Intellectual Elites and the 1989 Movement

Dingxin Zhao

in The Power of Tiananmen

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print April 2001 | ISBN: 9780226982601
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226982625 | DOI:
Intellectual Elites and the 1989 Movement

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The 1989 Beijing Student Movement was framed around issues concerning the economic crisis and pro-democratic political reform in China. While the rank-and-file students provided manpower, it was the intellectual elites who supplied ideologies for the movement. This chapter explores how state-society relations during and before the reform era in China gave rise to radical intellectual elites, and how those elites in turn contributed to the rise of the 1989 Beijing Student Movement. It first gives a brief overview of the characteristics of modern Chinese intellectuals before the communists took power. It then analyzes the impact of communism and especially of Mao Zedong's rule on Chinese intellectuals. It shows how, after they had been frightened by state power under Mao, intellectuals persistently fought for democracy during the 1980s. In the meantime, however, their understanding of democracy, as well as of China's problems in general, had been severely limited both by Marxist and populist thinking and practice and by their poor intellectual capacity in the wake of the state's long-time monopoly of information.

Keywords: 1989 Beijing Student Movement; China; communism; intellectual elites; democracy; Mao Zedong; state-society relations; political reform; economic crisis

Chapter.  10894 words. 

Subjects: Sociology

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