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The Perils of Protest

The Perils of Protest: State Repression and Student Activism in China and Taiwan

Teresa Wright
Copyright Date: 2001
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    The Perils of Protest
    Book Description:

    China's student movement of 1989 ushered in an era of harsh political repression, crushing the hopes of those who desired a more democratic future. Communist Party elites sealed the fate of the movement, but did ill-considered choices by student leaders contribute to its tragic outcome? To answer this question, Teresa Wright centers on a critical source of information that has been largely overlooked by the dozens of works that have appeared in the past decade on the "Democracy Movement": the students themselves. Drawing on interviews and little-known first-hand accounts, Wright offers the most complete and representative compilation of thoughts and opinions of the leaders of this student action. She compares this closely studied movement with one that has received less attention, Taiwan's Month of March Movement of 1990, introducing for the first time in English a narrative of Taiwan's largest student demonstration to date. Despite their different outcomes (the Taiwan action ended peacefully and resulted in the government addressing student demands), both movements similarly maintained a strict separation between student and non-student participants and were unstable and conflict-ridden. This comparison allows for a thorough assessment of the origins and impact of student behavior in 1989 and provides intriguing new insights into the growing literature on political protest in non-democratic regimes.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-6492-7
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Chapter 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-7)

    For three long months in the spring of 1989, the unfolding Democracy Movement in mainland China entranced the world. When former Party General Secretary Hu Yaobang died on April 15, students and citizens poured into the streets in mourning, soon transformed into more organized calls for an end to party corruption and increased political and economic reforms.¹ By April 24, the students had established an all-Beijing student federation—the first citywide student organization free of any Party sponsorship or control in the communist era. Almost daily, ever-growing protests, marches, and rallies took place in Beijing. On April 27, over a...

  5. Chapter 2 The Political Environment of Students in China and Taiwan
    (pp. 8-20)

    The outcomes of China’s Democracy Movement of 1989 and Taiwan’s Month of March movement of 1990 could hardly have been more different. In China, the student protests were brutally crushed, initiating a period of harsh repression toward any and all attempts at autonomous or dissident organization. Across the straits, in contrast, student demonstrators met with a conciliatory official response, resulting in the acknowledgment and implementation of their demands and the subsequent democratization of the political system. Yet student protestors in both movements exhibited strikingly similar behaviors.

    How can we explain this likeness in behavior yet difference in result? A key...

  6. Chapter 3 Student Mobilization and Organization in China, April 15–May 10, 1989
    (pp. 21-56)

    Studies of the Democracy Movement of 1989 in China generally agree on the basic behavior of the student protestors: they insisted on a separation of students and nonstudents; their demands and actions were loyal and reformist in nature; and their organizations were marked by continual divisions and changes. To explain the students’ exclusion of nonstudents from their protest ranks, a number of analyses point to a feeling of superiority in students, who were indeed the elites of Chinese society. Confident in their own intelligence and morality, they lacked faith in the competence and motivations of other social groups.¹ Some scholars...

  7. Chapter 4 Student Mobilization and Organization in China, May 11–June 4, 1989
    (pp. 57-94)

    Initiated on May 14, the hunger strike pushed the movement to a new level of intensity and conflict. First, the locus of the movement shifted to Tiananmen Square. Previously, the students had engaged only in marches to the Square, holding brief sit-ins or rallies. Now the movement became fixed (dingdiande), with virtually all student organizations and activities focused on Tiananmen. Second, as students deprived their bodies of nutrition, the tenor of the movement rose to fever pitch. Students now actually were inflicting physical harm upon themselves in order to protest government policies, arousing strong emotions among both participants and observers....

  8. Chapter 5 Student Mobilization and Organization in Taiwan, March 1990
    (pp. 95-128)

    During the Month of March movement in Taiwan, students behaved in much the same way as they had in mainland China. In both cases, students relied on peaceful methods of protest, occupied the central square in the capital, and petitioned the government for political reform. More important, students in both movements displayed a great concern with maintaining order. As an outgrowth of this, leaders strictly enforced a separation of student and nonstudent protesters, using a security line (jiuchaxian) to delineate different groups. In addition, student leadership and organization in both movements underwent numerous transformations and divisions. In both cases, a...

  9. Chapter 6 Conclusion
    (pp. 129-138)

    The findings of the preceding chapters shed new light on the process and outcome of the student movement of 1989 in Beijing. Overall, although cultural and historical traditions as well as idiosyncratic personality traits certainly shaped student behavior, it was the state that exerted the most profound influence on their strategies and actions. Specifically, the fear and distrust engendered by sustained single-party monopolization of state institutions, party–state domination of the media, party penetration of social organizations, and a high propensity for harsh state repression combined to create great organizational difficulties and impelled students to choose noninclusive mobilization strategies. Looking...

  10. Appendix A Autonomous Student Organizations in Beijing, Spring 1989
    (pp. 141-141)
  11. Appendix B “Letter to All University Students” (Text of Class Boycott Proposal)
    (pp. 142-143)
  12. Appendix C Autonomous Student Organizations in Taipei, Spring 1990
    (pp. 144-144)
  13. Notes
    (pp. 145-174)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 175-184)
  15. Index
    (pp. 185-192)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 193-193)