Friday, May 2, 2008

NYT Archive 1989: Gearing Up For May Fourth

The May Fourth Movement is a legendary milestone in modern Chinese history, especially in the version propagated by the Communist government. The Chinese Communist Party credit the movement as a major factor in giving birth to itself.

Despite the violent nature in the movement, during which severe beating of government officials and arson had occurred, the movement had been portrayed as glorious and patriotic. In fact, school textbooks had gone so far as claiming that "student movements [such as the May Fourth] are naturally reasonable" (学生运动是天然合理的), i.e., there could be no wrong with student movements.

The generation of college students in the late 1980s grew up believing it. Many of them felt that, in 1989, it was their turn. As the seventieth anniversary of May Fourth was a couple of days away, excitements were mounting.

On May 2, 1989, New York Times reported that inter-city networking was taken place among students during the holiday period. Some students were leaving Beijing for the provinces to spread their protesting message. But more students were coming into the capital to see what was developing in Beijing.

Meanwhile, the opening session of the annual Asian Development Bank meeting was scheduled to be held in the Great Hall of People on May 4, which led to much comprehension and anticipation. The meeting was also the occasion of a breakthrough milestone: the first official delegate from Taiwan to Beijing. The delegate was headed by Taiwan's Finance Minister Shirley Kuo. As NYT reported, the tensions across the Taiwan Strait had been easing:
The two onetime enemy Governments still do not recognize each other, but they stopped shelling each other a decade ago, and in the last 18 months contacts have multiplied frenetically.
Taiwan officials no longer refer to the ''Communist bandits,'' and hundreds and probably thousands of mainland peasants have sneaked into Taiwan to work illegally in its factories and brothels. Trade between Taiwan and the mainland via Hong Kong soared 80 percent last year to $2.8 billion, and on the mainland, ''Taiwan compatriots'' have invested more than $100 million and can now be seen wherever there is a sight to be seen or money to be made. The New Look in Portraiture
Miss Kuo will sense the relaxed atmosphere when she visits Tiananmen Square in the center of the city. A gigantic portrait of Sun Yat-sen, who is honored by both sides, has been put up in the center of the square for the May Day celebration, but the traditional portraits of Stalin, Lenin, Marx and Engels were left off this year.

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