May 35 Reading

Today is June 4, the 27th anniversary of the military assault on Tiananmen Square to clear it of student protesters. In China it is simply known as “Six Four” (the Chinese way of saying June 4), and it is such a sensitive anniversary that numbers 6 and 4 get censored on the internet. Never mind, though, if anyone really wants to reference it, they just call it Five Thirty-five (or May 35).

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I was not in China that spring, but watched with the rest of the world as the events unfolded on live television. When I returned to China the following year, the aftermath of the event still hung heavy in the air as the people waited to see which direction the Party would take the nation — back to Maoism, or forward with economic reform and development. Between 1989 and 1992, it was not at all clear that China would pursue the course she did.

For those of you wanting to get up to speed on the June 4 movement and events, these books are a great place to start:

Tiananmen Diary: Thirteen Days in June, by Harrison E. Salisbury

Tiananmen Diary: 13 Days in June

Legacies: A Chinese Mosaic, by Bettie Bao Lord

Legacies: A Chinese Mosaic

The Tiananmen Papers, by Liang Zhang and Andrew Nathan

The Tiananmen Papers

Red China Blues: My Long March From Mao to Now, by Jan Wong

Red China Blues: My Long March From Mao to Now

The People’s Republic of Amnesia: Tiananmen Revisited, by Louisa Lim

The People's Republic of Amnesia: Tiananmen Revisited

Related Posts:

A Book for Today

Guarding Tiananmen Square

My Favorite China History Books

A Nation Mourns

Image credit: History News Network

A Book for Today

In light of today’s date (June 4), allow me to recommend a book: The People’s Republic of Amnesia: Tiananmen Revisited, by Louisa Lim.

The People's Republic of Amnesia: Tiananmen Revisited

From the Amazon description:

On June 4, 1989, People’s Liberation Army soldiers opened fire on unarmed civilians in Beijing, killing untold hundreds of people. A quarter-century later, this defining event remains buried in China’s modern history, successfully expunged from collective memory. In The People’s Republic of Amnesia, Louisa Lim charts how the events of June 4th changed China, and how China changed the events of June 4th by rewriting its own history.

It’s one of the best books I’ve read, not just about the events of that day, but of the subsequent campaign to make sure it is forgotten. Having lived in China for most of the 26 years since then, I have to say the campaign has largely been successful.