The Tiananmen Square incident, 4 June 1989

Q1) The strengths and weaknesses of Source A as an interpretation of the Tiananmen Square incident are; that in the extract it tells of how some people in the Chinese Communist Party blamed some of the new economic policies, introduced at that time, for bringing back corruption and social vices that had been common in China before the revolution, but the extract does not tell us what these economical policies were. Also it tells us that the protestors at Tiananmen Square didn’t want a dictatorship of old men, and unfair privileges enjoyed by many high officials, but it doesn’t tell us what they DID want from the protest. The source states that in the eyes of the Chinese officials the new ‘foreign influences’ were even worse than the new economic policies, although just what influences they were talking about is not clear at all.

Q2) Sources B and C contain three different sets of figures about casualties in the Tiananmen Square incident.

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Source B reports that at least 35 people were killed and several hundred wounded. Source C tells us that about 1,000 people were killed! It also gives a statement from a Chinese government official which states “only 23 students died, with a few hundred troops”.

Some of the reasons for these differences are that source B was written by a reporter for ‘The Sunday Times’ on the same day as the Tiananmen Square incident so it was almost impossible to account for all the casualties that happened that day. Whereas an American historian wrote source C in 1990, which would have allowed the writer plenty of time to gather all the facts and figures of the casualties. But because they were American they may have bent the truth a bit to make the Chinese look worse e.g. where they add the phrase “though this figure may well be too low.” This phrase is not a fact it is the writer’s opinion, which would be biased against the Chinese. In some ways this means source B could be more accurate than source C because the reporter was in Beijing at the time so would have been able to see the incident take place and the casualties that occurred, first hand.

Q3a) Source D was produced as a symbol of one man stepping out and publicly defying the communist government and making a stand for freedom, it was designed to make the communists look bad and show that no one should be afraid of this dark power ruling over them any more.

Source E was produced to make fun of the communist leader Deng Xiaoping and openly support the protestors that were in Tiananmen Square. It depicts him standing in front of a tank representing the truth. It was designed to switch the roles of the previous source and show the truth being dominant like the students wanted.

Q3b) Source D is helpful for studying the Tiananmen Square incident because it was taken from a live newsreel that shows just what sort of military action the government used. (It showed that at least 4 tanks were sent in to disperse the students and their supporters) But it was filmed a day after the incident which means the tanks could have been called in after the protesters had been dispersed.

Source E is helpful in studying the Tiananmen Square incident because it gives us an idea of what the protestors wanted to achieve, but it is only a cartoon made up for a British newspaper and has no real basis in reality.

Q4) The statistics in source F support the views given in source G about China’s economic situation to an extent. Source G tells of how the middle class people were becoming richer and in source F Urban households had more Sewing machines, Watches, Bicycles, Radios and televisions (referred to as goods from now) in 1984 than in 1981. Also they had more goods than rural households did in both 1981 and 1984. But the anomaly is that from 1981-84, rural households had a higher rate of increase of goods per 100 houses. The problem is that the items listed aren’t really the things you might use to judge if people were middle class or not.

Q5) Source G (written by Bernard Hoyle, a British tourist in 1991) provides reliable evidence about the political situation in China in 1989-91 because Joe, the American student studying at Beijing University, gave the impression that he knew what he was talking about. He told about how the authorities opened the mail from Western students. We know this is true, so we should believe him when he said that they don’t care what westerners think, they just want to know what the foreigners say their Chinese friends are doing and thinking. Being a foreigner himself Joe must have known that the Chinese people had to be careful about being seen with foreigners from his own experiences. Also because he was a student himself he must have known what the students wanted in Tiananmen Square to be confident in telling Bernard Hoyle ‘another protest movement was likely to occur in the not-to-distant future.’ Bernard Hoyle then wrote ‘this time, it would be better planned and (Joe) thought it would succeed.’

Q6) Sources A-C suggests that the Chinese democracy movement was destroyed by the Tiananmen Square incident. These three sources tell a similar story of how on the 4 June 1989, a peaceful protest of students ended in horror and bloodshed as the Chinese military opened fire on the unarmed students and killed many of them and only stopped when the crowd had been completely dispersed. Source C even quotes “The Chinese democracy movement was crushed.”

Sources D and E both support the Chinese protestors and put forward the idea that the democracy movement was not crushed, as sources A-C suggest. Both sources, D and E depict the protestors overcoming the oppressive communist government albeit in reversed roles. Source D gives it’s support to the protestors because it depicts one man’s bravery and courage in standing up to the tanks and forcing them to stop in their tracks. Source E shows the truth (the tank) overpowering the leader of the Chinese government, Deng Xiaoping (the small man).

Sources F and G do not really give any idea at all whether the movement was crushed by the Tiananmen Square incident because source F just has a list of statistics and source G is merely an extract from someone’s diary in 1991. Although overall source G does not give us any direct information concerning the Tiananmen Square incident, at the end of the extract, the American student, Joe said that he believed there would be another protest that would succeed. But the next sentence written by Bernard Hoyle is “I wonder if the students realise how powerful the Chinese Communist government really is.”

Looking through all the sources I believe that there is not enough evidence provided to agree with the statement “The Tiananmen Square incident failed to destroy the Chinese democracy movement.” From the evidence of these sources, my opinion is that the Tiananmen Square incident in fact succeeded in destroying the Chinese democracy movement. My opinion is backed up by the fact that since 4 June 1989 there has been no other attempt at such a large-scale protest to this very day.


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