For two and a half months in the spring of 1989, China's student actors dominated the world stage of modern telecommunications. Their massive demonstrations, the hunger strike during Gorbachev's visit, and the dramatic appearance of the Goddess of Democracy captured the attention of an audience that spanned the globe. As we write in mid-1990, the movement and its bloody suppression have already produced an enormous body of literature—from eyewitness accounts by journalists (Morrison 1989; Zhaoqiang, Gejing and Siyuan 1989) and special issues of scholarly journals (Australian Journal of Chinese Affairs Nos. 23, 24; The Fletcher Forum of World Affairs 14.4), to pictorial histories (Turnley and Turnley 1989) and documentary collections (Han 1990; Wu 1989), and, most recently, textbook chapters (Spence 1990) and analytical works (Feigon 1990; Nathan 1990)—tracing the development of China's crisis. Despite a flood of material too massive to review in the present context, we still lack a convincing interpretive framework that places the events within the context of China's modern political evolution, and also provides a way to compare China's experience to that of Eastern Europe. Such an interpretation should help us to understand why massive public demonstrations spurred an evolution toward democratic governance in Eastern Europe, but in China led only to the massacre of June 3–4 and the present era of political repression.

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