Originally published 06/07/2013
Jeffrey Wasserstrom is Chancellor’s Professor of History at UC Irvine. He is co-editor (with Angilee Shah) of Chinese Characters: Profiles of Fast-Changing Lives in a Fast-Changing Land (University of California Press, 2012) and also a short anthology, China Stories, published as an ebook by the Los Angeles Review of Books.Late last year and early this year, I worked with Maura Elizabeth Cunningham on creating the second edition of China in the 21st Century: What Everyone Needs to Know, a short book with a question-and-answer format whose first edition came out in 2010. Given how quickly China has been changing, there were many things that needed updating, especially in chapters that come late in the book. Since work on the first edition was completed late in 2009, Liu Xiaobo and Mo Yan won Nobel prizes, the microblogging platform weibo took off, and there was a dramatic uptick in environmental protests—to name just a few recent developments that Maura and I needed to address in the 2.0 version. Today, though, I am thinking with sorrow of a section in a chapter titled “From Mao to Now” that I wish we needed to revise, but didn’t—the answer to the following question: “Why Hasn’t the Chinese Government Changed Its Line on Tiananmen?”...
Originally published 03/28/2013
BEIJING — A photo of China’s new first lady Peng Liyuan in younger days, singing to martial-law troops following the 1989 bloody military crackdown on pro-democracy protesters, flickered across Chinese cyberspace this week.It was swiftly scrubbed from China’s Internet before it could generate discussion online. But the image — seen and shared by outside observers — revived a memory the leadership prefers to suppress and shows one of the challenges in presenting Peng on the world stage as the softer side of China.The country has no recent precedent for the role of first lady, and also faces a tricky balance at home. The leadership wants Peng to show the human side of the new No. 1 leader, Xi Jinping, while not exposing too many perks of the elite. And it must balance popular support for the first couple with an acute wariness of personality cults that could skew the consensus rule among the Chinese Communist Party’s top leaders....
Originally published 01/18/2013
BEIJING — Gen. Yang Baibing, a military strongman who carried out the violent suppression of student-led protests in Tiananmen Square in 1989 and was later purged because of fears that he was accruing too much power, died here on Tuesday. He was 93.His death was reported by the official Xinhua news agency. A statement issued by the party’s Central Committee provided the sort of terse homage typically reserved for a disgraced political figure, saying, “He was a seasoned loyal Communist fighter and a proletarian revolutionist.”
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