Tinanmen Diary Change is the dramatic art of survival. If one is to survive, one needs to adapt to changing needs and desires. The Communist Party in China was started for just that reason. The Chinese wanted a change from what was going on in the country at the time. The student and worker protesters at Tiananmen Square wanted the same goal to be met.
They wanted a dialogue to discuss the need for an adaptation, a change in the way things were being done in modern China. However, the bloody massacre at Tiananmen Square only exemplifies the point that the Communist Party, born out of revolution, would not allow another revolution to be born. In the book, Tiananmen Diary, Harrison Salisbury takes the reader through a minute by minute account of the days leading up to the massacre and the subsequent aftermath. In this review, I will explore the Tiananmen Square Massacre and its affect on China through the eyes and ears of Harrison Salisbury. I will give my opinion of Harrison and his revelations, while also exploring China and Tiananmen Square using other authors from class.
Before reading a book on China, a foreigner needs to understand China, its history and its beliefs. China is a country of legends and symbols, of tradition and heritage. As Salisbury states, “China is..ruled by her three great symbols: the Yellow River, the Great Wall, and the Dragon”. Each of these symbols represents a way of life for the Chinese. China is a very proud country with many natural wonders within its own borders.
The Yellow River is one such symbol for the Chinese people. These citizens turn inward in order to cherish this particular river, rather then look outward toward the ocean. The Yellow River, as a great emblem of who China is, is a tremendous rallying symbol around which to look inward. The river is a symbol for the people that they need to rely upon themselves. They must not look to the sea, to the outside for help. Everything that is made or done for China must be accomplished from within China.
The people have had to deal with every invasion, attack, and aggression with only their countrymen to help. China has always had to fight off invaders, including the Mongols, Japanese, Europeans, and eventually Americans. One such example is the effort put up by citizens during the Boxer Uprising. It was within this rebellion that a group of citizens took it upon themselves to fight the Europeans and attempted to rid their country of this menace. The rebellion had asked for assistance in the beginning, but none was given. The Chinese people knew that they were on their own. Even though the rebellion failed in the end, it gave the message that only China could help itself.
The Great Wall is another exceptional symbol that the Chinese people identify with. However, while its purpose was to keep intruders out of China, in actuality it is a symbol of what is wrong with China. “Not yet have the people and their rulers begun to see that the Great Wall keeps the people in, as well as invaders out; that the walls..confine minds as well as bodies”. The Great Wall is a barrier to the outside world. It is not supposed let anything in, whether it be people, armies, and on a more symbolic level any ideas. With the Wall and a tremendous sense of emerging nationalism, the elite in the government believe that new ideas from the outside world are invaders.
They think that they must keep other ways of thinking out of the country. The Wall also represents a need to keep everything within its borders. The reason behind this is that there is a belief that nothing should want to leave China. This belief has continued into the present with the restrictions placed on citizens by the Communist Party and the government. Movement of people, products, and information is restricted, especially to sources outside of Mainland China. Finally, the Dragon is a representation of Chinas belief in its superiority, and the belief that the dragon will protect the nation and its people “so long as they do not threaten its order”. The Chinese are very xenophobic.
This belief has been a part of Chinese culture ever since came into existence. “The Chinese defined themselves as the central country and believed they were surrounded by inferior peoples and cultures”. The xenophobic feelings were furthered during the European era of trade. Events such as the Opium Wars and the Treaty of Nanjing helped to foster a rise in the feeling of xenophobia throughout the country. With the unfair treatment of citizens by foreigners, people believed that outsiders were to be hated and treated as unfairly as possible.
These ideas have perpetuated through to modern China. In modern China, anything foreign like people, equipment, or products is scrutinized and questioned before being allowed to proceed into the country. This was where Harrison E. Salisbury comes in. Salisbury was a world-renowned journalist from Minneapolis, Minnesota.
He was born on November 14, 1908 and died July 5, 1993. He was newspaper correspondent for most of his life and won the Pulitzer Prize in 1955. He wrote 29 books and spent most of his life traveling the world in search of stories for the Minneapolis Journal, United Press, and The New York Times. Over the last thirty years of his life, he has spent time traveling to, from, and in China. After he retraced the path of the Long March taken by Mao Zedongs army during the years of 1934 and 1935, he wrote a book entitled The Long March, which was listed as the number one book to read by Chinese students in China. He has been referred to as having an “unending desire and uncanny ability to be where the great news of this century was made”. Harrison saw a lot and had been to a lot of places.
It is this knowledge, experience, and expertise that makes his book a reasonable first source with which to gain an understanding of a foreigners experience at Tiananmen Square at the time of the protests. The diary starts on June 1, 1989, three days before the military crackdown. Salisburys purpose in going to China was not to cover the Tiananmen Square protest, but rather he was on an assignment by NHK TV from Japan. He was hired to make a documentary on the anniversary of forty years of the People Republic of China. He was in China to go around the country and film and photograph significant artifacts and places, while making a chronology of the last forty years of Chinese rule. For the first three days, he starts to make contact with some of his old colleagues. He talks with these people about the current political situation.
He concentrates on the political figures, such as the heads of state and the leaders of the Communist Party. His concern seems primarily about what is going on behind the close doors of the government. He discusses the fall of Zhao Ziyang. The only real mention of the students is when he drives by Tiananmen Square to and from dinner. On his third day in China, June 3rd, he manages to enter Tiananmen Square and observe the situation.
He goes into great detail to describe the layout of the compound, where landmarks are located, what people seem to be doing, and gives an analysis of the lack of the freedom of press in China. The rest of the day he spends in the Beijing Hotel, consulting with old acquaintances and colleagues. He sorts through rumors and conveys what he believes is true and what is fiction. The actual Tiananmen Square crackdown begins on Salisburys fourth day in China, June 4th. His description of the events of the day go on for some thirty pages and continues on with the events on June 5th.
He describes the events from his window and from what he hears on the radio, from rumors, and from other people. He never leaves the area of his hotel until June 5th, when he is whisked off to the airport to fly to Wuchang. All during June 4th, Salisbury talks about the tanks and convoys rolling up and down the street, shots being fired repeatedly, and people lying on the sidewalk bleeding. He continues to chronicle the sporadic fire and movement outside of his win …