The Chinese democracy movement (abbreviated Minyun) refers to a series of loosely organized political movements in the People's Republic of China against the continued one-party rule by the Communist Party of China. One such movement began during the Beijing Spring in November 1978 and was taken up again in the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989.


The origin of the Chinese movement started in 1978, when the brief liberalization known as Beijing Spring occurred after the Cultural Revolution. The founding document of the movement is considered to be The Fifth Modernization manifesto by Wei Jingsheng, who was sentenced to fifteen years in prison for authoring the document. In it, Wei argued that political liberalization and the empowerment of the laboring masses was essential for modernization, that the Communist Party was controlled by reactionaries and that the people must struggle to overthrow the reactionaries via a long and possibly bloody fight. Throughout the 1980s, these ideas increased in popularity among college-educated Chinese. In response to growing corruption, economic dislocation and the sense that reforms in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe were leaving China behind, the Tiananmen Square protests erupted in 1989. These protests were put down by government troops on June 4, 1989. In response, a number of pro-democracy organizations were formed by overseas Chinese student activists, and there was considerable sympathy for the movement among Westerners, who formed the China Support Network (CSN). While the CSN was initially a go-to organization for U.S. mainstream news media (MSM) to cite, CSN and MSM parted company in a dispute over the casualty count from the June 4 massacre. MSM originally reported 3,000 dead. On June 22, 1989, referred to "the Chinese army's assault on the demonstrators in and around Beijing's Tiananmen Square, an operation in which U.S. intelligence sources estimated ''3,000 people were killed.''" That casualty count, originally reported as above, was subsequently changed by the news media. CSN reported that it was in the interest of China's propaganda minister to reduce the casualty count by an order of magnitude, resulting in later reports that "hundreds" were killed at Tiananmen Square. The rift between CSN and MSM plays into the history of the movement. In January, 2005, upon the death of ousted Communist Party General Secretary Zhao Ziyang, CSN raised its estimate to 3,001 dead in the Tiananmen crackdown.

Current situation

This could be in part the result of the Chinese government tightening its control over its people's freedom of speech, thus giving the appearance of disinterest, or as a result of the overall economic and social reforms China has undertaken in recent years. The difficulties that the Soviet Union had in converting to democracy and capitalism were used to validate the PRC's official position that slow gradual reform was a wise policy. Structurally, democracy promotion organizations in the United States such as the China Alliance for Democracy, the Federation for a Democratic China and the Independent Federation of Chinese Students and Scholars suffered from internal disputes and infighting. Much support was lost over the issues of Most Favored Nation trade status and China's entry into the World Trade Organization, which was popular both within and outside of China, but which was opposed by 79% of the American people (in a poll published by Business Week) and the overseas democracy movement. After Xi Jinping succeeded General Secretary of the Communist Party of China in 2012, human rights in China have become worse. Censorship in Mainland China is very strict, including in the Internet. The new generation finds it difficult to obtain, or are unaware of, the truth regarding several important historical events which occurred before they were born. A generation gap began to appear between older and younger students when people born after the Cultural Revolution began entering college campuses. These students perceived the older activists as more pro-American than pro-democracy, and thus they are far more supportive of the Communist Party. The younger students also tend to be more nationalistic. Internal disputes within the movement over issues such as China's most-favored nation status in U.S. trade law crippled the movement, as did the perception by many within China that overseas dissidents such as Harry Wu and Wei Jingsheng were simply out of touch with the growing economic prosperity and decreasing political control within China.

Government response

Ideologically, the government's first reaction to the democracy movement was an effort to focus on the personal behavior of individual dissidents and argue that they were tools of foreign powers. In the mid-1990s, the government began using more effective arguments which were influenced by Chinese Neo-Conservatism and Western authors such as Edmund Burke. The main argument was that China's main priority was economic growth, and economic growth required political stability. The democracy movement was flawed because it promoted radicalism and revolution which put the gains that China had made into jeopardy. In contrast to Wei's argument that democracy was essential to economic growth, the government argued that economic growth must come before political liberalization, comparable to what happened in the Four Asian Tigers. With regard to political dissent engendered by the movement, the government has taken a three-pronged approach. First, dissidents who are widely known in the West such as Wei Jingsheng, Fang Lizhi, and Wang Dan are deported. Although Chinese criminal law does not contain any provisions for exiling citizens, these deportations are conducted by giving the dissident a severe jail sentence and then granting medical parole. Second, the less well-known leaders of a dissident movement are identified and given severe jail sentences. Generally, the government targets a relatively small number of organizers who are crucial in coordinating a movement and who are then charged with endangering state security or revealing official secrets. Thirdly, the government attempts to address the grievances of possible supporters of the movement. This is intended to isolate the leadership of the movement, and prevent disconnected protests from combining into a general organized protest that can threaten the Communist hold on power.

Chinese socialist democracy

Chinese Communist Party leaders assert there are already elements of democracy; they dubbed the term "Chinese socialist democracy" for what they describe as a participatory representative government. In a November 23, 2002 interview, the Chinese ambassador to Egypt, Liu Xiaoming, said:
I think what we are practicing today is Chinese socialist democracy, which is represented by the National People's Congress and a broad participation of the Chinese people. In fact, in today's China, the political participation at the grassroots level is much higher than any western country you can name of. We have grassroots level democracy demonstrated by village election. The turnout is 99 percent, i.e. 99% of villagers participating in this political process to elect their village leaders, comparing with only less than 50% of participation in election process in many western countries.Interview with Ambassador Liu Xiaoming On Nile TV International

See also

*''Quelling the People: The Military Suppression of the Beijing Democracy Movement'' *2011 Chinese pro-democracy protests *The Stars Art Group



External links

Free China MovementAsia Democracy
*http://www.bannedbook.org {{DEFAULTSORT:Chinese Democracy Movement Category:Political movements Category:Political repression in China Category:Democracy movements by country