You are here

The People's Republic of Amnesia: Tiananmen Revisited

The USC U.S.-China Institute presents a book talk by Louisa Lim, an award-winning journalist who has reported from China for a decade. The People's Republic of Amnesia discusses how the events of June 4th changed China, and how China changed the events of June 4th by rewriting its own history.

When:
December 3, 2015 4:00pm to 5:30pm
Print

Click here to watch a video of the presentation.

About the book:

On June 4, 1989, People's Liberation Army soldiers opened fire on unarmed civilians in Beijing, killing untold hundreds of people. A quarter-century later, this defining event remains buried in Chinas modern history, successfully expunged from collective memory. In The People's Republic of Amnesia, Louisa Lim charts how the events of June 4th changed China, and how China changed the events of June 4th by rewriting its own history. Lim reveals new details about those fateful days, including how one of the country's most senior politicians lost a family member to an army bullet, as well as the inside story of the young soldiers sent to clear Tiananmen Square. She also introduces us to individuals whose lives were transformed by the events of Tiananmen Square, such as a founder of the Tiananmen Mothers, whose son was shot by martial law troops; and one of the most important government officials in the country, who post-Tiananmen became one of its most prominent dissidents. And she examines how June 4th shaped China's national identity, fostering a generation of young nationalists, who know little and could not care less about 1989. For the first time, Lim uncovers the details of a brutal crackdown in a second Chinese city that until now has been a near-perfect case study in the state's ability to rewrite history, excising the most painful episodes. By tracking down eyewitnesses, discovering US diplomatic cables, and combing through official Chinese records, Lim offers the first account of a story that has remained untold for a quarter of a century. 

The book will be available for purchase and signing at the event. 

About the author: 

Louisa Lim is an award-winning journalist who spent a decade reporting from China for BBC and NPR.   Her book The People's Republic of Amnesia was named an Economist best book of the year, and shortlisted for the Orwell Prize for political writing and the Helen Bernstein Book Award for Excellence in Journalism.   It was described as "stunning and important" by the Los Angeles Review of Books, and as "one of the best analyses of the impact of Tiananmen throughout China in the years since 1989" by the New York Times.  She is currently the Howard V.Marsh Visiting Professor of Journalism at the University of Michigan.

Selected reviews:

"One of the best analyses of the impact of Tiananmen throughout China in the years since 1989." --The New York Times Book Review
 
"Lim presents a sequence of sensitive, skillfully drawn portraits of individuals whose lives were changed by 1989...These portraits show us how the party tightly constrains those who defy it, but they also depict determined resistance and even suggest an optimism among those most directly affected by the events of 1989...[This book] enhances our sense of the human costs of suppressing the past." --Wall Street Journal
 
"[Lim] offers a series of meticulously (and often daringly) reported portraits of participants, the events of that night and what has followed." --The Economist
 
"Lim tells her stories briskly and clearly. She moves nimbly between the individuals' narratives and broader reflections, interspersing both with short, poignant vignettes." --New York Review of Books
 
"Lim's outstanding book skilfully interweaves a wide range of interviews in China with an account of the protests in Beijing and ends with the fullest report to date of the crackdown in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province." --Financial Times
 
"STUNNING and important...The People's Republic of Amnesia provides a powerful antidote to historical deception and a voice to those isolated by the truth." --Los Angeles Review of Books "Louisa Lim peers deep into the conflicted soul of today's China. Twenty-five years after the bloody suppression of pro-democracy demonstrations in Beijing, the government continues to deploy its technologies of forgetting -- censorship of the media, falsification of history, and the amnesiac drug of shallow nationalism -- to silence those who dare to remember and deter those who want to inquire. But the truth itself does not change; it only finds new ways to come out. Lim gives eloquent voice to the silenced witnesses, and uncovers the hidden nightmares that trouble China's surface calm." --Andrew J. Nathan, coeditor, The Tiananmen Papers
 
"For a country that has long so valued its history and so often turned to it as a guide for the future, the Chinese Communist Party's efforts to erase actual history and replace it with distorted narratives warped by nationalism, has created a dangerous vacuum at the center of modern-day China. With her carefully researched and beautifully reported The People's Republic of Amnesia: Tiananmen Revisited, Louisa Lim helps not only restore several important missing pieces of Chinese posterity that were part of the demonstrations in 1989, but also reminds us that a country which loses the ability to remember its own past honestly risks becoming rootless and misguided." --Orville Schell, Arthur Ross Director, Center on US-China Relations, Asia Society
 
 
Avoid traffic and get to USC by taking the Metro's Expo Line
Get off at the Jefferson/USC stop for a short walk to campus. Click here for more information.
 
Driving Directions to Campus
For maps and directions to campus, visit the University Park Campus Map & Driving Directions page.  
 
Suggested Parking 
Parking Structure X (PSX) - $12/day
Enter at the Figueroa Street Entrance at 35th Street (Entrance 3)  

 

Cost: 
Free, please register below.
Phone Number: 
213-821-4382

Events

May 30, 2019 - 7:00pm
Los Angeles, California

Free screening followed by a Q&A with Director/SCA Alumna Nahnatchka Khan. 

May 31, 2019 - 10:00am
Los Angeles, California

This exhibit features photos, videos, publications, etc. from the East Asian Library to commemorate the centennial anniversary of the March First Movement in Korea and May Fourth Movement in China. (March 4 - May 31, 2019)