You are here

Talking Points, June 4 - 18, 2008

The USC U.S.-China Institute's weekly e-newsletter
June 4, 2008

USC U.S.-China Institute

Talking Points
June 4 - June 18, 2008

Nineteen years ago, People’s Liberation Army units took control of central Beijing, violently ending seven weeks of citizen-led demonstrations in and around Tiananmen Square. Those demonstrations and others in cities across China challenged the government with calls for democracy, for the eradication of corruption, and for action to address economic problems such as rising unemployment and inflation. On June 5, after hundreds and perhaps more had already been killed, cameras caught one of the most indelible images of the 20th century. A lone man went into Chang’an Avenue and blocked a line of tanks headed towards the Square. That act of defiance, of a single individual standing against a state, inspired many.

The power and durability of this image in the West upsets China’s leaders and also some people outside China. Some of the latter condemn its inclusion in world history texts, saying that it focuses attention on a tragic moment in China’s recent history and keeps students from appreciating the remarkable economic and social progress that has been made. Many anticipated that this summer’s Olympic Games would displace that image with ones of a prosperous and happy citizenry living in a bustling city filled with private autos and hypermodern buildings. Those are the dominant images offered by Chinese media. Publication or broadcast of the “tank man” and other such images is prohibited within China.
More than 300 million Chinese (a number equal to the total population of the U.S.) have been born since those 1989 protests. The China they know is different in important ways from that of the 1980s. Villagers choose their own officials. Hundreds of millions of people have been lifted from poverty. The building boom provides people with nicer homes and cities with stunning skylines. Rising household incomes and technological advances give access to a wide variety of information and permits freer expression. Not long ago people in Xiamen used cell phones to mobilize against plans to erect a chemical plant. Citizens can seek redress against their employers and others through the courts. Many officials have been punished for corruption, including Beijing and Shanghai’s top leaders. And the government increasingly acknowledged localized popular discontent, noting more than 87,000 large scale protests in 2005.
Last month’s devastating earthquake tested China’s people and government. People responded in striking ways across the nation, contributing blood, money, and labor. The central government sent in troops, police, and medical personnel. Recently, however, there’s been less tolerance of both demonstrations and reporting of them. Reporters have been ejected from meetings where grieving parents call for the state to punish officials who supposedly allowed the construction of substandard school building. Some gatherings have been broken up by police. The regime has also continued its hard line regarding Tibet, this week disbarring two lawyers who volunteered to defend arrested Tibetans.
Since 1989 everyday life has dramatically and positively changed for most Chinese. But many are still desperately poor, many more find China’s escalating inflation a hardship, and shady deals deprive some of their livelihoods. A new television series, The People’s Republic of Capitalism, explores these and other issues. The series was one year in the making and is centered in Chongqing, in southwestern China. Ted Koppel is the lead reporter on the series and describes it as “the most extensive project I’ve ever undertaken. Discovery Channel will broadcast the series starting July 9, but you are invited to a one-hour preview at USC on June 17. Producers from the series will be on hand to field questions. Details on this event and others are below and in the calendar section of our website.
USCI recently awarded grants for student and faculty research into US-China relations and trends in contemporary China. The Institute is funding the summer fieldwork of nine doctoral students and will support six faculty projects in the coming year. These researchers are examining topics, including trade policies and practices, urban governance, religion, intellectual property protections, film, and aging. Visit our website for additional information on this work and on our teacher training program. We’re taking a group of California teachers to China and Japan this summer and will also host a residential seminar for secondary instructors.
Thank you for sharing Talking Points with others and for your comments. Please send them to

Best wishes,
The USC U.S.-China Institute

USC Events

06/17/2008: The People’s Republic of Capitalism

USC Lucas 108, Los Angeles, CA 90089
Cost: Free
Time: 7:00PM - 9:00PM
The US-China Institute will screen a portion from the series and producers will answer questions from the audience.

07/28/2008 - 08/07/2008: 2008 Summer Residential Seminar at USC
USC, Los Angeles, CA 90089
Currently accepting applications
For more information please contact Miranda Ko at
An intensive nine-day equivalent of our "East Asia and New Media in My Classroom" professional development seminar for K-12 teachers employed outside of the greater Los Angeles area.

California Events

06/05/2008: Yellow Dust Blows East: Contemporary South Korean Images of China

UCLA 11377 Bunche Hall , Los Angeles, CA
Cost: Free
Time: 3:00 PM - 4:30 PM
Dr. Stephen Epstein will analyze images of China in contemporary South Korea, drawing on television news, cyberspace commentary, advertisements, and books aimed at the popular market.

North America Events: 

06/09/2008: Chinese Imperialism on the Korean Peninsula: A Historical Window on Sovereignty and Power Relationships
The Wilson Center, One Woodrow Wilson Plaza
1300 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C. 20004-3027
Time: 3:30 - 5:30 pm
The Asia Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars presents a talk on sovereignty and territory between the two states.


03/06/2008 - 07/27/2008: Chinaman's Chance: Views of the Chinese American Experience

Pacific Asia Museum
46 North Los Robles Avenue, Pasadena , CA 91101
Cost: $7 for adults, $5 for students/seniors
While the experience of being of Chinese heritage and living in America is unique to each individual, this exhibition will investigate the similarities and dissimilarities of these experiences. 

01/29/2008 - 09/07/2008: The Shape of Things: Chinese and Japanese Art from the Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection

Asia Society and Museum
725 Park Avenue , New York, New York
Cost: Free
Phone: 212-517-ASIA
This exhibition of ceramics, metalworks, sculpture, and painting demonstrates that a depth of information can be revealed through the careful observation and study of the form of an object.

05/18/2008 - 10/12/2008: Terra Cotta Warriors: Guardians of the First Emperor

Bowers Museum
Address: 2002 N. Main Street, Santa Ana, CA 92706
Phone: 714-567-3600
This summer exhibit at Bowers Museum showcases the famous terra cotta warriors buried with the First Emperor of China.


Please invite others to subscribe to USCI’s free email newsletter for regular updates on events and programs. We will not share names or email addresses with any other entity. Sign Up.

We provide information about China-related events as a community service. If you would like your event considered for inclusion in the USCI calendar, please click here to submit event details.


USC U.S. – China Institute
3535 S. Figueroa St.
FIG 202
Los Angeles, CA 90089-1262
Tel: 213-821-4382
Fax: 213-821-2382
You have received this e-mail because you have subscribed to receive updates from USCI. If you feel this message has reached you in error or you no longer wish to receive our updates, please click, unsubscribe, and enter "Remove" in the subject line.