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Tiananmen Diary Book Review
Asian Politics 345
May 18, 1999
Change is the dramatic art of survival. If one is to survive, one needs to adapt to changing needs and desires. The Communist Party in China was started for just that reason. The Chinese wanted a change from what was going on in the country at the time. The student and worker protesters at Tiananmen Square wanted the same goal to be met. They wanted a dialogue to discuss the need for an adaptation, a change in the way things were being done in modern China. However, the bloody massacre at Tiananmen Square only exemplifies the point that the Communist Party, born out of revolution, would not allow another revolution to be born. In the book, Tiananmen Diary, Harrison Salisbury takes the reader through a minute by minute account of the days leading up to the massacre and the subsequent aftermath. In this review, I will explore the Tiananmen Square Massacre and its affect on China through the eyes and ears of Harrison Salisbury. I will give my opinion of Harrison and his revelations, while also exploring China and Tiananmen Square using other authors from class.
Before reading a book on China, a foreigner needs to understand China, its history and its beliefs. China is a country of legends and symbols, of tradition and heritage. As Salisbury states, “China is…ruled by her three great symbols: the Yellow River, the Great Wall, and the Dragon”. Each of these symbols represents a way of life for the Chinese.
China is a very proud country with many natural wonders within its own borders. The Yellow River is one such symbol for the Chinese people. These citizens turn inward in order to cherish this particular river, rather then look outward toward the ocean. The Yellow River, as a great emblem of who China is, is a tremendous rallying symbol around which to look inward. The river is a symbol for the people that they need to rely upon themselves. They must not look to the sea, to the outside for help. Everything that is made or done for China must be accomplished from within China. The people have had to deal with every invasion, attack, and aggression with only their countrymen to help. China has always had to fight off invaders, including the Mongols, Japanese, Europeans, and eventually Americans. One such example is the effort put up by citizens during the Boxer Uprising. It was within this rebellion that a group of citizens took it upon themselves to fight the Europeans and attempted to rid their country of this menace. The rebellion had asked for assistance in the beginning, but none was given. The Chinese people knew that they were on their own. Even though the rebellion failed in the end, it gave the message that only China could help itself.
The Great Wall is another exceptional symbol that the Chinese people identify with. However, while its purpose was to keep intruders out of China, in actuality it is a symbol of what is wrong with China. “Not yet have the people and their rulers begun to see that the Great Wall keeps the people in, as well as invaders out; that the walls…confine minds as well as bodies”. The Great Wall is a barrier to the outside world. It is not supposed let anything in, whether it be people, armies, and on a more symbolic level any ideas. With the Wall and a tremendous sense of emerging nationalism, the elite in the government believe that new ideas from the outside world are invaders. They think that they must keep other ways of thinking out of the country. The Wall also represents a need to keep everything within its borders. The reason behind this is that there is a belief that nothing should want to leave China. This belief has continued into the present with the restrictions placed on citizens by the Communist Party and the government. Movement of people, products, and information is restricted, especially to sources outside of Mainland China.
Finally, the Dragon is a representation of China’s belief in its superiority, and the belief that the dragon will protect the nation and its people “so long as they do not threaten its order”. The
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Dongcheng District, Beijing, Tiananmen Square, Tiananmen Square protests, China, Tiananmen, Zhao Ziyang, Harrison Salisbury, Zhang Liang, Reactions to the Tiananmen Square protests
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