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December 1, 2008 in The China Beat


Copyright December 1, 2008. Used by permission.


As we prepare to mark the 30th anniversary of one turning point in the history of Chinese dissent (the appearance of Wei Jingsheng’s “Fifth Modernization” poster on December 5, 1978, the subject of a post we’ll run later this week), a debate on another major turning point (the 1989 protests and June 4th Massacre) may be re-emerging within China ahead of its 30th anniversary. One of the earliest reports (in English) that the Ministry of Culture had sought the resignation of the editor of the well-regarded magazine Yanhuang Chunqiu over its recent cover story praising purged leader Zhao Ziyang was on Time’s China Blog. There, Simon Elegant mentioned the incident, which has slowly gained momentum over the past few weeks.

On November 16, Under the Jacaranda Tree provided more details about the situation:

The article in question is a cover story about Zhao Ziyang 赵紫阳. This is the first positive account of Zhao to appear in any PRC publications since he was removed from leadership in 1989. The article was penned by Sun Zhen 孙振, the retired chief of Xinhua’s Sichuan branch. Sun served under Zhao during the Cultural Revolution. The article, which reaffirmed the popularity of Zhao among Sichuan peasants, was seen as a direct challenge to the official verdict of Zhao and of his mistakes in handling the Tiananmen Square incident.

Yanhuang Chunqiu is often seen as critical of the present CCP leadership. The Journal was inaugurated in 1991 under the patronage of senior party officials sympathetic to Hu Yaobang 胡耀邦. The editorial team headed by Du Daozheng 杜导正 openly advocates a gradual transition to liberal democracy, and has been critical of the government’s lack of tolerance of voices of dissident, as well as its inability to curb widespread corruption throughout the country. The Journal has a loyal readership among party veterans and intellectuals. With a circulation of over 80,000 copies, the Journal is financially independent and is believed to have received no government funding or commercial sponsorship.