SOAS University of London

SOAS China Institute

The Meaning and Implications of Tiananmen 1989

IMG - Tank Man - Tiananmen Square 1989 - Jeff Widener
Various panellists

Date: 3 June 2019Time: 5:00 PM

Finishes: 3 June 2019Time: 7:00 PM

Venue: Brunei Gallery Room: Brunei Gallery Lecture Theatre (BGLT)

Type of Event: Panel Discussion



The protests and military crackdown in Beijing, centred at and around Tiananmen Square in 1989 were earth-shattering for China and indeed the wider world.  The massive peaceful protests marked a high point in Chinese citizens’ clamouring for progressive reforms in post-Mao China. The ‘Beijing Spring’ was a moment when the world held its breath and watched with excitement and anticipation. The subsequent bloody military crackdown, captured and broadcasted worldwide, shattered hope and optimism.  Above all it demonstrated the capacity and the political will of the Chinese Communist Party to do whatever it takes to stay in power.  If Tiananmen 1989 willy-nilly paved the way for the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, it reaffirmed the Party’s determination to lead China down a different path.

In 1989 Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping was reported to have said that losing 200,000 people for twenty years of stability and order to embed the reforms and modernize China would be a price worth paying.  Arguably, twenty years after the Beijing Massacre China achieved more than what Deng had hoped for in the 1980s.  Three decades on China appears like a world apart from that of 1989.  But the same political system remains in place and the protection of human rights has progressed little, if at all. 

How should we understand and assess the meaning and implications of the momentous events of Beijing 1989?   The panellists, a protester in Tiananmen, a world class journalist whose report on the spot captivated the world and a leading scholar on the subject will reflect on the events, how they affected them and what meaning they draw from having lived through, witnessed or studied this vital historical moment.

  • Kate Adie CBE (reported in Beijing for the BBC)
  • Professor Rowena Xiaoqing He (Current member, Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton and author of Tiananmen Exiles: Voices of the Struggle for Democracy in China)
  • Dr Jiang Shao (protestor in Beijing in 1989)
  • Chair: Professor Steve Tsang (Director, SOAS China Institute)

Speaker Biographies


This event is open to the public and free to attend, however registration is required. Online Registration

Image: 'Tank Man', Tiananmen Square, Beijing, China 1989 © Jeff Widener.

Organiser: SOAS China Institute

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Contact Tel: +44 (0)20 7898 4823