ABSTRACT

Undoubtedly for some time to come in the public consciousness worldwide Deng Xiaoping will be associated not only with China’s rapid economic growth and transformation but also with the events in Beijing during June 1989. The images associated with first the demonstrations, and then the use of military force in Tiananmen Square and its surroundings, were extremely powerful. The precise detail of Deng’s role in the events of 1989 may remain in doubt, but not his general attitude as demonstrated by his praise for the PLA units involved. Had he died or even retired before June 1989, history’s judgement would probably have been very different. However, a picture of Deng Xiaoping as a liberal reformer would always have been a mistake. Redefining and extending rights were never Deng’s major concerns, which focused instead on party rule, party discipline and economic production, in that order of priority. Indeed, even his desire after 1976 to liberalize the worst excesses of the system created by Mao Zedong and the Cultural Revolution was derived from his vision of the CCP as the panacea for all China’s ills, and his desire to restore its traditions.