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The Tiananmen Papers Paperback – June 4, 2002


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 580 pages
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs (June 4, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1586481223
  • ISBN-13: 978-1586481223
  • Product Dimensions: 1.3 x 5.9 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #602,046 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Published to predictable international controversy, this sensational trove of documents, chronicling events leading up to, and following, the violent quashing of student protests in Tiananmen Square in June 1989, vividly details for the first time what previously had only been surmised. Zhang Liang, the pseudonym for the high-ranking Chinese official who leaked the documents, has revived the memory less to tell the truth than in a bid to advance political reform in China, which stalled as a result of Tiananmen Square. In that sense, the book is as much about hidden struggles now as it is about those in 1989. The Chinese government, unsurprisingly, has condemned it as "fabrication," and while a post-Hitler Diaries world is cautious, with experts admitting they cannot guarantee authenticity "with absolute authority," the feeling is that the records are largely credible.

What they reveal is the paranoia that gripped the Chinese rulers when the death of Hu Yaobang sparked public demonstrations that showed no signs of abating. The biggest villain appears to be former Premier Li Peng, the so-called "Butcher of Beijing," who conspires to bring about an aggressive end to the "turmoil." Yet it's Deng Xiaoping, who, although officially long retired, still wields the most power, as he and his fellow Elders intervene to enforce martial law. The moderate Zhao Ziyang favors negotiation and dialogue, but as a consequence is crushed and replaced by Jiang Zemin, the present leader, plucked from obscurity and appointed in defiance of procedure. The gripping scenario that unfolds, in compulsive detail, is akin to parents bickering over the best way to control unruly children, with carrot or stick.

Preceding a much longer Chinese edition, the American editors, Andrew J. Nathan and Perry Link, have performed their duties with acuity and flair, providing a lucid commentary to link the whistle-blowing government papers, minutes of meetings, speeches, eyewitness accounts, poster text, and foreign observations. The Tiananmen Papers affords a wide audience the opportunity to watch the drama unfold, blow by blow. It proves as brilliantly enthralling and explosive as a fictional thriller, allowing a rare snapshot of Chinese Communist Party factionalism in action. --David Vincent, Amazon.co.uk --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Nathan, director of Columbia's East Asian Institute, terms this collection, "the richest record I have ever seen of political life in China at the top." Zhang Liang, a pseudonym, has provided Nathan and Link (a professor of Chinese at Princeton) with a voluminous number of transcripts of original materials, a portion of which appear in this volume (the entire collection of documents will be published in Chinese in the spring). They follow the deliberations and day-to-day conversations of China's most powerful leaders as they try to decide what to do about the increasingly vociferous and, to their minds, dangerous student-led demonstrations taking place in the spring of 1989, not only in Beijing but across the country. The major players here are the Politburo Standing Committee, a handful of officials at the top of the Party; a group of eight termed the "Elders," mostly retired officials of high standing to whom the Committee defers; and most importantly Deng Xiaoping, the now deceased "paramount leader" of China to whom all deferred. It is Deng who makes the final decision to use the military to clear Beijing's Tiananmen Square of demonstrators. We hear discussions in formal meetings, informal conversations, even telephone calls. We are also provided with documents from national and provincial security operations in China, as well as from the foreign press, which the leaders relied on to understand the situation with which they were dealing. The violent end of events was not a foregone conclusion--there were those who wished to placate the demonstrators, and we listen in on the factional struggle in which they lost out to more intolerant hard-liners. None seem to relish the prospect of violence, but that is what happens, and from this unique revelation of the use of power in China--one of the most significant works of scholarship on China in decades--we understand the road to the bloody d‚nouement of June 4, 1989. (Jan. 15)Forecast: As the importance of its contents deserves, this book, which is being released in a 30,000-copy first printing, is scheduled to receive major media attention: a front-page story in the New York Times and a segment on 60 Minutes (and first serialzation in Foreign Affairs). Still, despite the editors' efforts to make this material readable by adding a narrative context for the documents, it remains dry and dense, and is probably not for the general reader but for those with a deep interest in China or in human rights

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Zhao Ziyang was a good comrade.
"magnolian2000"
The main point of this review is to give the opinion that this book is not a suitable introduction to Tiananmen for the novice on this subject.
Gregory G.
You, from this book, will learn how human our leaders are, and how little we can complain, for us in the same situation would have done worse.
Silo 51

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

48 of 56 people found the following review helpful By Silo 51 on January 14, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Never has there been a book more vivid and truthful at presenting the Chinese government, its top decision making process, and the agitation, determinations, intelligence, manipulations, and openness of its leaders. This is more than just a recording on the Tiananmen Turmoil, but a chronicle from which useful reflections can always be drawn, especially now. If the Chinese Government, can be brave as to accept this book, repents its ill-doing of the past, and embrace more political openness and changes in the future, we, 1.3 billion brothers and sisters, will be the happiest people on earth.
The more I read, the more I understand, and the more I pity our leaders, for their situations were so critical, futures so uncertain, and with all those uncertainties, had to decide nevertheless the directions of a whole country. You, from this book, will learn how human our leaders are, and how little we can complain, for us in the same situation would have done worse.
This is a great book, and those stated above are just some of my own judgments made upon these very wonderful information whose authencity there should be no doubts, but as all unbiased information are, you will make your own judgments too, which in comparison with the opinions here, would only make the book more interesting. But only to be aware, this is a long book with many details that you might not be very interested at, go to the New York Times Web site, and the excerpts they have there might be better.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Matthew M. Yau on March 7, 2003
Format: Paperback
OK I'll start with a disclaimer: you should not bring this book with you on your next vacation in China because this contains highly sensitive, confidential, and provocative contents. Books like these are what the Chinese government labels as materials that "threaten national security." The Tienanmen Paper is a collection of documents depicting the inner-workings and Chinese top leaders' decision on pulling in PLA (People's Liberation Army) into Beijing on June 3, 1989. These documents, which were secretively smuggled out of China, give a clear perspective on the events that lead to the massacre shortly after midnight on June 4, 1989.
While the book does not add on to what we already know about the Tienanmen massacre, it does give us a feel for how decision-making works at the very lop leadership. It clearly indicates that the turmoil split the top leadership into opposing fractions. The documents confirm the fact that dismissal of Party Secretary Zhao Ziyang, who was pro-reform in the Communist Party, was not a coincidence. He was removed from office upon his firm refusal to declare martial law and send in troops to drive students out of Tienanmen.
The leaders already had an idea of how to suppress any democratic sit-ins and riots as soon as students walked out from the classrooms and made their ways into Tienanmen square. A general who wanted to remain anonymous from a memoir commented, "Army is the Army. Power is what is most important to the rulers of this country. They don't care what foreigners think. They don't care what the students want. The demonstrators are threatening their power. That is what they are thinking about. So the students will die." Decisions had long been made. They just had to get rid of any opposing efforts and those who opposed.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Jen in Kansas City, MO on December 4, 2002
Format: Hardcover
A few of the reviewers have mentioned that the book contains nothing new. That may be the case for people who have studied the situation in depth or were there at the time. But lots of Americans, like me, only knew what they saw on the news or read in the papers. For us, the book is a real eye-opener with many surprises.
I also disagree with the characterization of this book as "dry." I couldn't put it down. If the expository narrative bits weren't in there and the book consisted of the documents only, it might have been tiresome after a while. But whoever put this together added just enough background to maintain the sense of tension and gravity. It's very suspenseful--a neat trick considering the one thing everybody already knows is how the story ended.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Gregory G. on March 30, 2004
Format: Hardcover
This book is obviously a milestone assuming that its contents are authentic. The reader is privy to inside decision making in the critical months and a view of the government machine in action across China in the period leading up to the massacre and immediately after.
The main point of this review is to give the opinion that this book is not a suitable introduction to Tiananmen for the novice on this subject. I have always wanted to read an account of the massacre and the political factors leading up to it, and thought I'd start with this. My feeling is that without any prior knowledge beyond what everyone has heard, the impact of this book will be lessened somewhat. Which shouldn't take anything away from the book, only warn novice readers that this might be better put on hold until you've read something else. The reason is simply the massive amount of unfiltered and not always well-organized information presented. The book is so dry at times that it is hard to maintain interest, unless in fact questions were being answered that had been nagging at the reader, which is less likely to a new reader in the area.
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