Tuesday, April 26, 2022

The Road to Tiananmen Square

“You are more likely to die by the treatments prescribed by your radical doctor than by your diseases.” ~ this saying became popular in China during the 1980s. 

In early 1980s, several communist party politicians and intellectuals were voicing doubts about Deng Xiaoping’s economic and political reforms. They argued that Deng was the radical doctor whose medicine for curing the disease of Maoism would kill the patient: China. They argued that if the pace of reforms was not brought down to manageable levels then China could be destroyed in a violent counterrevolution. Deng had to accept that the social edifice of urban areas was fracturing; that the new breed of intellectuals were being too irreverent to socialist ideology and to Mao himself; that capitalist problems like prostitution, drugs, consumerism, and crime were plaguing the urban areas; that the new breed of entrepreneurs were flaunting too much wealth and were provoking jealousy and frustration in the poorer sections of society; that rising income inequality was threatening to divide society into warring classes.

By 1984, Deng had considerably slowed the pace of reforms. But the genie of democracy and freedom was out of the bottle; the Chinese masses, especially the college educated anti-Mao young generation were not ready to go back to the old socialist way of life. A brutal display of state power was necessary to rein in the young generation and stabilize China—this came in 1989 in Tiananmen Square when, on the orders of Deng, thousands of pro-democracy agitators were massacred by PLA troops.

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