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8 - The Tiananmen tragedy: the state–society relationship, choices, and mechanisms in historical perspective

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  03 May 2010

Brantly Womack
Affiliation:
Northern Illinois University
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Summary

THE WORST-CASE SCENARIO AND “HOPE AGAINST HOPE”

Let me begin this afterword with a sentence from Brandy Womack's Introduction: “It is unclear how long [the current regime] will last, what might succeed it, and how it will attempt to resolve its contradictory commitments to repressive recentralization and to continuing modernization and ‘openness’. ” He may be understood as raising this question about the political-economic-social-cultural system in its configurational uniqueness as an entity, though not about all its parts. There are, in China and abroad, those who expect an almost imminent collapse of the regime, who foresee an impending revolution, nonviolent or otherwise, and who fix their gaze on a miraculous transformation of China into its opposite. Of course, there are also those who still celebrate the victory of the June 4 crackdown and who believe that the current system will survive that tragic blunder, as well as other grave errors and serious acts of misrule in the past.

These two groups of political actors, some in the limelight and others still relatively unknown to the public, occupy the two extremities of a new and deadly form of polarization produced by the events of June 3 and 4, 1989, which were presented to us in the outside world in bloody and macabre scenes on our color televisions in our living rooms day after day for weeks on end.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 1991

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