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The First Tiananmen Incident Revisited: Elite Politics and Crisis Management at the End of the Maoist Era

Frederick C. Teiwes and Warren Sun
Pacific Affairs
Vol. 77, No. 2 (Summer, 2004), pp. 211-235
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40022499
Page Count: 25
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
The First Tiananmen Incident Revisited: Elite Politics and Crisis Management at the End of the Maoist Era
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Abstract

The first Tiananmen crisis of April 1976 is one of the crucial, if inadequately understood, moments in the history of the People's Republic of China. Using recently available as well as more long-standing sources, we provide an alternative analysis to a widely accepted interpretation that the crisis resulted from the radical "gang of four's" posthumous criticism of Premier Zhou Enlai, while during the crisis itself the radicals forged an alliance with Hua Guofeng and other beneficiaries of the Cultural Revolution since both groups felt threatened by popular support for Deng Xiaoping, and the two groups jointly carried out a harsh suppression of the protesters in Tiananmen Square. The actual dynamics were quite different. There were very few criticisms of Zhou after his death, while the limited mourning for him had been imposed by Chairman Mao Zedong. During the crisis, nearly all Politburo members sought to manage the crisis through restraint, with beneficiary Wu De and radicals Wang Hongwen and Zhang Chunqiao particularly notable. Although compromised by pressures of the crisis, in the longer term the common interests of the beneficiaries were much greater with Deng's old revolutionaries than with the radicals. The radicals themselves were far from united, one of many indications during the 1972- 76 period, that the very concept of a "gang of four" is exaggerated. Finally, despite an unprecedented situation where, due to ill health, Mao was unable to exercise close control, the Chairman still dominated the process.

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