June 9 Deng Speech

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"This storm was bound to come sooner or later." --Deng Xiaoping

On June 9, 1989, Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping delivered what was officially termed his "Speech Made While Receiving Cadres of the Martial Law Units in the Capitol [sic] at and Above the Army Level".[1] It was his only public speech on the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, following the army's intervention and use of force on the student-led protests on June 4. Portions of the speech aired on the CCTV program Xinwen Lianbo on the evening of June 9. The speech was delivered to a group of People's Liberation Army generals in Beijing. It set the defiant tone for the Chinese leadership that the army's use of force was fully justified, demonstrated that Deng was still firmly in charge of China, quelled rumours of impending civil war, and signaled that China's economic reforms would continue as planned.[2]

Main points[edit]

The speech contains three major parts: assessing the nature of the Tiananmen Square protests, evaluating the correctness of Deng's major policies since 1978, and setting the tone for future development.[3]

Deng re-affirmed the party's decision to authorize the use of force on June 4. He said that given "the macro-international climate and China's own micro climate," (referring to Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union in the former) some sort of anti-party, anti-communist movement was bound to occur. Deng re-iterated the line put forth by the April 26 Editorial that the movement was out to overthrow China's political system and the Communist Party, going as far as to call the student movement a "counterrevolutionary rebellion."[3] He praised the role of the People's Liberation Army in taking decisive action against protesters, calling soldiers "sons and brothers of the people", and lamented PLA casualties on June 4. He said in taking the role it did, the Army passed a 'serious test'; i.e., loyalty to "the people, the teachings of the party, and the interests of the country." Deng acknowledged that some parts of the Communist Party leadership did not agree with the course of action, but said that he had faith that in the long run, they will change their minds.[2]

Deng went on to ask rhetorically whether the reform and opening policies that he had implemented in the 1980s were correct. He asked his audience to "ponder" this question. He stated that the goal of China was to become a moderately developed nation by 2050, and that he believes this is only achievable through the leadership of the party and political stability. Essentially this is summed up by his signature epithet "One Center, Two Basic Points": that the central focus of the Chinese state was economic development, but that such development should occur simultaneously through 1) centralized political control (i.e., the Four Cardinal Principles) and 2) aggressive market reforms and openness to the outside world.[3]

Deng asserted that the Tiananmen protests arose out of a failure of the leadership to uphold strongly the control exercised by the party as well as ideological flexibility that pandered to Western values.[2] He framed Western-style democracy as a sign of bourgeois liberalism and as an ideology that is not well-suited for China's internal conditions.[3] He called on the leadership to further entrench party orthodoxy among young people, effectively re-introducing restrictions on freedom of speech, the press, and assembly. These freedoms were prominent during the more liberal political environment of the late 1980s.

Deng also referenced the United States in the speech. He criticized the United States for interfering in China's internal affairs, and alluded to the United States shooting its own student protesters and therefore having no moral authority to criticize China. This is believed to be a reference to the 1970 Kent State shootings.[4]

Significance[edit]

At the time of the Tiananmen Square protests, Deng's only official title was that of the Chairman of the Central Military Commission, which means that he held ultimate control of the army. Deng delivered the speech in this capacity, as to not overstep his 'official' titles, but in reality it also gave an impression that he was in firm control and the country was no longer at risk of a civil war or uprising. The speech acted to clarify any doubt in the party line for lower level officials and among the general populace.[5] Party organizations organized citizens to study the contents of the speech.[5]

Prior to the speech, to avoid speculation that he was ruling from 'behind the throne', Deng had shied away from public appearances for the duration of the protests - with the notable exceptions of appearing at the state funeral of Hu Yaobang, and meeting Mikhail Gorbachev in mid-May. However, Zhao Ziyang's comment to Gorbachev that Deng is still the paramount authority in China put Deng back into the spotlight both among the Chinese public and international media. While the Speech was unequivocal in its support for the Army's actions, it also insisted on continuing economic reform policies that have become a hallmark of Deng's tenure. Nonetheless, Deng's economic policies lost significant traction within the party following the protests, and the rigour of reform was not renewed until his nanxun ("Southern Tour") in 1992.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Fewsmith, Joseph (1994). Dilemmas of reform in China: political conflict and economic debate. M.E. Sharpe. p. 251. ISBN 978-1-56324-328-8. 
  2. ^ a b c Vogel, Ezra F. (2011). Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. pp. 641–2. ISBN 0-674-05544-6. 
  3. ^ a b c d Deng, Xiaoping. "June 9 Speech to Martial Law Units". Tiananmen Square Chronology. Retrieved January 9, 2012. 
  4. ^ "Deng's 9 June Speech". World Affairs. 3 152. June 28, 1989. JSTOR 20672226. 
  5. ^ a b "Deng's June 9 Speech: 'We Faced a Rebellious Clique' and 'Dregs of Society'". New York Times. 30 June 1989. Retrieved 1 May 2012.