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WashPost: From the Inside, Out: Zhao Ziyang Continues His Fight Postmortem

Author: Perry Link, Chancellorial Chair for Innovative Teaching, University of California, Riverside. Coeditor of "The Tiananmen Papers"
May 17, 2009


Perry Link reviews a newly published book based on about 30 audiotapes that Zhao Ziyang, former Chinese Premier and General Secretary, discreetly recorded. The secret memoir of Ziyang sheds light on the Tiananmen Square tragedy.

Excerpt: When Zhao Ziyang, the former Chinese premier who in 1989 had opposed using military force against student protesters, died four years ago, China's top leaders formed an "Emergency Response Leadership Small Group," declared "a period of extreme sensitivity," put the People's Armed Police on special alert and ordered the Ministry of Railways to screen travelers heading for Beijing. If this is how the men who rule China reacted to Zhao's death at home, how then will they respond to the posthumously published "Prisoner of the State," a book in which Zhao repeatedly attacks the stonewalling and subterfuge (and sycophancy, mendacity, buck-passing and back-stabbing) of people whose allies and heirs remain in power today?

Whatever the fallout, one element will likely stay constant: This same group of men -- mostly from a set of quarreling families bound together by common interests and long used to surviving turmoil and 180-degree policy shifts -- will remain in power. Like a seal on a rolling ball, they are good at staying on top.

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