
  • Book: Contemporary Chinese Politics in Historical Perspective
  • Online publication: 03 May 2010
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511664250.002
Available formats
×