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Passive Resistance of 1989

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Passive Resistance of 1989

"Passive" Resistance of 1989

At around 3:00am on June 4, 1989 tanks rolled forcefully through barricades down Changan Avenue, while troops of the People's Liberation Army rushed out of governmental buildings in the square. This was an army of the People and they did not show any sign of violence until shortly after, troops open fire into the crowds in and around Tiananmen Square. Many were killed and thousands were wounded; the actual casualties of the early morning are unknown. The student demonstrators were said to be peaceful and were, until the government declared Martial Law and troops occupied areas around the square. The army was said to have opened fire on a completely peaceful and non-threatening crowd, however when the first armored personnel carrier rolled into Tiananmen Square, one of the occupants was pulled from the vehicle, swarmed by demonstrators and beat to death in front of an entire regiment of the PLA. The crowd proceeded to set fire to vehicles and then attacked with rocks, Molotov cocktails and any other lethal objects they had, yet this crowd was still said to be peaceful. "One youth posed proudly for television cameras with two such firebombs strapped to his waist" (Nixon 176). Could these actions have lead to PLA to open fire into the hostile crowd after they watched one of their comrades be beaten to death in front of them? Was much of the death and destruction a result of the non-compliance of a hostile crowd? Many innocent people died in the attack on Tiananmen Square, including women, children, foreign correspondents, and any one with a camera. However, these casualties could have been much less if the crowd really had been "peaceful." The fault of the "Massacre" lies just as much in the hands of the aggressive crowd as it does in that of the indiscriminate PLA and over controlling Communist Party.

In order to more fully understand the circumstances surrounding the Massacre, one must first examine the history of the events leading up to the protests of 1989. Since 1978, Deng Xiaoping, had led a series of economic and political reforms that led to the slow installation of a "controlled" market economy, and some political liberalization that somewhat loosened the system set up by Mao Zedong almost thirty years earlier. In early 1989, these economic and political reforms had led to two groups of people which were not content with the actions of the current government leaders. The first group included students and intellectuals, who believed that the reforms had not been sufficient. They disagreed with the social and political controls that the Communist Party of China still had. The second group consisted of urban industrial workers, who believed that the reforms had gone too far. The loosening economic controls began to cause inflation and unemployment which threatened their quality of life (Chapnick 25-26).

By 1989, the main supporters of the government almost solely consisted of rural peasants, who had seen their incomes increase largely during the 1980's directly as a result of the Deng Xiaoping reforms. However, this support did not play much of a role in the resulting protests because rural peasants were distributed across the countryside, and in contrast to urban citizens who were organized by schools and workers unions, peasant supporters of the government were very unorganized and difficult to assemble. The prompt for the protest that was to follow began because of the death, due to illness, of the former General Secretary of the Communist Party of China, Hu Yaobang, who was relieved of his positions in 1987. He had been seen as a liberal, extremely popular with the common people, and his ejection from the government in response to student protests in 1987, was widely seen as unfair. In addition, his death allowed the citizens to congregate in the square and express their dislike for Hu's successors without fear of governmental oppression, as the Communist Party could not ban people from mourning a former General Secretary. The protests of 1989 were much larger than those of 1987 for the fact that they had also gained the support from many industrial workers who were upset from inflation and unemployment bringing the total number of protestors to over one million people at its peak. Combining this large of an amount of angry citizens and a trigger happy People's liberation Army was an equation for disaster (Nixon 93-95).

The governments approach to the protests was at first very soft as a result of the students peaceful demonstrations. Their protests consisted of regular marches in the square singing the song "The International," which was a song about worker unity. These passive protests were not what caused violent retaliation from the military but what followed left the government with almost no choice but to implement

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