In the late 1970s, the Chinese leadership of Deng Xiaoping abandoned Maoist-style planned collectivist economics, and embraced market-oriented reforms. Due to the rapid pace of change, by the late 1980s, grievances over inflation, limited career prospects for students, and corruption of the party elite were growing rapidly. Communist governments were also losing legitimacy around the world, particularly in Eastern Europe. In April 1989, triggered by the death of deposed Communist Party General Secretary Hu Yaobang, a liberal reformer, mass gatherings and protests took place in and around Tiananmen Square. At its height, some half a million protesters assembled there. The largely student-run demonstrations called for continued economic reform, freedom of the press, accountability from officials, and political liberalization. Peaceful protests also occurred in other cities, such as Shanghai and Wuhan, while looting and rioting broke out in Xi’an and Changsha.The movement lasted for about seven weeks. The government initially attempted to appease the protesters through concessions, but a student-led hunger strike galvanized support for the demonstrators around the country. Ultimately, Deng Xiaoping and other party elders resolved to use force to suppress the movement. Party authorities declared martial law on 20 May. Military convoys entered Beijing on the evening of 3–4 June. Under strict orders to clear the Square by dawn, the People’s Liberation Army pushed through makeshift blockades set up by demonstrators in western Beijing on their way to Tiananmen Square. The PLA used live fire to clear their path of protesters. The exact number of civilian deaths is not known, and the majority of estimates range from several hundred to thousands.Internationally, the Chinese government was widely condemned for the use of force against the protesters. Western governments imposed economic sanctions and arms embargoes. Following 4 June, the government conducted widespread arrests of protesters and their supporters, cracked down on other protests around China, expelled foreign journalists and strictly controlled coverage of the events in the domestic press. Officials deemed sympathetic to the protests were demoted or purged. General Secretary Zhao Ziyang, who was considered too sympathetic to the movement, was ousted in a party leadership reshuffle. The aftermath of the protests strengthened the power of orthodox Communist hardliners, and delayed further market reforms until Deng Xiaoping’s 1992 southern tour.

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