The Consequences of the Tiananmen Massacre

First, it must be understood that Deng won. He triumphed over the Leftists, the Planners, and the Liberals, to reinforce the principles of party dictatorship and economic growth.


Deng Xiaoping was, at various times, the General Secretary of the Secretariat of the Chinese Communist Party, the Chairman of the Central Military Commission fo the Chinese Communist Party, the Chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, and the First Vice Premier of the People’s Republic of China. Most importantly, his rise in 1978 was also the rise of market reforms in Communist China.

Deng’s political philosophy combined Sun Yatsen’s theory of political tutelage (that China required an indeterminately long period of party dictatorship)
along with an appreciation of the ability of the market to better allocate resources than government dictates, in cases where public goods were not an issue. Deng was opposed to democratization, because it was inefficient, and ideologically-driven economic policies, they are inefficient.

That is, Deng believed in (1) a party dictatorship and (2) whatever economic policies achieve the most growth. His enemy was inefficiency.

When analysts write China has “totally abandon[ed] its ideology,” they are either saying that Mao is more representative of the true nature of Chinese Communism than Deng, or that Soviet-style Communism is the ideology of Communism. The first is arguable, but as Deng was in high government office much longer than Mao, I think it is incorrect. The second is simply Sovietcentric.

Here is a brief history of Chinese politics, from the Cultural Revolution to now:

Chinese politics was first dived between Leftists and Pragmatists. The Leftists were either ideological (such as the Gang of Four) or opportunitists (such as Lin Biao, or Hua Guofeng). The Leftist wing of the Chinese Communist Party collapsed between 1971 (during Lin Biao’s bizarre coup attempt) and 1976 (when Hua was maneuvered into inviting Pragmatists to overthrow the Gang of Four).

The Pragmatists themselves were divided into Road to Serfdom-style Planners (who favored a closed, command-and-control economy) and Liberals (who argued for growth through market forces, with political openness serving as a check). Deng was in between these two factions, agreeing with the Planners on the importance of a party dictatorship, and with the Liberals on the importance of the free market.

The Protests of 1989 was the greatest challenge to Deng’s combination of party dictatorship and economic growth, as both factions actively attempted to undermine each other. For a while, the Planners seemed to be emerging on top. The liberal General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party Hu Yaobang was ousted in 1987, and his replacement, Zhao Ziyang was arrested two years later.

The Tiananmen Massacre was the destruction of the influence of the liberal wing of the Pragmatists of the Chinese Communist Party.

Three years later, Deng likewise marginalized the Planners of the CPP. The Southern Tour of 1992 did to the planners what the Tiananmen Massacre did to the Liberals. From Wikipedia:

His southern tour was initially ignored by the Beijing and national media, which were then under the control of Deng’s political rivals. President Jiang Zemin showed little support. Challenging their media control, Deng penned several articles supporting reforms under the pen name “Huang Fuping” in Shanghai’s Liberation Daily newspaper, which quickly gained support amongst local officials and populace. Deng’s new wave of policy rhetoric gave way to a new political storm between factions in the Politburo. President Jiang eventually sided with Deng, and the national media finally reported Deng’s southern tour several months after it occurred. Observers suggest that Jiang’s submission to Deng’s policies had solidified his position as Deng’s heir apparent. Behind the scenes, Deng’s southern tour aided his reformist allies’ climb to the apex of national power, and permanently changed China’s direction toward economic development. In addition, the eventual outcome of the southern tour proved that Deng was still the most powerful man in Chin

China is currently as Deng would have had it: a party dictatorship dedicated to economic growth. The collapse of the Leftists in 1971-1975 paved the way for the Pragmatists to take power, and the collapse of the Liberals in 1989, and the Planners in 1992, sharply limited the influence of those opposed to Deng’s line.

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