The goal over our next two classes is to examine the historical memory of the events of 1989 and to practice preparing for an oral history project—a skill that may prove useful for your course project research.
Take a moment and review this timeline (outside web link) prepared by the creators of the Gate of Heavenly Peace documentary. After a few minutes I will ask you to close your computer screen and work together to create a summary of the events (before and during) the 1989 protests. This will be a good time to ask any questions you might have about how the events unfolded.
Discuss Beam, Tatlow, and Wasserstrom:
Review selected parts of the “Oral History Project Guidelines” (PDF) prepared by the Minnesota Historical Society, particularly:
Your task will to be to locate the name of one fairly well-known individual connected to the democracy movement in the late 1980s (it could be a student leader like Wu’er Kaixi or Chai Ling, a worker like Han Dongfeng, a parent like Ding Zilin, a professor like Fang Lizhi or Liu Xiaobo, a Chinese government official like Deng Xiaoping or Zhao Ziyang, an outside observer like U.S. ambassador James Lilley or Canadian journalist Jan Wong). This person needs to have been alive and witnessed something worth discussing during the spring and early summer of 1989, however they might be deceased today.
Conduct some basic research on the person and their experience related to the democracy movement and Tian’anmen/“6-4.”
Based on that research, write out 7-8 questions that you might ask that person. These should be considered “good questions” within the framework outlined by the Minnesota Historical Society. After each question provide 3-4 sentences of carefully-focused background about why you think it is a good question and what you might expect that person to share. For example, if you were to interview Deng Xiaoping, you might ask:
Question: You often spoke of “reform and opening.” Did you see the student and worker demonstrators as reformists promoting a more open China?
Rationale: This question would gently challenge Deng to connect his own rhetoric to those of the students. It would require him to explain the limits of his own concept of “reform” and possibly to draw connections to the experience in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. Reform for Deng had to be ultimately compatible with “democratic centralism.” He feared that the breakdown in authority might lead to conditions not unlike the Cultural Revolution (1966-76) or the challenge to one-party rule that was occurring in the late 1980s in Eastern Europe.
Be sure to cite all of the specific information you describe. For example, if you were to add a line from Wealth and Power saying that Deng lost patience with the students after they showed disrespect to Li Peng during a live televised meeting, you would want to offer Chicago-style citation to that effect.
Due: This short assignment is due before the end of class on Saturday, 4/7. If you need additional time, you may wait until Tuesday 4/10 to submit it, but please keep in mind that you have several pages of reading in Schell and Delury due before class as well.
To submit: follow this link to Canvas.