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A Revolution That Was Not: The Tiananmen Movement Revisited

The Weatherhead East Asian Institute at Columbia University will host Yang Su for a discussion on the Tiananmen Movement.

April 18, 2017 4:00pm to 5:30pm
  • Yang Su, Associate Professor of Sociology, University of California Irvine
  • Moderated by Yao Lu, Associate Professor of Sociology, Columbia University

Since the momentous event, the scholars and the public have both firmly believed the political crisis in Beijing in 1989 to be a revolutionary situation. That is, a revolution was on the way to a regime-changing outcome, had it not been for the military crackdown. Yet this understanding does not accord with historical evidence. This presentation provides five sets of evidence. 1) There was no regime crisis, fiscal or otherwise; 2) There was no real international pressure; 3) Protest leaders advocated a reformist agenda only, and promoted no violence; 4) There was no elite insider with a revolutionary ambition; 5) The crackdown came at the protest’s declining days. To examine the real nature of the Tiananmen Square Movement has at least two theoretical implications. It calls for a reexamination of the justification for the bloody crackdown; it sheds lights on the puzzle of the Chinese exception in the 1989 global wave of revolutions.