• The Cultural Revolution ended with chairman Mao Zedong’s death in 1976. The movement, spearheaded by Mao, caused severe damage to the country’s economic and social fabric. The country was mired in poverty as economic production slowed or came to a halt.
• In December 1978, Deng Xiaoping emerged as China’s de facto leader. Deng launched a comprehensive program to reform the Chinese economy. Within several years, the country’s direction entirely changed. The focus on ideological purity was replaced by a full-on drive to achieve material prosperity.
• The reforms aimed to decrease the role of the state in the economy and gradually introduced private forms of production in agriculture and industry. By 1981, roughly 73% of rural farms had decollectivized and 80% of state owned enterprises were permitted to retain profits. Within a few years, production increased by leaps and bounds, and poverty was reduced substantially.
• While the reforms were generally well received by the public, concerns grew over a series of social problems that the changes brought about, including corruption and nepotism by elite party bureaucrats.
• The initial reforms created a two-tier system where some prices were fixed while others were allowed to fluctuate. In a market with chronic shortages, this allowed people with powerful connections to buy goods at low prices and sell at market prices.
• In addition, the money supply had expanded too fast. At least a third of factories were unprofitable. The government tightened the money supply in 1988, leaving much of the economy without loans.
• Inflation soared. Leading to panic among salaried workers that they could no longer afford staple goods. Moreover, in the new market economy, unprofitable state-owned enterprises were pressured to cut costs.
• Reformist leaders envisioned in 1978 that intellectuals would play a leading role in guiding the country through reforms, but this did not happen as planned.
• Despite the opening of new universities and increased enrollment,the statedirected education system did not produce enough graduates to meet increased market demand in the areas of agriculture, light industry, services, and foreign investment.
• Moreover, private companies no longer needed to accept students assigned to them by the state, and many high-paying jobs were offered on the basis of nepotism and favoritism. Facing a dismal job market and limited chances of going abroad, intellectuals and students had a greater vested interest in political issues.
• Popular discontent was brewing over unfair wealth distribution. Greed, not skill, appeared to be the most crucial factor of success. There was widespread public disillusionment over the country’s future.
• In mid-1986, astrophysics professor Fang Lizhi, who had returned from a position at Princeton University, began a personal tour around universities in China, speaking about liberty, human rights, and separation of powers.
• The view that political reform was the only answer to China’s ongoing problems gained widespread appeal among students.In response, Deng Xiaoping warned that Fang was blindly worshipping Western lifestyles, capitalism, and multi-party systems, while undermining China’s socialist ideology, traditional values, and the party’s leadership.
• Inspired by Fang and other ‘people-power’ movements around the world, in December 1986, student demonstrators staged protests against the slow pace of reform. The issues were wide-ranging, and included demands for economic liberalization, democracy, and rule of law
• When Hu Yaobang suddenly died of a heart attack on April 15, 1989, students reacted strongly, most of them believing that his death was related to his forced resignation.
• Hu’s death provided the initial impetus for students to gather in large numbers.Within days, most posters were writing about broader political issues, such as freedom of the press, democracy, and corruption.
• Small spontaneous gatherings to mourn Hu began on April 15 around Monument to the People’s Heroes at Tiananmen Square. On the same day, many students at Peking University (PKU) and Tsinghua University erected shrines, and joined the gathering in Tiananmen Square in a piecemeal fashion.
• Organized student gatherings also began on a small scale in Xi’an and Shanghai on April 16. Starting on the night of April 17, three thousand PKU students marched from the campus towards Tiananmen Square, and soon nearly a thousand students from Tsinghua joined.
• Upon arrival, they soon joined forces with those already gathered at the Square. As its size grew, the gathering gradually evolved into a protest, as students began to draft a list of pleas and suggestions (Seven Demands) for the government.
• On April 20, most students had been persuaded to leave Xinhua Gate. To disperse about 200 students that remained, police used batons; minor clashes were reported. Also on this date, a group of workers calling themselves the “Beijing Workers’ Autonomous Federation” issued two handbills challenging the central leadership.
• Hu’s state funeral took place on April 22. On the evening of April 21, some 100,000 students marched on Tiananmen Square, ignoring orders from Beijing municipal authorities that the Square was to be closed off for the funeral.
• From April 21 to 23, students began organizing under the banners of formal organizations. On April 23, the “Beijing Students’ Autonomous Federation” (also known as “the Union”) was formed.
• On April 22, near dusk, serious rioting broke out in Changsha and Xi’an. In Wuhan, university students organized protests against the provincial government. As the situation became more volatile nationally, Zhao Ziyang called numerous meetings of the Politburo Standing Committee (PSC).
• Zhao stressed three points: discourage students from further protests and ask them to go back to class, use all measures necessary to combat rioting, and open forms of dialogue with students at different levels of government.
• On April 26, the party’s official newspaper People’s Daily issued a frontpage editorial titled “It is necessary to take a clear-cut stand against disturbances.” The language in the editorial effectively branded the student movement to be an anti-party, anti-government revolt.
• Organized by the Union, on April 27 some 50,000–100,000 students from all Beijing universities marched through the streets of the capital to Tiananmen Square, breaking through lines set up by police, and receiving widespread public support along the way, particularly from factory workers.
• The leadership was divided on how to respond to the movement as early as mid-April.Those who supported continued dialogue and a soft approach with students rallied behind Zhao Ziyang, while hardliner conservatives who opposed the movement rallied behind Premier Li Peng. Zhao and Li clashed at a PSC meeting on 1 May.
• Students began the hunger strike on 13 May, two days before the highly publicized state visit by Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. State media began broadcasting footage sympathetic to protesters and the movement, including the hunger strikers.
• The hunger strike galvanized support for the students and aroused sympathy across the country. Around a million Beijing residents from all walks of life demonstrated in solidarity from May 17-18.
• Deng warned that if Beijing was not pacified quickly, the country risked civil war and another Cultural Revolution. Deng then moved to declare martia law as a show of the government’s no-tolerance stance.
• On the evening of 17 May, the PSC met at Zhongnanhai to finalize plans for martial law. At the meeting, Zhao announced that he was ready to “take leave”, citing he could not bring himself to carry out martial law.
• On 19 May, the PSC met with military leaders and party elders. Deng presided over the meeting and said that martial law was the only option. At the meeting Deng declared that he was ‘mistaken’ in choosing Hu Yaobang and Zhao Ziyang as his successors.
• The Chinese government declared martial law on 20 May.The army’s entry into the city was blocked at its suburbs by throngs of protesters. Tens of thousands of demonstrators surrounded military vehicles, preventing them from either advancing or retreating.
• On the evening of June 3, state-run television warned residents to stay indoors but crowds of people took to the streets, PLA units advanced on Beijing from every direction and at about 10 pm, Army opened fire on protesters.Many protestors were killed.
• The killings infuriated city residents, some of whom attacked soldiers with sticks, rocks and molotov cocktails, setting fire to military vehicles. The Chinese government and its supporters have tried to argue that the troops acted in self-defense.
• At 4 am, the lights on the Square suddenly turned off, and the government’s loudspeaker announced: “Clearance of the Square begins now. We agree with the students’ request to clear the Square.“
• Many in the crowd were parents of the demonstrators who had been in the Square. As the crowd approached the troops, an officer sounded a warning, and the troops opened fire.
• On June 9, Deng Xiaoping, appearing in public for the first time since the protests began, delivered a speech praising the “martyrs” (PLA soldiers who had died).Deng stated that the goal of the movement was to overthrow the Party and the state.
• Civilians killed in the city of Beijing, according to the city police, “included university professors, technical people, officials, workers, owners of small private enterprises, retired workers, high school students and grade school students, of whom the youngest was nine years old.”
• Official Chinese government announcements put the number of dead between zero and 300. US Government files declassified in 2014 estimated there had been 10,454 deaths and 40,000 injured.
• With the imposition of martial law, the Chinese government cut off the satellite transmissions of foreign broadcasters such as CNN and CBS. roadcasters tried to defy these orders by reporting via telephone.
• Footage was quickly smuggled out of the country. The only network which was able to record shots during the night of June 4 was Televisión Española of Spain (TVE).
• Chinese government’s response was widely denounced, particularly by Western governments and media