An other chapter of China turbulent history. I saw the anger coming from my Peking balcony. Prior to 1989 I worked and lived in Peking, a (very) young journalist assigned in China by France national broadcasters and the High Authority of Audiovisual Communication. Mission was to gain international professional experience, to teach journalism, modernise Chinese national broadcaster, teach how to anchor news programmes and start cooperation of programs exchanges between the ministry of the Radio Television and the Cultural services of France and other institutions. I explained them how to report without the heavy hands of the propaganda, how to see and report within a certain context. I was the first Paris man inside the system in this new China thanks to a simple idea I had that attracted Paris and Peking. A professional of broadcasting, a "coach" and also correspondent for my French media (Radio France and RFI). Incredible freedom I had at that time under Deng Xiaoping, Hu Yaobang and Zhao Ziyang.
I started learning Chinese language with teachers of a prestigious nearby university and travelled a lot in China, even alone, thanks to some magical words and pass opening all doors. And this was one of the most interesting experience. Later on I even visited Tibet, Lhasa, alone again or this is what I felt, and free to go everywhere I wanted. I spent time alone in the Potala, stayed at the Dalai Lama private apartments on top of the Palace. I always remember my talks with monks on the top of the Potala. People used to talk then. A large and wide path was opened in front of China. I always kept myself far from the propagandistic announcements explaining this was counter-productive. When I lectured some young Party or League members, some of them are top officials today, there was nothing we could not talk about. Nothing. Imagine these promising young cadres driven in their huge Hongqi limousines, or some time modestly in the unit old bus, after 2 or 3 hours of free discussion for months with a young passionate French journalist. A simple wave of the hands from the entrance of the residence, we always ended with the same universal values, life, love, education, development, dignity, sovereignty. East met West.
But prior to 1989, I saw the first demonstrations starting from Beida (University of Beijing). Foreign students from Asia, Africa or Middle East or Europe mixed with Chinese students. The youth had great sympathy and expectations of a new China under the modernisation and Deng's open door policy, at China's speed. Everyone was enthusiastic and China economy started to take off. People of everywhere in the country had a fantastic energy. But I asked myself, until when and where would this freedom continue?
For my China watcher eyes, the Tiananmen Incident that took place on April 5, 1976 after Zhou En-lai death in January, prior to Mao’s death in September 76, then the fall of the “Gang of Four”, these two events are of equal importance. It reveals that the spirit of the “Young Tigers” could not fade away. These young Chinese with ideals and hopes of a new China. China Spring 1989 as China Spring 1976 were crucial episodes of contemporary China. To a difference, 1976 was not televised, China was to end the Cultural revolution, China in June 1989 was on every TV, live, with the global implications we see 25 years after.
To better understand the two events so different and so similar in the same pattern, I quote the book “The Coldest Winter in Peking” by Hsia Chih-yen, a fan of Lu Hsun and a former government official of the Academy of Sciences of China.
Hsia describes in the form of a novel what happened in 1976 in China explaining the “laboratory” that China is. First installment of Hsia’s book was published by Bungei Shunju in November 1976. His book describes the life of the people. As I saw it, as “ the eyes of the people see everything and see it truly” not as many foreign (non reading Chinese ideograms) governments and media describe it sometimes nowadays, looking for the never ending new Chinese entrepreneur billionaire bla-bla without really travelling 200 km of Peking where roads are still chaotic and where villages host some people who never heard of what is happening in Peking and Shanghai.
It is said in all history textbooks that, quotes: “The April 1976 incident occurred on the traditional day of mourning, the Qingming Festival, after the Nanjing Incident, and was triggered by the death of Premier Zhou En-lai earlier that year. Some people strongly disapproved of the removal of the displays of mourning, [Was it provoked NDJLK?] and began gathering in the Square to protest against the central authorities, [ Who organised them?] then largely under the auspices of the Gang of Four, who ordered the Square to be cleared. China's leaders, namely Jiang Qing (Mao Zedong's wife) and Mao Yuan-xin, saw the popular gathering as a threat to the forward movement of the Cultural Revolution.
They consulted with Party Chairman Mao Zedong, claiming these people to be "capitalist roaders" who were hitting back at the Proletarian Revolution. Action was taken on the night of April 5, when the number of mourners were a few thousand. Controlled by Jiang Qing and the mayor of Beijing, the militia encircled the area, then went in with clubs and batons to drive the people away from the monument. Four thousand were arrested. According to Jan Wong in Red China Blues, around 60 were dragged into the Great Hall of the People, beheaded and secretly cremated. [Who can say if there were not hundreds of them NDJLK]?
The media subsequently linked the event to Deng Xiaoping, then carrying out the daily duties of the Premier. It was rumoured that the Gang of Four had become apprehensive of Deng's influence and thus attempted his removal. Deng was an ally of Zhou En-lai, and was placed under house arrest in Guangzhou. After Mao's death and the fall of the Gang of Four in October 1976, Party leaders rehabilitated Deng and brought him back to Beijing, where he emerged as China's Paramount Leader in 1978." EoQ.
We know what happened after. Many of the people I met in Peking told me about Deng Xiaoping indecisiveness that might explain a lot of things that happened after 1976 and 1989, typical of the leaders theory ruling giant empires. Deng described by my old Peking friends as a capitalist who was influenced by his stay in the west (in France and as a coincidence in my own region of Normandie and also in other parts of France industrial regions). Deng remained indecisive, his close friends say, as we saw during the demonstration of June 1989. Hesitations, again, but Deng recovered and the foreign world came again to kowtow to Zhongnanhai China new collective ruling class, lead today by Xi Jinping. Many are expecting that East Asia will not fall under the sirens of alarmists and fanatics for it may be a war [I don’t think it will] that Peking’s enemy won’t win easily at all. Do not wake up the dragon.
More than ever East Asia should apprehend a community destiny. Japan should make its own research and draw its own strategy. History teaches why only 2 nations in Asia never lost again western guns after WW2: China and Vietnam. China where the “Coup d’Etat” is indefinite. China where ideals have not altered especially in the mind of these “Young Tigers” generation after generation on the roads of Peking, Guanzhou, Shanghai in the 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, 90’s and who still exist.
Reminding that China exists for… China, at any cost.
Chang'an Avenue June 1989
“The Coldest Winter in Peking” by Hsia Chih-yen. page 227: