.. dow. He presents numerous conversations that he has with different people about what is going on, not only in Tiananmen Square, but also throughout the city. He can not understand whom the army is shooting at. He believes that everything should have been over hours ago, when the first tank rolled into the square.
He describes his drive through the city on his way to the airport on the 5th, one day after the Tiananmen Square massacre started. He notes the differences in what the state owned TV station is saying and what is actually happening. The rest of book details his final seven days in the country. He travels from Beijing to Wuchang, Jiujiang, Luchan, Nanchang, Canton, and finally Hong Kong to home. Throughout his travels to these cities he hears about small rebellions, especially in Wuchang, where supposedly a bridge was taken by students in order to protest the atrocities of Tiananmen Square. He talks with local citizens to hear what they know of the happenings in Beijing. Most of the people that he talks to support the state and therefore accept the state controlled news information at face value.
However, he does notice that in some places that the combined students-workers movement that was started in Beijing had moved into the Chinese provinces. Specifically, he describes a peaceful protest in Wuchang, where students and workers had gathered together in order to mourn those that had died in Beijing. One idea that he discusses repeatedly over the course of the last half of the book is the possibility of a ripple effect. He comments several times how citizens would speak amongst themselves about the consequences of the trouble in Beijing. “Trouble in Beijing bothered [the peasants]. It had a way of developing into trouble for [the peasants]” .
People are worried about what the government will do in their cities. Another idea that he brings up over the last section of his book is the idea of xenophobia. In the beginning he had believed that the people had settled their xenophobic feelings; however, he realizes that he is wrong. He believes that the uprising in Tiananmen Square will force the government to revert back to a philosophy of xenophobia. He states evidence such as the firing on the US Embassy and a statement by a Chinese diplomat that it was the US media who were changing the picture of what was actually happening in China. The diplomat went on to say that the Chinese government had shown great restraint towards the criminal elements that were influencing the students.
In the last fifteen pages of the diary, Salisbury takes some time to put his thoughts in order and to give his account of who is responsible, what he believes happened in Tiananmen Square, why it happened, and what may happen in the future. He believes that it started in 1986 when Hu Yaobang was expelled from the party. He also mentions that the year after Hu resigned, the PLA started to perform riot control drills. In addition, there was the death of Hu that set off massive demonstrations. He goes on to describe Dengs attitude at the time, specifically how he felt betrayed by some of his high-ranking officials, especially Zhao, and by the students. Deng had a negative attitude of the students, calling them wa wa or children.
Salisbury put almost all of the blame onto Deng, claiming it was Dengs anger from the “loss of face and personal humiliation” that had led him to order the final blow to the students on June 4th. He also puts some blame on the ineffectiveness of the party to form a cohesive unit and determine a collaborative plan to deal with the situation. Salisbury is perplexed by the unwillingness of the Chinese government to enter into a dialogue with the students at such an early stage. He feels that it will be a long time in coming before another effort will arise that will again challenge the foundations of the Chinese Communist Party and government. For me, I believe that Salisbury was a great journalist.
He understood the facts as they were presented. However, I have trouble with some of his analysis of the situation in Tiananmen Square. First, there is the fact that he did not know much of the reason behind the protests. “What was going on?” “How had the standoff between the students and the government come about?” , were questions Salisbury was asking while making observations and speculations. Sure, he knew the history of China well; he knew all about the revolutions, rebellions, and people involved, but he did not understand what was going on at that time.
It is this lack of comprehension that I find hard to by pass if I was to read the diary and believe it as truth. Even in his conclusion, he is only scratching at the surface of what went on leading up to the Tiananmen Square demonstration and massacre. Salisbury also frustrates me a little when he gets to Tiananmen Square. In his diary, he only describes the current setup of the compound. He makes some references to the people around him, but nothing too in depth.
I have a problem with the fact that he didnt stay in the square for too long and try to talk to the students. All he did was take in the scene and leave. He is only concerned with how he is going to complete his project. ” . For a man who has done so much on Chinese history and spent a considerable about of time in the country, a person would think that he had picked up a little of language, but in fact he had not.
Salisbury even comments that it was an “Odd sensation-listening to broadcasts coming from Washington D.C., to find out whats happening a block and a half up the street. To me, he sounds like he is writing a book about something that he only witnessed for a short time and had no vested interest in, only that it is related to history. Throughout the book, there is sense of naivete. There are comments interspersed throughout the book that reflect Salisburys lack of understanding of the current situation. Salisbury may know an extensive amount of Chinese history, but it doesnt appear that he knows much the current atmosphere and views that are appearing at the time of the Tiananmen Square demonstrations. He doesnt appear to know what the students are feeling or why they are demonstrating. For instance, “I am sure that a lot of those the TV is now calling bandits are unemployed youth.
They have nothing to do, and the excitement of brisk rock throwing or setting buses on fire would attract them” . There is also his statement that, “Frankly, I cant believe the country is that shook up” . This blatant Western ignorance of the current Chinese situation should not have made it to print. So why did it? Ultimately, I believe that this book is worth reading for its detailed chronology and portrayal of what was going on. This diary is not a summary, but an event by event account of Tiananmen Square and the countryside reaction.
He is able to give the reader a timetable in order to orient themselves to the situation. He is also able to give a good portrayal of what people outside of Beijing have heard and what they are feeling. This point of view from outside the city, from the country, is often neglected in other readings about Tiananmen Square. In addition, Salisbury was a distinguished writer and his knowledge of Chinese history is helpful. However, his significant naivete of the reasoning behind the demonstrations and his lack of major interest outside of his project are drawbacks.
Salisbury even comments that “I am going to take a shower and purge the dust of China from my body” . In order to understand what happened in China during the Tiananmen Square demonstrations, a person needs to understand the students. They need to understand Maos concept of constant revolution and how the Communist Party has seemed to have forgotten that. China has to remember its entire past and not just what has been told to them or what they want to remember. A true revolution will only occur when the entire society is ready, but let us not forget that these nudges of demonstrations are stepping-stones to the future and to change.