China Leadership Monitor

What Zhao Ziyang Tells Us about Elite Politics in the 1980s

Thursday, November 19, 2009

On the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen crackdown, the posthumous account of politics in the 1980s by former premier and general secretary Zhao Ziyang was published in both Chinese and English.  The publication of this memoir follows the publication of several interviews with the former Party leader and marks a continuing effort to speak to history.  Publication was apparently intended to remind the world of the tragedy of Tiananmen, but there is little sign in China that it is having much of an impact. Although Zhao's various accounts do not contain startling revelations, they do add much detail and nuance to our understanding of politics in this period. Indeed, the role and rivalries of personalities come through very clearly, allowing one to better understand the political meltdown that befell China in 1989.