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China’s relationship with Western nations


Mikhail Gorbachev in China
Mikhail Gorbachev in China

In the post-Mao period, China’s relationship with Western nations and Japan continued to improve, and full diplomatic relations were established with the United States in 1979. Friction with the USSR continued, however, and because Soviet influence was growing in Vietnam, relations with Vietnam deteriorated. In 1978 harassed ethnic Chinese from Vietnam streamed into southern China. When Vietnam invaded Cambodia and toppled that country’s Chinese-backed government in early 1979, China made a punitive strike into Vietnam, but soon withdrew.

Under Deng, the Chinese government somewhat relaxed its control of the expression of ideas and the arts. A so-called literature of the wounded appeared at the end of the 1970s, as those who had suffered during the Cultural Revolution found it possible to express their sense of betrayal without government repression. Greater tolerance on the part of the government soon resulted in much livelier press and media in China, with investigative reporters covering corruption; philosophers reexamining the premises of Marxism; and novelists, poets, and filmmakers experimenting with previously forbidden explorations of sexuality.

In the 1980s, as television became commonplace, ordinary Chinese learned more about life in other countries and began to make new demands on the government for improvements in their standard of living and more choice in their daily lives. As many young people began adopting aspects of Western popular culture, especially its music, hairstyles, and emphasis on individualism, conservatives in the CCP responded with periodic campaigns against “bourgeois liberalism” and “spiritual pollution.

”Despite its relative openness in the cultural and economic spheres, the government kept a tight reign on political criticism. During the “Democracy Wall” movement in 1978 and 1979, hundreds of people posted so-called big-character posters on a wall in Beijing to protest against political corruption, injustice, and lack of political freedom.

Although it initially encouraged criticism of previous government policies, the government closed the wall when posters critical of the existing Communist leadership and the Communist system began appearing and imprisoned the author of some of the most outspoken posters, Wei Jingshen. Student protests occurred in several cities during the 1980s. The most massive one occurred in Beijing in 1989. In April of that year, students and others marched in the capital to support freedom of the press, educational reforms, and an end to political corruption. The protests swelled in May, when Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev visited Beijing to end the 30-year rift between the USSR and China. The protesters occupied Beijing’s Tiananmen Square until the morning of June 4, when armored troops stormed the city center, killing hundreds of unarmed civilians. Zhao Ziyang, the CCP general secretary (as the top party post had been called since 1982), had been sympathetic to the students and in the ensuing political crackdown he was dismissed from his party posts. Deng, still extremely influential despite declining health and lessening direct involvement in government affairs, designated Shanghai mayor Jiang Zemin to replace Zhao as CCP general secretary. "China" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia.

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