Shortly after the death of Mao Zedong in 1976 came the rehabilitation of Deng Xiaoping. During the latter's reign, China experienced a crisis in the late 1980s, the 1989 Tiananmen Crisis, during which the army attacked students who held a demonstration demanding political liberalisation. This event proved to be a crisis when the Chinese government met with worldwide condemnation with regards to their handling of the situation. Some attribute the crisis to the inevitable consequences of the policies of economic liberalization by Deng Xiaoping, economic liberalization being the introduction of (free) market principles into China's socialist system. However, there were other factors involved: the long-term consideration of Mao's policies in relation to Deng's adherence to or deviation from them; the short-term impact of Deng's own policies concerning politics and foreign affairs in China; the external influence of communism's imminent collapse in the USSR and Eastern Europe; the inflationary crisis, as well as the trigger provided by Hu Yaobang's death.
It is true that the economic liberalization had the consequence of inducing the people, or students in particular, to perceive an inequality in the comparatively more rigid politics, culminating in the Tiananmen Crisis; however, in my opinion, the root cause was nonetheless Deng's foreign policies, or more specifically, the Open Door Policy, because upon further analysis one realises that it fundamentally shaped their beliefs by providing a tangible example of what democracy was like, and feeding them with an ideal to work towards. Therefore I agree with the hypothesis to a small extent, and I shall limit my discussion to the time frame of 1976 (the death of Mao) to 1989 (the outbreak of the crisis).
[...] Still, it seems to me that the fundaments of the crisis still lie in the foreign policies that Deng adopted after his rehabilitation. When Deng realised that the areas in which Western knowledge (especially that of modern science and technology) surpassed China were crucial to her well-being and progress, he was flexible enough to allow more room for the Chinese students to acquire Western expertise. This was in line with his program of modernisation for China's advance and betterment, for indeed major component of this program is the policy of opening China's economy to the outside world [the Open Door Policy]”8. [...]
[...] However, the discontent that the economic liberalisation aroused was only effected in tandem with Deng's handling of China's politics in view of Mao's own policies. There is no denying that Deng introduced some positive changes into the political scene; he was concerned about the ageing leadership and did pump new blood into the party, and also replaced the personalised, dogmatic politics of the Cultural Revolution with one based on collective leadership, debate and discussion. An instance is the Democracy Wall put up in 1979, an attempt by him to allow the people an avenue whereby they could voice constructive ideas to the government. [...]
[...] Furthermore, the overseas experience may have had an effect on them to become more liberal in action, so that they were more inclined to protest through the active avenue of a mass demonstration (as opposed to perhaps waiting for the government to ask for feedback). As Hsü phrases it aptly, exposed to some freedom and creature comforts such as television and refrigerators, [the people, particularly Ibid, page 278. Ibid, page Ibid, page 264. the students] could not bear the thought of going back to the Spartan life of Maoist times there was a national desire to avoid the reappearance of another Cultural Revolution”10. [...]
[...] As noted by a historian, Third Plenum, which marked the emergence of the Deng leadership, also led to the eventual rejection of the Maoist economic policy solution to the problems of China's economic modernization” 2. While the students witnessed a substantial degree of liberalisation economically during Deng's reign relative to Mao's, in the political sphere there seemed little change, after Deng took over, to them, comparatively. As historian Immanuel Hsü asserts in his book, China without Mao, retrospect, Mao's policies had created the most 2 Kau, Michael, and Susan H. Marsh, China in the Era of Deng Xiaoping. New York: M. [...]
[...] Previously, he had been “[d]ismissed in January 1987 for his lenient attitude toward the students, [and thus] had become for many a symbol of openness and political liberalization” 7. (Hsü) Although his death was brought about by old age and had no correlation whatsoever with the CCP and China's political scene, the fall itself of this “symbol of openness and political liberalization” stirred the emotions of the students to demonstration. However, the CCP itself aggravated the situation by refusing to clear Hu's name even after his demise. Therefore, immediate events like these played a part in causing the crisis to snowball into a crescendo that culminated in demonstration. [...]
using our reader.