History of the People's Republic of China (1976–1989)

History of the People's Republic of China (1976–1989)

Mao Zedong's death in September 1976 left China with no central authority figure, both symbolically and administratively. The Gang of Four were dismantled, but Hua Guofeng continued to persist on Mao-era policies. After a bloodless power struggle, Deng Xiaoping came onto the helm to reform the Chinese economy and government institutions in their entirety. Deng, however, was conservative with wide-ranging political reform, and with the combination of unforeseen problems that resulted from the economic reform policies, the country underwent another political crisis with the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989.

Power struggles after Mao's death

Bringing back Deng Xiaoping

The demise and arrest of the Gang of Four prompted nationwide celebrations, including parades in the streets of Beijing and other major cities. The Gang of Four symbolized everything that went wrong during the ten years of chaos of the Cultural Revolution, and their demise, the general populace had expected, would mark the beginning of a new era. Hua Guofeng, however, desired to continue the policies set during the Cultural Revolution, and coined this maintenance the Two Whatevers, setting the standard that "whatever policies Chairman Mao set, we will continue to uphold; whatever orders Chairman Mao gave, we will continue to follow." Hua's reliance on Maoist orthodoxy led him to continue a cult of personality surrounding his own image alongside Mao's, equating his presence to that of Mao, but pinpointing the focus at a nominally separate era. To provide for distinct identity, Hua attempted his own change of the Chinese written language by further simplifying characters. A small number of these Hua-era simplifications continue to be in use informally, as there was no formal sanction of their legitimacy after Hua left office. In early 1977, the National Anthem was changed to reflect pure communist ideology rather than revolutionary drive, inserting lyrics exclusively dealing with Mao Zedong Thought and building an ideal socialist nation, as opposed to the wartime patriotism reflected by the original lyrics.

Hua's policies received relatively little support, and he was regarded as an unremarkable leader, lacking political support within the Politburo. At the time Deng Xiaoping was still living in seclusion because of "political mistakes," and the issue of his return to politics was yet again put on the table. Deng had insisted on supporting all of Hua's policies in one of the letters the two men exchanged, to which Hua responded that Deng had "made mistakes, and rightfully must continue to receive criticism." The arrest of the Gang of Four, Hua said, did not justify that Deng's "revisionist" ideas should resurface. During a Politburo meeting in March 1977, many members voiced support for Deng's return, to no avail. In a letter to Hua dated April 10, Deng Xiaoping wrote, "I am fully behind Chairman Hua's policies and agenda for the country". This letter would be openly discussed in the politburo, and in July 1977, Deng Xiaoping was restored in his former posts. By August, with his election as the new Committee Vice-Chairman, and the Central Military Commission's Vice-Chairman, Deng guaranteed the elevation of his supporters, Hu Yaobang, Zhao Ziyang and Wan Li.

Deng becomes Paramount Leader

Although Hua continued in his leadership role, it became apparent by early 1978 that Deng and Hua were divided along fine political and ideological lines. As Vice-Premier in charge of Technology and Education, Deng restored the University Entrance Examinations in 1977, opening the doors of post-secondary education to nearly a generation of youth who lacked this opportunity because of the Cultural Revolution. He elevated the social status of intellectuals from the lows of the Cultural Revolution to becoming an "integral part of socialist construction." Hua, however, insisted on continuing the Maoist line. Deng's stance towards intellectuals was seen as the first of a series of reversals in policy set during the Cultural Revolution, and it proved popular with a large segment of the politburo. Deng's support grew by the day, and his fresh, pragmatic ideas became more welcome than Hua's archaic, and sometimes stubborn views.

Deng chaired the 11th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, China's "de jure" legislative body, and stressed the importance of the Four Modernizations, a series of advances in various fields aimed at strengthening the country by adapting to modern standards. By then Deng was poised to make a final political move to grab power. On May 11, 1978, the "Guangming Daily" newspaper published an article, inspected by Deng's supporter Hu Yaobang, titled "Practice sets the only Standard to Examine Truth". [ [http://dailynews.sina.com.cn/c/144503.html 《光明日报》评论:实践是检验真理的唯一标准, retrieved from Sina.com. Dated May 11, 1978] ] The article stressed the importance of uniting theory and practice, denounced the dogmatic euphoria of the Mao era, and was, in fact, an outright criticism on Hua's Two Whatevers policy. This article was reprinted in many newspapers across the country, and echoed widespread support amongst party organs and the general populace. Discussions sprung up nationwide in government and military organizations, and Deng's novel and pragmatic stance gained increasing popularity.

In April, Deng began the political rehabilitation of those who were formerly labeled "rightists" and counter-revolutionaries, a campaign led by Hu Yaobang that pardoned the wrongly accused, restoring the reputation of many party elders and intellectuals who were purged during the Cultural Revolution and other Mao-era campaigns. Prominent politically-disgraced people including Peng Dehuai, Zhang Wentian, He Long and Tao Zhu were given belated rank-appropriate funerals at the Babaoshan Revolutionary Cemetery. Liu Shaoqi was given a large state funeral in May 1982, when the country was asked to mourn the former President some 15 years after his death.

The power transition from Hua to Deng was confirmed in December 1978, at the Third Plenum of the Central Committee of the Eleventh National Party Congress, a turning point in China's history. The course was laid for the party to move the world's most populous nation toward the ambitious targets of the Four Modernizations.

After a decade of turmoil brought about by the Cultural Revolution, the new direction set at this meeting was toward economic development and away from class struggle. The plenum endorsed major changes in the political, economic, and social system. Hua renounced his "Two Whatevers" and offered a full self-criticism. Replacing the old focus of class struggles was the new policy focused on economic construction.

It also instituted sweeping personnel changes, culminating in the elevation of two key supporters of Deng Xiaoping and the reform program, Hu Yaobang and Zhao Ziyang. In contrast to previous leadership changes, Hua would resign his posts one by one, and retired peacefully to private life. The events helped to set a precedent that losing a high-level leadership struggle would not result in physical harm. Hua was replaced by Zhao Ziyang as Premier of the State Council in September 1980, and by Hu Yaobang as party General Secretary of the party in September 1982. Until the mid-1990s, Deng Xiaoping was China's "de facto" leader, retaining only the official title of Chairman of the Central Military Commission, but not the chief offices of the State, government, or the Party.

With changes to the Chinese Constitution in 1982, the president was conceived of as a "figurehead" head of state, with actual power resting in the hands of the Premier of the People's Republic of China and the General Secretary of the Party, who were meant to be two separate people. In the original plan, the Party would develop policy, and the state would execute it. Deng's intentions was to have power divided, thus preventing a cult of personality from forming as it did in the case of Mao. The new emphasis on procedure, however, seemed largely undermined by Deng himself, who took on none of the official titles.

After 1979, the Chinese leadership moved toward more pragmatic policies in almost all fields. The party encouraged artists, writers and journalists to adopt more critical approaches, although open attacks on party authority were not permitted. In late 1980, Mao's Cultural Revolution was officially proclaimed a "mistake". Unlike Nikita Khruschev's denounciation of Stalin, however, Deng did not denounce Mao after he came to power as with Mao rested a large part of the political legitimacy the Communist Party relied upon. Rather, he continued to use Mao's symbol to guide certain policy principles. He called Mao "70% right and 30% wrong".

Reform and opening up

A new page in diplomacy

Relations with the West improved markedly during Deng's term, although the People's Republic of China had gained a certain degree of recognition from the West in the late Mao era. In 1968, the government of Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau initiated negotiations with the People's Republic of China that led to the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Canada on October 13, 1970. Canada and China established resident diplomatic missions in 1971, and it led to a series of diplomatic successes in the west. The People's Republic of China joined the United Nations in 1971, replacing the international legitimacy previous held by the "Kuomintang" Government of the Republic of China on the island of Taiwan. In February 1972, US President Richard Nixon made an unprecedented eight-day visit to the People's Republic of China and met with Mao Zedong. On February 22, 1973, the United States and the PRC agreed to establish liaison offices. Although both sides intended to establish diplomatic relations quickly, this move was delayed until 1979 due to the Watergate scandal.

Deng traveled abroad and had a series of amicable meetings with western leaders, traveling to the United States in 1979 to meet President Jimmy Carter at the White House. Carter finally recognized the People's Republic, which had replaced the Taiwan-based Republic of China as the sole Chinese government recognized by the UN Security Council in 1971. One of Deng's achievements was the agreement signed by the United Kingdom and the PRC on December 19, 1984 under which Hong Kong was to be transferred to the PRC in 1997. With the 99-year lease on the New Territories coming to an end, Deng agreed that the PRC would not interfere with Hong Kong's capitalist system and would allow the locals a high degree of autonomy for at least 50 years. This "one country, two systems" approach has been touted by the PRC government as a potential framework within which Taiwan could be reunited with the mainland. Deng, however, did not improve relations with the Soviet Union. He continued to adhere to the Maoist line of the Sino-Soviet Split era, which stated that the Soviet Union was a superpower equally as "hegemonist" as the United States, yet even more threatening to the PRC because of its closer proximity. Deng brought China conflict with Vietnam in 1979, following the Vietnam War, under this subject of border disputes, and fought in the Sino-Vietnamese War.

"Red China" was a frequent appellation for the PRC between the Communist ascendancy and the mid-late 1970s with the rapprochement between China and the West (generally within the capitalist/Western bloc). The term was first used, before the establishment of the PRC, in the late 1940s during the Chinese Civil War, to describe the Communist side [ [http://www.newspaperarchive.com/newspapers1/na0015/6789863/43152213.html] [http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,856389,00.html?promoid=googlep] ] , and saw great prevalence in the 1950s, 1960s, and early 1970s. [ [http://famguardian.org/Subjects/Communism/Communism/45GoalsOf%20Communism.htm] [http://news.google.com/archivesearch?q=%22Red+china%22&btnG=Search+Archives&hl=en&um=1&as_ldate=1962&as_hdate=1962] [http://news.google.com/archivesearch?q=%22Red+china%22&btnG=Search+Archives&hl=en&um=1&as_ldate=1972&as_hdate=1972] ] Starting around 1972-1973, following Richard Nixon's visit to China and the beginning of rapprochment and mounting likelihood of diplomatic normalization, the term began to drop in usage significantly. [ [http://news.google.com/archivesearch?q=%22Red+china%22&btnG=Search+Archives&hl=en&um=1&as_ldate=1980&as_hdate=1976] [http://news.google.com/archivesearch?q=%22Red+china%22&btnG=Search+Archives&hl=en&um=1&as_ldate=1980&as_hdate=1980] ] By the early 1980s, it was increasingly rare in mainstream journalism and publications in the Western countries. Since the early 1980s, however, the term remains in use in some circles, particularly right-wing or conservative political discourse and publications; nonetheless, some, including some conservatives, feel the term is not applicable to China in the contemporary period as the country is no longer a "monolithic political entity whose subjects march in lockstep with an all-powerful Communist regime." [ [http://www.antiwar.com/justin/justinchina1.html China ] ] As of the early 2000s, "Red China" still retains some use among more pro-right-wing writers, especially when framing China as an economic or political competitor or opponent (e.g. the "China threat" theory). [ [http://www.newsmax.com/articles/?a=2000/3/9/54741] [http://www.ardemgaz.com/ShowStoryTemplate.asp?Path=ArDemocrat/2006/04/21&ID=Ar02001&Section=Editorial] ] "Red China" is sometimes used in more mainstream/less overtly partisan journalism for metaphoric or comparative use (e.g. "Red China or Green", "New York Times" article title [ [http://select.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F60F1EF93F540C738FDDAF0894DE404482 Red China Or Green? - New York Times ] ] ).

ino-Vietnamese War of 1979

China's relations with the Socialist Republic of Vietnam began to deteriorate seriously in the mid-1970s. After Vietnam joined the Soviet-dominated Council for Mutual Economic Cooperation (Comecon) and signed the Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation with the Soviet Union in 1978, China branded Vietnam the "Cuba of the East" and called the treaty a military alliance. Incidents along the Sino-Vietnamese border increased in frequency and violence. In December 1978 Vietnam invaded Cambodia, quickly ousted the pro-Mao Pol Pot regime, and overran the country.

China's twenty-nine-day incursion into Vietnam in February 1979 was a response to what China considered to be a collection of provocative actions and policies on Hanoi's part. These included Vietnamese intimacy with the Soviet Union, mistreatment of ethnic Chinese living in Vietnam, hegemonistic "imperial dreams" in Southeast Asia, and spurning of Beijing's attempt to repatriate Chinese residents of Vietnam to China. In February 1979 China attacked along virtually the entire Sino-Vietnamese border in a brief, limited campaign that involved ground forces only. The Chinese attack came at dawn on the morning of 17 February 1979, and employed infantry, armor, and artillery. Air power was not employed then or at any time during the war. Within a day, the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) had advanced some eight kilometers into Vietnam along a broad front. It then slowed and nearly stalled because of heavy Vietnamese resistance and difficulties within the Chinese supply system. On February 21, the advance resumed against Cao Bang in the far north and against the all-important regional hub of Lang Son. Chinese troops entered Cao Bang on February 27, but the city was not secured completely until March 2. Lang Son fell two days later. On March 5, the Chinese, saying Vietnam had been sufficiently chastised, announced that the campaign was over. Beijing declared its "lesson" finished and the PLA withdrawal was completed on March 16.

Hanoi's post-incursion depiction of the border war was that Beijing had sustained a military setback if not an outright defeat. Most observers doubted that China would risk another war with Vietnam in the near future. Gerald Segal, in his 1985 book Defending China, concluded that China's 1979 war against Vietnam was a complete failure: "China failed to force a Vietnamese withdrawal from [Cambodia] , failed to end border clashes, failed to cast doubt on the strength of the Soviet power, failed to dispel the image of China as a paper tiger, and failed to draw the United States into an anti-Soviet coalition." Nevertheless, Bruce Elleman argued that "one of the primary diplomatic goals behind China's attack was to expose Soviet assurances of military support to Vietnam as a fraud. Seen in this light, Beijing's policy was actually a diplomatic success, since Moscow did not actively intervene, thus showing the practical limitations of the Soviet-Vietnamese military pact. ... China achieved a strategic victory by minimizing the future possibility of a two-front war against the USSR and Vietnam." After the war both China and Vietnam reorganized their border defenses. In 1986 China deployed twenty-five to twenty-eight divisions and Vietnam thirty-two divisions along their common border.

The 1979 attack confirmed Hanoi's perception of China as a threat. The PAVN high command henceforth had to assume, for planning purposes, that the Chinese might come again and might not halt in the foothills but might drive on to Hanoi. The border war strengthened Soviet-Vietnamese relations. The Soviet military role in Vietnam increased during the 1980s as the Soviets provided arms to Vietnam; moreover, Soviet ships enjoyed access to the harbors at Danang and Cam Ranh Bay, and Soviet reconnaissance aircraft operated out of Vietnamese airfields. The Vietnamese responded to the Chinese campaign by turning the districts along the China border into "iron fortresses" manned by well-equipped and well-trained paramilitary troops. In all, an estimated 600,000 troops were assigned to counter Chinese operations and to stand ready for another Chinese invasion. The precise dimensions of the frontier operations were difficult to determine, but its monetary cost to Vietnam was considerable. By 1987 China had stationed nine armies (approximately 400,000 troops) in the Sino-Vietnamese border region, including one along the coast. It had also increased its landing craft fleet and was periodically staging amphibious landing exercises off Hainan Island, across from Vietnam, thereby demonstrating that a future attack might come from the sea. Low-level conflict continued along the Sino-Vietnamese border as each side conducted artillery shelling and probed to gain high spots in the mountainous border terrain. Border incidents increased in intensity during the rainy season, when Beijing attempted to ease Vietnamese pressure against Cambodian resistance fighters.

Since the early 1980s, China pursued what some observers described as a semi-secret campaign against Vietnam that was more than a series of border incidents and less than a limited small-scale war. The Vietnamese called it a "multifaceted war of sabotage." Hanoi officials have described the assaults as comprising steady harassment by artillery fire, intrusions on land by infantry patrols, naval intrusions, and mine planting both at sea and in the riverways. Chinese clandestine activity (the "sabotage" aspect) for the most part was directed against the ethnic minorities of the border region. According to the Hanoi press, teams of Chinese agents systematically sabotaged mountain agricultural production centers as well as lowland port, transportation, and communication facilities. Psychological warfare operations were an integral part of the campaign, as was what the Vietnamese called "economic warfare"--encouragement of Vietnamese villagers along the border to engage in smuggling, currency speculation, and hoarding of goods in short supply.

Economic Reform and Opening up

The new, pragmatic leadership emphasized economic development and renounced mass political movements. At the pivotal December 1978 Third Plenum of the 11th CCP Congress, the leadership adopted economic reform policies known as the Four Modernizations. These tenets aimed at expanding rural income and incentives, encouraging experiments in enterprise autonomy, reducing central planning, and establishing direct foreign investment in Mainland China. The Plenum also decided to accelerate the pace of legal reform, culminating in the passage of several new legal codes by the National People's Congress in June 1979.

The goals of Deng's reforms were summed up by the Four Modernizations: the modernization of agriculture, industry, science and technology, as well as the military. The strategy for achieving these aims, all of which were designed to help China become a modern, industrial nation, was "socialism with Chinese characteristics". It opened a new era in Chinese history known as "Reforms and Opening up" to the Outside World (改革开放).

Deng argued that Mainland China was in the primary stage of socialism and that the duty of the party was to perfect "socialism with Chinese characteristics." This interpretation of Chinese Marxism reduced the role of ideology in economic decision-making and emphasized policies that had been proven to be empirically effective, stressing the need to "seek truth from facts". Disparaging Mao's idealistic, communitarian values but not necessarily the values of Marx and Lenin, Deng emphasized that socialism did not mean shared poverty. Unlike Hua Guofeng, Deng believed that no policy should be rejected out of hand simply because it had not been associated with Mao. Unlike more conservative leaders such as Chen Yun, Deng did not object to policies on the grounds that they were similar to those found in capitalist nations.

Although Deng provided the theoretical background and the political support to allow economic reform to occur, few of the economic reforms that Deng introduced were originated by Deng himself. Local leaders, often in violation of central government directives introduced many reforms. If successful and promising, these reforms would be adopted by larger and larger areas, and ultimately introduced nationally. Many other reforms were influenced by the experiences of the East Asian Tigers.

This is in sharp contrast to the economic restructuring, or "perestroika", undertaken by Mikhail Gorbachev, in which Gorbachev himself originated most of the major reforms. Many economists have argued that the bottom-up approach of Deng's reforms, in contrast to the top-down approach of Perestroika, was a key factor in his success.

Contrary to popular misconceptions, Deng's reforms included introduction of planned, centralized management of the macro-economy by technically proficient bureaucrats, abandoning Mao's mass campaign style of economic construction. However, unlike the Soviet model or China under Mao, this management was indirect, through market mechanisms, and much of it was modeled after economic planning and control mechanisms in Western nations.

This trend did not impede the general move toward the market at the microeconomic level. Deng sustained Mao's legacy to the extent that he stressed the primacy of agricultural output and encouraged a significant decentralization of decision-making in the rural economy teams and individual peasant households. At the local level, material incentives rather than political appeals were to be used to motivate the labor force, including allowing peasants to earn extra income by selling the produce of their private plots on the free market. In the main move toward market allocation, local municipalities and provinces were allowed to invest in industries that they considered most profitable, which encouraged investment in light manufacturing. Thus, Deng's reforms shifted China's development strategy to emphasize light industry and export-led growth.

Light industrial output was vital for a developing country that was working with relatively little capital. With its short gestation period, low capital requirements, and high foreign exchange export earnings, the revenues that the light-manufacturing sector generated could be reinvested in more technologically advanced production and further capital expenditures and investments. However, these investments were not government-mandated, in sharp contrast to the similar but much less successful reforms in Yugoslavia and Hungary. The capital invested in heavy industry largely came from the banking system, and most of that capital came from consumer deposits. One of the first items of the Deng reforms was to prevent reallocation of profits except through taxation or through the banking system; hence, the reallocation in more "advanced" industries was somewhat indirect. In short, Deng's reforms sparked an industrial revolution in China.

These reforms were a reversal of the Mao policy of economic self-reliance. The PRC decided to accelerate the modernization process by stepping up the volume of foreign trade, especially the purchase of machinery from Japan and the West. By participating in such export-led growth, the PRC was able to step up the Four Modernizations by taking advantage of foreign funds, markets, advanced technologies, and management experience. Deng also attracted foreign companies to a series of Special Economic Zones, where capitalist business practices were encouraged.

Another important focus of the reforms was the need to improve labor productivity. New material incentives and bonus systems were introduced. Rural markets selling peasants' homegrown products and the surplus products of communes were revived. Not only did rural markets increase agricultural output, they stimulated industrial development as well. With peasants able to sell surplus agricultural yields on the open market, domestic consumption stimulated industrialization, and also created political support for more difficult economic reforms.

Deng's market socialism, especially in its early stages, was in some ways parallel to Lenin's New Economic Policy and Bukharin's economic policies, in that they all foresaw a role for private entrepreneurs and markets based on trade and pricing rather than government mandates of production. An interesting anecdotal episode on this note is the first meeting between Deng and Armand Hammer. Deng pressed the industrialist and former investor in Lenin's Soviet Union for as much information on the NEP as possible.

Tiananmen Square protests

At the same time, political dissent as well as social problems, including inflation, political corruption, massive urban migration, and prostitution emerged. The 1980s saw a surge in intellectual material as the country emerged out of the ignorance of the Cultural Revolution; the time period between 1982–89 saw freedom of the press like never before, and has since then never been seen again. Two prominent schools of thought emerged. One school composed of students and intellectuals who urged greater economic and political reforms; the other, composed of revolutionary party elders, became increasingly skeptical on the pace and the ultimate goals of the reform program, as it deviated from the intended direction of the Communist Party.

In December 1986, student demonstrators, taking advantage of the loosening political atmosphere, staged protests against the slow pace of reform, confirming party elders' fears that the current reform program was leading to a kind of social instability, the same kind that killed hundreds of millions between the years of the Opium War and the founding of the PRC. Inspired by Fang Lizhi, a physicist from Heifei University who gave speeches criticizing Deng's go slow policies, students took to protest. The students were also disenchanted with the amount of control the government exerted, citing compulsory calisthenics and not being allowed to dance at rock concerts. Students called for campus elections, the chance to study abroad, and greater availability of western pop culture. Hu Yaobang, a protégé of Deng and a leading advocate of reform, was blamed for the protests and forced to resign as the CCP General Secretary in January 1987. In the "Anti Bourgeois Liberalization Campaign", Hu would be further denounced. Premier Zhao Ziyang was made General Secretary and Li Peng, a staunch conservative who was unpopular with the masses, formerly Vice Premier and Minister of Electric Power and Water Conservancy, was made Premier.

After Zhao became the party General Secretary, the economic and political reforms he had championed came under increasing attack from his colleagues. His proposal in May 1988 to accelerate price reform led to widespread popular complaints about rampant inflation and gave opponents of rapid reform the opening to call for greater centralization of economic controls and stricter prohibitions against Western influence. This precipitated a political debate, which grew more heated through the winter of 1988–1989.

The death of Hu Yaobang on April 15, 1989, coupled with growing economic hardship caused by high inflation and other social factors, provided the backdrop for a large-scale protest movement by students, intellectuals, and other parts of a disaffected urban population. University students and other citizens in Beijing camped out at Tiananmen Square to mourn Hu's death and to protest against those who would slow reform. Their protests, which grew despite government efforts to contain them, although not strictly anti-Government in nature, called for an end to official corruption and for the defense of freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution of the People's Republic of China. Protests also spread through many other cities, including Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Chengdu.

On April 26, the central leadership, under Deng Xiaoping, issued the "4-26 Editorial" on "People's Daily", which was subsequently broadcast on national media, denouncing all recent actions of protest a form of "turmoil" (动乱). The editorial was the first in a series of events in an effort to contain the escalating protests through forceful measures. Thereafter, Deng's actions caused the presidency to have much greater power than originally intended. Various leaders sympathetic to the students, most notably Wan Li, then the NPC Chairman with a degree of constitutional powers to prevent full military action, were placed under house arrest after landing in Beijing. Wan's seclusion ensured that President Yang Shangkun was able, in cooperation with Deng, then-head of the Central Military Commission, to use the office of the President to declare martial law in Beijing and order the military crackdown of the protests. This was in direct opposition to the wishes of the Party General Secretary Zhao Ziyang and other members of the Politburo Standing Committee.

Martial law was declared on May 20, 1989. Late on June 3 and early on the morning of June 4, a date now synonymous with the movement in the Chinese language, military units were called from neighboring provinces and brought into Beijing. Armed force was used to clear demonstrators from the streets. Official PRC estimates place the number of deaths at between two to three hundred, whilst groups such as the Red Cross believe the number to be in the two to three thousand range.

After the protests, the Chinese government faced hordes of criticism from foreign governments for the suppression of the protests, the government reined in remaining sources of dissent that were a threat to order and stability, detained large numbers of protesters, and required political re-education not only for students but also for insubordinate party cadre and government officials. Zhao Ziyang would be placed under house arrest until his death some 16 years later, and due to the subject still being largely taboo in China, Zhao has not yet been politically rehabilitated.


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