U.S. Embassy Beijing to Department of State June 4, 1989 Primary Source eText

Primary Source

The peaceful May 1989 protest in Tiananmen Square, and the Chinese government's subsequent violent crackdown, generated debate in the United States over granting China the The peaceful May 1989 protest in Tiananmen Square, and the Chinese government's subsequent violent crackdown, generated debate in the United States over granting China the "most-favored nation" trade designation.. © PETER TURNLEY/CORBIS. REPRODUCED BY PERMISSION Published by Gale Cengage © PETER TURNLEY/CORBIS. REPRODUCED BY PERMISSION

Telegram

By:

James R. Lilley

Date: June 4, 1989

Source: Lilley, James R. U.S. Embassy Beijing to Department of State, June 4, 1989. National Security Archives, document 14. Available online at http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB16/documents/14-0... ; website home page: http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/ (accessed July 30, 2003).

About the Author: James R. Lilley is a renowned expert on East Asian affairs. Born in China, he moved to the United States in 1940. From 1975 to 1978, Lilley worked as a national intelligence officer in China, and then taught at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies until 1980. The following year, Lilley was appointed ambassador to China. After two years in Beijing, he was appointed ambassador to South Korea. He is a senior fellow with the American Enterprise Institute.

Introduction

In 1989, Tiananmen Square, meaning "Gate of Heavenly Peace," was the site of one of the bloodiest massacres in Chinese history. That April, student protesters from fifteen universities formed the Democracy Movement. Disillusioned with the false promises of communism, the students wanted the government to take dramatic steps toward democracy, including freedom of the press, speech, and assembly, free elections, the end of political corruption, and capitalistic reforms in order to better compete in the world market. At the time, the government was divided between reform-minded communist party members who believed that political liberalization would stimulate the economy, and hardliners who believed that if the government loosened its iron ideological grip, society would crumble and lead to capitalism.

On April 15, following the death of a noted government reformer and student sympathizer, the Democracy Movement organized massive demonstrations in his honor at Tiananmen Square. Within two weeks, the demonstrations became overtly political. On April 26, the leading communist newspaper printed an editorial accusing the protesters of being unpatriotic, deeply wounding the students who believed they were acting in China's best interest. In early May, the movement called for hunger strikes to draw attention to their plight and to force the government to negotiate with them, thereby winning the support of intellectuals, the working class, and agrarians. By May 17, one million Beijing protesters called on government leaders to resign. Three days later, the government declared martial law. Over the next two weeks, the number of students in the square had dropped to two thousand. On May 29, students smuggled into the square, on top of their bicycles, three enormous portions of plaster and Styrofoam. They fashioned the materials into a 35-foot replica of the Statute of Liberty, which they called the "Goddess of Democracy." On June 2, the government decided to implement a military crackdown and clear the square.

Significance

In response to the Tiananmen Square Massacre, President George H.W. Bush (served 1989–1993) suspended government-to-government and commercial arms sales to communist China, recommended that the World Bank postpone new development loans to China, together with implementing a host of other economic and commercial sanctions. He refused, however, to withdraw from China most-favored nation (MFN) status—a reciprocal trading status that provides a country with the lowest available tariffs on its exports to the United States. The United States granted MFN status to all its trading partners in 1934. In 1951, during the early days of the Cold War, the policy was amended to require the president to suspend MFN status to all Chinese and Soviet bloc countries. In 1974, Congress passed a trade act that provided for the restoration of MFN status to countries with "non-market economies." The act also stipulated that MFN status would have to be renewed every year. In 1979, President Jimmy Carter (served 1977–1981) restored MFN status to China, and President Ronald Reagan (served 1981–1989) renewed it every year of his administration.

Unlike his immediate predecessors, President Bush was under tremendous pressure not to renew MFN because of the Tiananmen Square massacre. That year, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senator George Mitchell (D-Minn.) sponsored legislation that would have required Bush to deny MFN status to China if it had not made "overall significant progress" in human rights. Bush vetoed the legislation because he believed that conditional MFN status would have severely undermined Western-oriented reformers in China and further emboldened opposition to democracy and economic market reform. In addition, Bush feared that without MFN status, China—purchasers of $9 billion annually in U.S. goods, primarily aircraft, machinery, and agricultural products—would reduce its American imports, costing upwards of 150,000 high-tech U.S. jobs. Despite a worsening human rights record, China continues to maintain its MFN status.

Primary Source: U.S. Embassy Beijing to Department of State June 4, 1989

SYNOPSIS: On June 4, 1989, the U.S. Embassy in Beijing sent a confidential cable to the Secretary of State in Washington, D.C. The embassy reported that approximately 10,000 troops had entered Tiananmen Square and confronted about 3,000 demonstrators when shooting broke out. In the end, hundreds of people were killed, though the exact number is unknown, and the Chinese government quashed the Democracy Movement in a brutal response reported around the world.

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2. SUMMARY. VIOLENCE CONTINUED THE MORNING OF JUNE FOURTH IN THE TIANANMEN SQUARE AREA. PROTESTORS CONTINUED TO SHOUT DEFIANCE AT THE TROOPS WHO THEN OPENED FIRE ON THEM. WE HAVE CONFIRMED THAT ONE AMERICAN WAS INJURED IN THE FIGHTING AND THAT AT LEAST ONE AMERICAN, A CBS EMPLOYEE, IS MISSING. CONSULATE CHENGDU REPORTS SOME 300 PROTESTORS MAY HAVE BEEN INJURED IN THAT CITY BUT THAT HAS OF THE EARLY AFTERNOON THERE WERE NO REPORTS OF DEATHS. END SUMMARY.

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THE TIANANMEN AREA

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3. AS OF ABOUT 0330 HOURS LOCAL TROOPS WERE IN CONTROL OF TIANANMEN SQUARE, BUT PEOPLE REMAINED IN THE SURROUNDING STREETS. SPORADIC GUNFIRE CONTINUED TO BE HEARD

THROUGHOUT THE CITY. BY 0430 TROOPS HAD TAKEN UP POSITION ACROSS CHANGAN BOULEVARD FACING EAST WITH A LINE OF APCS BEHIND THEM. STUDENTS IN TURN LINED UP ON CHANGAN FACING WEST TOWARD THE TROOPS. MEANWHILE, A LARGE CONVOY OF TROOPS BEGAN ENTERING TIANANMEN SQUARE FROM THE WEST. SOME 10,000 TROOPS IN THE SQUARE FORMED CONCENTRIC RINGS, ONE FACING INWARD TOWARD SOME 3,000 REMAINING DEMONSTRATORS, AND THE OTHER FACING OUTWARD. AT 0530 A COLUMN OF ABOUT 50 APCS, TANKS, AND TRUCKS ENTERED TIANANMEN FROM THE EAST. DEMONSTRATORS SHOUTED ANGRILY AT THE CONVOY AND PLA TROOPS IN TIANANMEN OPENED A BARRAGE OF RIFLE AND MACHINE GUN FIRE. WHEN THIS GUNFIRE ENDED AT 0545, A NUMBER OF CASUALTIES REMAINED LYING ON THE GROUND. AT 0620, A SECOND COLUMN OF ABOUT 40 APCS, TANKS, AND TRUCKS

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ENTERED TIANANMEN BY THE SAME ROUTE AND THE STUDENTS AGAIN MOVED INTO THE ROAD. PLA TROOPS IN TIANANMEN OPENED FIRE WITH RIFLES AND MACHINE GUNS, ONCE MORE CAUSING A LARGE NUMBER OF CASUALTIES.

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4. A SIMILAR STAND-OFF CONTINUED THROUGHOUT THE MORNING AND AFTERNOON OF JUNE 4. POLOFF REPORTED FROM THE BEIJING HOTEL THAT AT 1300 AND AGAIN AT 1500 DEMONSTRATORS APPROACHED TROOPS IN TIANANMEN SQUARE. THE DEMONSTRATORS SHOUTED IN DEFIANCE AT THE TROOPS WHO, IN EACH INSTANCE, EVENTUALLY OPENED FIRE ON THE CROWDS. THIS PATTERN APPEARS TO HAVE PERSISTED SINCE EARLIER IN THE DAY ACCORDING TO OTHER DIPLOMATIC REPORTS. AS THE CROWDS ON CHANGAN EAST OF TIANANMEN WOULD APPROACH THE TROOPS, THE TROOPS WOULD MOVE FORWARD, OFTEN OPENING FIRE, AND THE CROWDS WOULD RETREAT HURRIEDLY. AT 1020 MASSIVE MACHINE-GUN FIRE WAS REPORTED. TROOPS THEN ADVANCED IN FORMATION. THE CROWDS FLED IN PANIC AND SOON THE WHOLE OF CHANGAN BOULEVARD WAS TEMPORARILY CLEAR. AT LEAST ONE BODY WAS OBSERVED LYING IN THE STREET. AT ABOUT 1215 SOME TEN STUDENTS REPORTEDLY WENT FROM THE BEIJING HOTEL AREA TO TALK TO THE SOLDIERS AND WERE GUNNED DOWN BY THE TROOPS. TWO EXPLOSIONS WERE ALSO HEARD BETWEEN THE BEIJING HOTEL AND TIANANMEN SQUARE.

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THE JIANGUOMENWAI INTERSECTION

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5. AT THE INTERSECTION OF JIANGUOMENWAI (THE EASTERN EXTENSION OF CHANGANDAJIE) AND THE SECOND RING ROAD, LARGE NUMBERS OF RESIDENTS CONTINUED TO BLOCK TROOP TRUCKS AS OF ABOUT 0500 HOURS LOCAL.

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Further Resources

BOOKS

Fairbank, John, et al. Children of the Dragon: The Story of the Tiananmen Massacre. New York: Macmillan, 1990.

Salisbury, Harrison E. Tiananmen Diary: 13 Days in June. Boston: Little, Brown, 1989.

Schell, Orville. Mandate of Heaven: The Legacy of Tiananmen Square and the Next Generation of Chinese Leaders. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1995.

PERIODICALS

Beach, Sophie. "Tiananmen Plus Ten." The Nation, June 14, 1999.

Doder, Louise. "A Bloodbath in Beijing." Maclean's, June 12, 1989.

WEBSITES

"Tiananmen Revisited." CNN. Available online on http://edition.cnn.com/SPECIALS/2001/tiananmen; website home page: http://edition.cnn.com (accessed June 9, 2003).