The Tiananmen Tragedy and the Failed Uprising in China

Sharon Erickson Nepstad

in Nonviolent Revolutions

Published in print July 2011 | ISBN: 9780199778201
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199897216 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Studies in Culture and Politics

The Tiananmen Tragedy and the Failed Uprising in China

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This chapter analyzes the 1989 Chinese democracy movement in which activists used the techniques of strategic nonviolence, including mass demonstrations, hunger strikes, and the occupation of Tiananmen Square. Civil resisters also tried to undermine troops’ loyalty, imploring the People’s Army to side with the people, not party elites. But the democracy movement’s potential was undercut by internal conflicts. Moreover, as communist party leaders grew frustrated with troops’ unreliability, they brought in soldiers from outside Beijing. These troops were willing to carry out repressive orders since they had not been subjected to protester appeals and because movement participants had lost their nonviolent discipline, contributing to the perception that force was needed to restore order. As a result, the uprising was crushed during a military crackdown.

Keywords: Tiananmen Square; Chinese democracy movement; repression; movement divisions; Chinese Communist Party

Chapter.  7315 words. 

Subjects: Social Movements and Social Change

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