China Beat Archive



6/4 Reader


Date of this Version


Document Type



June 1, 2009 in The China Beat


Copyright June 1, 2009. Used by permission.


A set of links to readings about 6/4 from various sources:

1. A short and straightforward documentary from Al Jazeera (in English), posted at YouTube in two parts: Part I and Part II. This documentary has notably less emphasis on the influence of Western-style democracy than the average (Western) doc on the subject, and more on the opposition to authoritarianism…

2. Mara Hvistendahl has written a piece for The Chronicle of Higher Education on a well-trod topic—the shifts in China post-89, particularly among those of the 6/4 generation. Yet, Hvistendahl, in addition to getting the basics right (unlike others we could—okay, we will mention), phrases the current tensions between those who want to remember 1989 and those who have already forgotten it in a compelling way:

Even the staunchest critics of China’s regime acknowledge it now allows discussion in areas that were once off limits. After his release from prison, Zhou became an investigative journalist, tackling sensitive issues like food safety, and only sometimes encountering government intervention. At the same time, some contend that economic growth has merely allowed the Chinese government to fine-tune its control of dissent. As the government’s spending power grew, so did the carrots it could offer for obedience. “The government has great ambition for scholarly work that can make considerable breakthroughs, like shooting satellites into outer space,” says Wang Chaohua, who edited a volume of work by Chinese intellectuals titled One China, Many Paths(Verso, 2003). “But to do work in the social sciences and humanities, you need to have a real independent spirit, and that isn’t what the government wants to see. So you have a lot of political intervention.”

Intellectuals who follow the state line are rewarded with trips abroad and generous research grants, critics say. “There are many research programs now that are sponsored by the government,” says Wang Tiancheng, a former law professor at Peking University. “It’s a type of corruption. They’re buying scholars.”