Saturday, May 17, 2008

NYT Archive 1989: Sino-Soviet Summit

On May 16, 1989, New York Times reported the long-awaited Sino-Soviet summit in a matter-of-fact manner:
Deng Xiaoping and Mikhail S. Gorbachev shook hands today to signal the formal end of three decades of hostility between China and the Soviet Union.
The two leaders then met for two and a half hours. Afterward, Mr. Deng was the host at a banquet for the Soviet President.

Just as any other media at the time, both domestic and foreign, it did not occur to NYT that it might need to explain why Deng Xiaoping, whose only official title was the Chairman of the Military Committee, was considered the supreme leader of China and warranted the summit statue.

If one would follow a strict protocol, there should be two separate summits for Mr. Gorbachev: one with Zhao Ziyang, who as the General Secretary was the top leader of the Chinese Communist Party; and another with Yang Shangkun, who held the symbolic title of the President of the country.

While nobody questioned the summit at the time, when Zhao Ziyang unexpectedly made it public, during his meeting with Gorbachev later, that Deng Xiaoping was indeed the supreme leader of China, it actually created a huge event that marked a turning-point of the 1989 movement.

Zhao Ziyang's meeting with Gorbachev probably missed the deadline for NYT on this day, as it was not mentioned. Apparently shadowing Gorbachev's entourage all day, NYT detailed how much the guest's itinerary had to be changed due to the interruptions caused by students in the Tiananmen Square. Not only had the welcoming ceremony be moved to the airport, they had to scrap a planed wreath-laying at the Monument of People's Heroes and have Mr. Gorbachev enter the Great Hall of People through a back door.

In a separate report, Sheryl WuDunn described how Beijing residents gathered at Tiananmen Square to stage their own welcoming for Mr. Gorbachev:
One after another today, groups of teachers, professors, museum workers, factory workers, writers, artists, scholars, entrepreneurs, low-level officials, middle-school students, and even journalists from the official People's Daily paraded into Tiananmen Square behind their own wide, colorful banners.
They sang the ''Internationale'' and chanted anti-Government slogans, while inside in the adjacent Great Hall of the People, President Yang Shangkun held a banquet this evening for the Soviet leader, Mikhail S. Gorbachev.
The ebullient crowd of about 150,000 protesters and spectators rallied to show support for a hunger strike on the opening day of the first Chinese-Soviet summit meeting in 30 years.
The crowd was significant not only for its size and the shadow it cast over the summit meeting, but also because it marked the first time that intellectuals and workers organized themselves to join the students in a demonstration. Previously, workers frequently took part in demonstrations, but not in any organized way.
Later in the story, a female leader by the name Wang Chao was mentioned. Although it can't be certain, but it is very likely the leader is actually Wang Chaohua (王超华), who by now was left in charge of the Beijing Students Autonomous Union:
A team of medical students dispersed salt tablets and glucose. But by late this evening more than 100 strikers who had fainted or lost consciousness had been taken to hospitals.
''Tomorrow, we will continue with our hunger strike as we did today, until we have a real dialogue with the Government,'' said Wang Chao, a once-fiery student leader who spoke in faltering whispers as she hunched under a jacket to escape the blazing sun.
Miss Wang continued to give orders on the students' next moves. Some of the movement's other leaders have not taken part in the hunger strike so that they can continue to act as negotiators with the Government.

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