In 1989, a vigil commemorating the death of Hu Yaobang, a progressive leader, transformed into an occupation of Tiananmen Square. The protesters, many of them young academics, were aware that nonviolent labor demonstrations proved successful at undermining Communism in Eastern Europe. They occupied the Tiananmen space for some seven weeks despite their lack of a specific program of reforms to advocate. Though it was ultimately crushed by military force, Tiananmen was perceived as the most vigorous challenge to Chinese communism to date. Though Tiananmen did not represent the first student protests against the regime, the unrest manifest in 1989 can be seen as presaging the economic liberalization that China has come to enjoy.
For students today, Tiananmen represents both a landmark that marked the end of the Cold War period and a test case for the human rights of nonviolent protesters under a totalitarian regime. This volume in the Perspectives on Modern World History series by Greenhaven presents systemic political oppression, which contrasts with the contemporary focus on the increasing opportunities for entrepreneurship and profit under the Chinese system. There is a multiplicity of perspectives in the more than twenty pieces of writing encompassing the historical background, controversies surrounding the protests and military crackdown, and personal narratives. Four first-person accounts represent the experiences of a student, an academic, an expatriate journalist, and a Chinese soldier. One chapter considers the Tiananmen protests in light of the Olympic games in Beijing in 2008, another discusses documentation related to the protests that were released two decades later. There is a chronology of events and several resources for further reading.
Authors include Paul Theroux and Chris Patten, the last governor of the British colony of Hong Kong before it was returned to China in 1997. This anthology uses a selection of previously published work and there is a sense of the deliberate pulling together a range of rich material made available over time. Each chapter is annotated for increased comprehension for the focused reader. An allusion to Boswell and Johnson is typical of the volume’s approach for presentation of a perhaps obscure reference. In square brackets, it defines the pair as "[two eighteen-century British commentators]." A world map, charts, graphs, sidebars and a glossary supplement the text, which will be ideal for advanced high school students. Recommended for high school libraries.