Little Red Blog

China News and Analysis

June 24, 2014
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Beyond Stability Maintenance – From Surveillance to Elimination

By Teng Biao, published: June 22, 2014 @

June 4th has passed, but the arrests continue, and every day brings bad news from China. While scholar Xu Youyu, artist Chen Guang and others have been released “on probation,” many are still being held and others have been formally arrested, including Jia Lingmin (贾灵敏) and two others in Zhengzhou, Henan, and lawyer Pu Zhiqiang (浦志强) in Beijing. On June 20 in Guangzhou, lawyer Tang Jingling (唐荆陵) and activists Wang Qingying (王清营) and Yuan Xinting (袁新亭) were formally arrested on subversion charges. Earlier this week, three New Citizens Movement participants Liu Ping (刘萍), Wei Zhongping (魏忠平) and Li Sihua (李思华) were harshly sentenced for fictitious “crimes.”

Some people explain these arrests as an increase in stability maintenance before the anniversary of the Tiananmen massacre on June 4th. Others explain the arrests as the misuse of police power by the political and legal systems and a loss of control over the police forces. Still others explain them as the result of factional infighting among the Central leadership. I’m afraid all these explanations are wrong. Read more….

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June 19, 2014
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China hits infrastructure paydirt with Baosteel’s Aquila deal

Red Hill, part of Aquila Resources' West Pilbara tenement

Red Hill, part of Aquila Resource’s West Pilbara tenement

Michael Sainsbury

The AU$1.4 billion bid by China’s premier steelmaker Baosteel, accepted last night, was never just about its target company Aquila Resources. It was also about Aquila’s rights to build rail access to the long mooted port at Anketell.

Baosteel had been in talks with Aquila’s founder and major shareholder Tony Poli for more than a year, when frustrated by his intransigence on price and terms, they launched what now looks like the perfectly weighted, one time only bid. A bid which Aquila announced its Independent Board Committee recommends its shareholders accept.

Little Red Blog understands for his hard work and intransigence, Tony is about to mint an AU$400 fortune.

And after decades of trying, China Inc. will finally build a multi-user port and rail infrastructure to Western Australia’s vast iron ore deposits, shoring up what it sees as resource security for the future.

The Anketell rail line and port along with the mine at the West Pilbara Iron Project – a 2 billion tonnes-plus resource in which Aquila holds a 50 per cent interest – has been estimated at AU$7 billion or so to build. That’s a fair whack of money but Baosteel, with the backing of China Development Bank and by dint of its size, has access to loans on terms than no Australian company without China connections could dream of.

Baosteel has learned from CITIC Pacific’s painful US$10 billion lesson, the Sino Iron project, which continues to bleed CITIC dry, it’s all or nothing when it comes to infrastructure in Australia.

No Australian miner has ever willingly given up access to their rail and port infrastructure, fighting tooth and nail to keep others high and dry. Fortescue Metals Group was shut out by BHP Billiton and Rio and forced to build its own rail line to Port Headland, out of necessity tapping into lower grade reserves closer to Port Headland to get ore, and revenue, flowing. Since then FMG has mimicked the behavior of the very companies it used to rail against, fighting to block other miners from gaining access to its rail lines. In life this is called hypocrisy, in business its learning lessons.

Baosteel learned too. Not to use Chinese construction companies with no Australian experience, for one. Sino Iron used Beijing-run Metallurgical Corporation of China (MCC) which single-handedly added billions of dollars to CITIC’s capital outlays, as it tried – and failed – to graft Chinese iron ore processing technologies onto the super-hard rocks of Western Australia. In terms of regulatory approval and infrastructure experience it was a savvy move by Baosteel to include Aurizon in its bid. Formerly Queensland Rail, Aurizon, has been itching to spread its wings beyond its home state.

The rail freight provider and the Chinese steel giant are committed to the development of the West Pilbara iron ore project.

“Our partnership is one of scale, capability and track record — so essential in underpinning major developments of this kind particularly in the current market environment,” Aurizon managing director Lance Hockridge said.

“If the Baosteel and Aurizon bid are successful, with the co-operation of the project partners, the West Pilbara iron ore development process could be under way in the near term.”

Aquila also has coking coal assets in Queensland, the same coal used in steelmaking blast furnaces.

The Shanghai based steelmaker was China Inc.’s early pick for the state owned enterprise that would take the stake in Fortescue Metals Group eventually picked up by provincial steel mill, Changsha based Hunan Valin, finally Baosteel, too, has at last landed a major iron ore prize.

The acceptance of the offer comes amid a slump in the iron ore price which has reduced asset values. The benchmark price was US$90 per tonne on Wednesday night with reports of big miners including Rio Tinto and FMG selling cargoes at heavy discounts. The Baosteel deal will open up a whole new area for mining, putting further pressure on the iron ore price. Expect to see more of the Chinese in the region.





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June 19, 2014
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Why values matter in Australia’s relations with China

John Fitzgerald
Asia-Pacific Centre for Social Investment and Philanthropy, Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne

Returning to Australia last year after five or six years away I had a Rip Van Winkle moment.

Back in 2007 Wall St. was awash with cash, Europe was booming, and China was humming along. Today China is still humming and Australia’s economy is ticking along in harmony. That much could be predicted. What I had not appreciated was that China’s growing momentum was being felt in Australia well beyond its economic impact. China’s soft power push for the hearts and minds of Australians, especially Chinese-Australians, was also having an impact.

A democracy refugee from Shanghai brought the message home. One of 30,000 or so Chinese students who were granted asylum in Australia after the People’s Liberation Army opened fire on citizens in Beijing, in June 1989, he and his family had prospered in Australia over the past 25 years. Now in his fifties, however, he was no longer a fan of democracy. “It’s not right,” he told me, “democracy. America talks about universal human values and criticizes China and then goes to war whenever it likes. Now look at America. China may not be democratic but it gets results. And now that China is rich and strong it won’t be pushed around by America or anyone else. China has different values.” Since my return to Australia, I have often heard such sentiments expressed in Chinese community circles. To be sure, America’s reputation has taken a hit, in recent years, for well-known reasons. But I was not expecting a Chinese Australian of the 1989 democracy generation to be echoing the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) line on China’s national values in Australia. What happened while I was not looking? Read more…

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June 19, 2014
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Pu Zhiqiang: a classic, tragic victim of China’s crackdown

Pu Zhiqiang

Pu Zhiqiang

Michael Sainsbury

For anyone who cares about human rights in China, the ongoing detention and mistreatment of outspoken lawyer Pu Zhiqiang is a fresh low for Xi Jinping and his Communist Party. It now looks likely to result in trumped up criminal charges that could see Pu locked up for many years.

Pu gained fame a few years back as the lawyer for nose-thumbing artist Ai Wei Wei during his own detention on tax evasion charges.

Like many weiquan, or rights lawyers, he has maintained a strong commercial practice; a strategy that kept him out of trouble – until recently. Pu was detained by Chinese authorities on May 6 in a crackdown on activists and dissidents, ahead of the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre. Pu’s lawyer, Zhang Sizhi, published an open letter on June 11, detailing a conversation with Pu and the torture that his client, a diabetic, has been receiving at the hands of China’s reviled secret police.

Zhang said he was unexpectedly allowed to meet with Pu late on the afternoon of June 9, and they spent an hour together “without interference.”

He reported that Pu has been interrogated almost every day while in custody, sometimes for over 10 hours at a time. Pu is a big man, six foot tall and stocky, and a heavy smoker.

He complained to Zhang that his legs are swelling, and said he is afraid his body may not cope with the illegal torture he is enduring. “I was given medicine, including insulin, and went to a hospital once,” he told Zhang, adding that his food rations are meagre. “Sometimes I only eat one steamed bread bun a day.”

Pu went on to talk about his family and how much he missed them. He asked Zhang to tell his son, “my experience will be a good example to him, he will learn a lot from it, and it will help make him a man.” Pu also asked Zhang to tell one of his fellow crusading lawyers “to change to another job, don’t do what we are doing now, it is not the right time. Nothing can be done.”

Zhang later wrote: “If I were in his position, I wouldn’t be so considerate to others as he is. Pu’s health is clearly deteriorating and he warned that he was not expecting a good outcome. “The development of the case is in a very unfavorable direction to him. I didn’t expect the authorities to put in such effort.”

Legal sources in Beijing say hundreds of police have been involved in Pu’s investigation, traveling thousands of kilometers and interrogating dozens of Chinese journalists. “Even a two or three year sentence seems unlikely now,” wrote Zhang. “How terrifying it will be if he is charged and punished for several crimes.”

Pu’s case is among the most prominent legal events in China, after his fellow lawyer and rights advocate Xu Zhiyong was sentenced to four years jail in February. It now appears that Xi Jinping is picking off his most eloquent, respected and relentless critics one by one.

The question arises: will Xi’s regime truly go along the road of reform, as he claims, or will the pessimists’ prediction of a return to the bad old days of Maoism come true?

Xi Jinping’s father, Xi Zhongcun was a moderate reformer, purged twice by Mao. Xi himself was sent to the countryside as a teen to work in the fields. It seems he has learned rather different lessons from this than many of his promoters expected.

For the last word, let’s go to veteran journalist and Party critic Gao Yu, herself a victim of detention in April this year for comments she made at a seminar in the US last October: “Let’s first establish where China is today,” she says. “Since Xi Jinping took over, why has the entire academic community felt so let down? Why have nearly all of them broken off from him? It is because Xi Jinping is the bitter fruit of Mao Zedong’s 30 years of communism and Deng Xiaoping’s 30 years of crony capitalism.

“Why do so many people feel that all their hope for him was in vain? How come no one saw Xi Jinping for who he really is?”

This article was originally published by UCA News,,  13 June 2014.

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June 17, 2014
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Renewable energy on the table as Plibersek visits China

plibersekMichael Sainsbury

Unless Australia acts on renewable energy, we could miss out on a lucrative partnership with our biggest trading partner, Deputy Opposition Leader Tanya Plibersek says.

At the end of her first visit to China last week, Plibersek told Crikey that climate change and renewable energy had been raised in a string of meetings with a wide range of officials at vice-minister and senior party committee level in Beijing.

“The Chinese are keen for a partnership with Australia on renewable energy,” she said, describing this as a potentially “massive” opportunity.

China already has six pilot emissions trading schemes in place and is set to announce a seventh this week ahead of a planned national scheme. It is pouring billions of dollars into renewable energy programs as part of its plans to significantly reduce dependence on coal for its electricity needs, the world’s most voracious. In the past four months it has signed agreements to co-operate on climate change with the United States and European Union.

The environment is arguably the single biggest challenge to China’s continuing rapid development, and a significant number of the economic reforms announced at last year’s landmark Communist Party Third Plenum (of its 18th Congress) meeting were squarely aimed at the issue.

Yet here was Tony Abbott on the subject ahead of his North American trip:

“I believe that carbon taxes and emissions trading schemes are the wrong way to go. There are no signs that trading schemes are increasingly being adopted. If anything trading schemes are being discarded, not adopted.”

Crikey has struggled to find evidence of this, and it’s certainly not the case in the world’s three biggest economies: the United States, China and Europe (in fact, quite the opposite). We put the question to the PM’s office but have not heard back yet.

The climate issue has been raised by China as Abbott rushes to meet his self-imposed deadline of inking a free trade agreement with China, which takes a whopping one-third of our exports, but Plibersek says she has been warned by Australian business-people in China the deal should not be rushed. “What better way to reduce your leverage by setting an artificial timetable,” she said.

As Australia turns its back on renewables, the United States is taking decisive action. At a commencement address to students at the University of California, US President Barack Obama likened people who deny mankind’s actions contribute to climate change to those who think the moon is made of cheese.

“I’m not a scientist either,” he said, “but we’ve got some good ones at NASA. I do know the overwhelming majority of scientists who work on climate change, including some who once disputed the data, have put the debate to rest.”

“We also have to realise, as hundreds of scientists declared last month, that climate change is no longer a distant threat, but has moved firmly into the present. In some parts of the country, weather-related disasters like droughts, fires, storms and floods are going to get harsher, and they’re going to get costlier.”

The American President could just as easily be talking about Australia.

Beijing is already seething at what it sees as Canberra’s interference in its interest in the escalating battle for territory in the East and South China Seas and its overt embrace of Japan’s rising military ambitions; China’s aggression towards Japan, the Philippines and most recently Vietnam has emerged as the biggest threat to regional peace in recent years. Plibersek confirmed senior officials pointedly raised both issues in her meetings.

In the US last week, Abbott was right when he said that it “is in our interest, our national interest to have a good relationship with our old friend and our newer friend and increasingly important partner”.

But actions speak louder than words, and China must be wondering why a wealthy country like Australia can’t make what are relatively small short term economic sacrifices to at least try to, to use Abbott’s own words, “treadlightly” on the planet.

Australia’s economy is now being hit by long term downward re-rating of commodities prices — for instance iron ore, our biggest export, is now trading at about half its February 2011 high of $190 per tonne and is forecast by most analysts to sit at US$100 or lower over the next five years.

As Plibersek noted: “Climate change is an environmental problem, it’s an economic problem but it’s also incredible opportunity — if we grasp the boom”.

Abbott has said he wants his foreign policy to focus on trade and investment. A multi-billion dollar partnership with China on renewable energy could have the dual benefit of showing we do want to be friends and helping set Australia’s economy up for a future beyond the quarry and the sheep’s back.

This article originally appeared in Crikey,, 16 June, 2014.


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June 15, 2014
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The Thought Police have arrived at prominent Chinese think tank

Zhang Yingwei from the Central Committee for Discipline Inspection.

Zhang Yingwei from the Central Committee for Discipline Inspection.

Adrian Wan, South China Morning Post

A senior party discipline inspector has accused one of China’s most influential academic research organisations of being “infiltrated by foreign forces” and “conducting illegal collusion during [politically] sensitive times”.

The criticisms were made by Zhang Yingwei during a visit to a research institute for modern Chinese history on Tuesday.

They were posted in an article on the institute’s website that was removed yesterday.

Zhang heads a group sent to the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (Cass) by the Communist Party’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI).

He had asked the academy to “remain alert to some politically sensitive issues”, the article said. It did not say whether he named the “foreign forces” or what he meant by “illegal collusion during sensitive times”. Read more…

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June 4, 2014
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In the shadow of Tiananmen, LinkedIn succumbs to China’s censorship

Peter Cai, Fergus Ryan
China Spectator

140604 Fergus

The tentacles of Chinese censorship have extended to the US professional social media network LinkedIn on the eve of the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Massacre. The reach of Chinese censorship is far wider than previously thought, and includes the international version of LinkedIn as well as people who are located outside of China.

That the censorship extends outside mainland China, and to English-language users of the site, is concerning — and exceeds the measures thought necessary for LinkedIn to do business with China. For the larger business world it spotlights a significant operational risk: that the steps required to satisfy and maintain a relationship with Beijing can increase over time.

The situation was brought to the attention of your China-based correspondent when he was notified that stories he had posted on his LinkedIn account about the detention of Australian artist Guo Jian would not be seen by other LinkedIn members. Read more…

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June 4, 2014
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Reflections on Tiananmen


Michael Sainsbury

Today, June 4, 2014, is the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen massacre in and around Beijing’s central square where troops from the People’s Liberation Army rolled their tanks into the city to mete out a lesson both to the unlucky that were there and to others protesting in 80 cities across the country.

It was the end of a process of opening  up and reform in China, started by Deng Xiaoping in 1978 and ended by Deng himself when he ousted Premier Zhao Ziyang, the second reformist (nominal) head of the ruling Communist Party he had bounced out in two years. The reality, in those days was that a “retired” behind the scenes, group of Party elders led by Deng was running the show.

The pro-reform demonstrations that enveloped Beijing were triggered by the death of Zhao’s predecessor Hu Yaobang a month earlier. Mourning the loss of reform’s leading light supporters, led by students, poured into the political heart of China, Tiananmen Square.

After weeks of mounting protests and deaf to the pleas of Premier Zhao to disperse, not to mention intimidation by state security in one form or another, Deng Xiaoping ordered the PLA to clear the square, the reformers stood up to the tanks and infantry and an horrific massacre of Chinese citizens by their own leaders, their own army, was the outcome. The army itself was split and many soldiers died, too.

Little Red Blog brings you the reflections of some of the best China writers and publications around the world today as well as a modest contribution of its own. Take some time to read them through and the reality will grow on you that nothing in China has changed much in 25 years. And that is the country’s greatest tragedy.

Fairfax Media’s John Garnaut considers Tiananmen through the prism of Xi Jinping’s father’s efforts to promote free speech. After being purged during the Cultural Revolution ”….Xi Zhongxun, returned to power he advocated for laws that could guard against unbridled power and protect those who spoke unwelcome truths. “Everyone likes to hear nice things and agreeable words, but many of these words are lies,” he said, while pushing for a speech-protection law, in his role as director of the legal affairs committee of the National People’s Congress.” Read more…

The Council on Foreign Relations ( interviews Jerome A Cohen a professor of law at New York University School of Law, an expert in Chinese law, a senior fellow for Asia Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. Read more…

A story by William Pesek of Bloomberg theorises ”…China’s debt reckoning is coming. Maybe not this quarter or this year, but Chinese president Xi Jinping’s unbridled effort to keep growth from falling below the official 7.5 per cent target is cementing China’s fate…. (so) Why, then, with so many clear examples of financial excess leading to ruin, is Xi continuing down this road? Blame it on the ghosts of Tiananmen Square” Read more…

Writing for Foreign Affairs Andrew J. Nathan, Professor of Political Science at Columbia University and the author of numerous books on China reports “For the first time ever, reports and minutes have surfaced that provide a revealing and potentially explosive view of decision-making at the highest levels of the government and party in the People’s Republic of China (PRC). The materials paint a vivid picture of the battles between hard-liners and reformers on how to handle the student protests that swept China in the spring of 1989.” Read more…

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June 4, 2014
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The Aussie artist nabbed by China’s secret police

guo jian

Michael Sainsbury

Australian-Chinese artist Guo Jian has been detained by China’s feared State Security Bureau on the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre. Tony Abbott must call for his immediate release.

On Sunday afternoon, a friend of Australian-Chinese artist Guo Jian in Beijing received a text message from the 52-year-old saying he had been taken away by the authorities. A second message said the people who took him away — most likely China’s feared State Security Bureau — told him he would be detained for 15 days. He is now locked up, unable to see anybody, not even a lawyer.

Guo Jian is the first Australian citizen among scores of people who have been detained in Beijing over the past month or so by Xi Jinping’s increasingly paranoid and ruthless regime. The reason for the paranoia is that this evening, June 3, marks 25 years since the People’s Liberation Army began rolling its tanks into the centre of Beijing to crush political reformist demonstrations that had started a month earlier. There were protests in 80 cities across China.

During the evening and next day, PLA troops proceeded to murder at least 250 and possibly thousands of Chinese citizens in cold blood, including protesters and innocent bystanders. China may look different two and half decades later — it’s richer and pushier — but not much has really changed.

Although the events of liu si (6-4, as it is known) shocked people to the core, few would be surprised if the leadership took such actions today to quell mass dissent. Violent oppression happens quietly every day in modern China to the point where most of the country’s people have been cowed into submission. Guo Jian and his fellow artists, writers, human rights lawyers, civil society advocates, academics, people who promote religious freedom and other crusaders are the brave ones.

The Tiananmen Square massacre is an event the Chinese Communist Party has tried to scrub from history, and most people under 40 in China have little idea what happened. For every promise of economic reform by Xi, lauded by the West, comes a fresh way by the party to fuck over their own citizens — usually ignored by the West.

I first met Guo Jian at a dinner party at the residence of the Australian Ambassador in Beijing, Geoff Raby. We struck up one of those slightly wine-fuelled conversations and within hours had decided to keep the party going, hitting the town until the wee hours. It was a serendipitous, instant friendship with a man who makes such things easy. When I lived in Beijing from 2009 until last year, he was a regular at Australian expatriate gatherings: always smiling, always laughing, always funny. Far from being the temperamental artist type, he’s a natural with people and has a wicked sense of humour.

His “crime” is daring to have a political conscience; daring to question. In the past, he has been invited in for “cups of tea” — the Chinese euphemism for being given a warning against dissent — but he has never been taken away before.

Guo Jian joined the army at 17 and later joined protests in Tiananmen. He moved to Australia in 1992, where he became a citizen and stayed for 13 years. He has even picked up something of a Sydney twang.

Last weekend, he landed the coveted spot of guest/interviewee in the Financial Times Weekend Edition’s “Lunch with …” feature, and recently appeared on two separate programs on the ABC: an edition of Q&A filmed in Shanghai in April and, together with Raby (with whom he is close friends), in an episode of Two Men and a Tinny, talking about Chinese art.

It appears that his revelation in the Financial Times story that he had created a sculpture of Tiananmen Square covered with litter and minced pork to commemorate the anniversary is the reason for his detention.

This year, it seems all known critics had to do is talk about Tiananmen Square to get whisked away by state-sponsored thugs. The commemoration has come with the toughest crackdown possibly since 1989, people in Beijing say. The charge levelled at the “dissidents” who have been detained is a new high in the party’s history of inadvertent tragi-comedy: “picking quarrels and causing a nuisance”.

It is doubtless unrelated but worth noting that Guo Jian disappeared only a day after Australia embraced Japan’s defence ambitions at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore and was part of a joint statement issued by the United States and Japan against China’s aggressive actions in the East and South China Seas.

It’s fair to say that any goodwill Australia may have built with Beijing over the search for Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 collapsed like a house of sand at the weekend. Australia’s name will be poison once more in the party’s fortress-like enclave of Zhongnanhai in central Beijing.

DFAT said in a statement:

“The Australian Embassy in Beijing has contacted Chinese authorities to seek further information on the reported detention of Mr Guo Jian and to underline our strong interest in the matter. The Australian Government stands ready to extend all possible consular assistance to Mr Guo.”

A start, but hopefully only the first step. Here is Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s chance to prove that he is prepared to stand up to Beijing all by himself, without his Pacific allies for cover. Or will he allow the rights of yet another Australian citizen in China to be trampled as Canberra pussyfoots around. The last government soft-pedalled in the disputes over Rio Tinto salesman Stern Hu and Guangzhou entrepreneurs Matthew Ng and Charlotte Chou. That strategy proved to be delusional — all three are now languishing in Chinese jails.

Tony Abbott must insist on Guo Jian’s immediate release.

This article was originally published by Crikey,, June 3, 2014.

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June 2, 2014
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China represents 1/5 of the human race. And China is an one-party dictatorship.


Ya Xuecao, editor of has written a fine piece for the 25th anniversary of Tiananmen. The essay includes some detail on the political climate in China at the time.

Tiananmen was not an isolated incident, earlier in the 1980s the government attempted to rein in calls for political freedom, such as the anti-spiritual pollution campaign in 1983, the “anti-capitalist liberalism campaign” and Campaign against bourgeois liberalisation both in 1987. By June 5, 1989, it was clear they were determined not to fail again. Click here to read the essay.

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