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The People's Republic of Amnesia: Tiananmen Revisited by [Lim, Louisa]
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The People's Republic of Amnesia: Tiananmen Revisited 1st , Kindle Edition

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Length: 281 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
Page Flip: Enabled Language: English

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Finalist for the 2015 Helen Bernstein Book Award for Excellence in Journalism

Longlisted for the Lionel Gelber Award for the Best Non-Fiction book in the world on Foreign Affairs

An Economist Book of the Year, 2014

A New York Times Book Review Editor's Choice

"One of the best analyses of the impact of Tiananmen throughout China in the years since 1989." --The New York Times Book Review

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.

Lim reveals new details about those fateful days, including how one of the country's most senior politicians lost a family member to an army bullet, as well as the inside story of the young soldiers sent to clear Tiananmen Square. She also introduces us to individuals whose lives were transformed by the events of Tiananmen Square, such as a founder of the Tiananmen Mothers, whose son was shot by martial law troops; and one of the most important government officials in the country, who post-Tiananmen became one of its most prominent dissidents. And she examines how June 4th shaped China's national identity, fostering a generation of young nationalists, who know little and care less about 1989. For the first time, Lim uncovers the details of a brutal crackdown in a second Chinese city that until now has been a near-perfect case study in the state's ability to rewrite history, excising the most painful episodes. By tracking down eyewitnesses, discovering US diplomatic cables, and combing through official Chinese records, Lim offers the first account of a story that has remained untold for a quarter of a century. The People's Republic of Amnesia is an original, powerfully gripping, and ultimately unforgettable book about a national tragedy and an unhealed wound.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 4839 KB
  • Print Length: 281 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (5 May 2014)
  • Sold by: Amazon Australia Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00JMCZL56
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Screen Reader: Supported
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #184,772 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) (May include reviews from Early Reviewer Rewards Program) 4.4 out of 5 stars 39 reviews
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superbly written! 8 June 2014
By D. Krajnovich - Published on
Verified Purchase
By chance, I was in China as a tourist in 1989 when the Tiananmen massacre occurred (my trip had been scheduled months earlier). Upon returning home, I studied the history and aftermath; attended vigils and protests; heard lectures from escaped dissidents; etc. I did not expect to learn much new in Louisa Lim's book. But since the book got a good mention in The Economist, and it was the 25th anniversary, I decided to buy a copy.

Was I wrong! This is a superb book. I am not a fast reader, but I finished it in one day. I learned new things in every chapter. I was moved to tears by the chapter on the Tiananmen Mothers. There is no greater courage, no greater grief. The chapter on Bao Tong is also remarkable. On a purely technical level, Ms. Lim is an outstanding writer -- in the same class as Iris Chang. She uses a themed chapter format, most chapters concentrating on one or two people whom she personally interviewed. Her book has the added merit of being succinct. I suspect it took her twice the time to write a book half as long as most books on such weighty topics.

If you, like me, think you know all about Tiananmen, this book may surprise you.
22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Important Book Based on Amazingly Revealing Research 4 June 2014
By Robert L. Moore - Published on
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This is an extraordinary book. It tells the story of June Fourth, or, what the international community often calls "the Tiananmen Massacre," through the eyes of various individuals: a student demonstrator, a soldier, the mother of a slain student, and so on. It is a fairly quick read, and very well written.

The most telling and inspiring chapter for me was the one focused on the Tiananmen Mothers, those Chinese women who, having lost a child to the People's Liberation Army's murderous rampage, have formed an organization that continues to press the Chinese government to admit to its wrongdoing and respond to their loss. There are so many touching and revealing details here. A particularly memorable one is the government's having placed a security camera over the spot where Ms. Zhang Xianlling's 19-year-old son was shot by the soldiers. The sole purpose of the camera is to deter her from her custom of revisiting the spot in memory of her murdered son. Additionally, whole platoons of security agents follow Ms. Zhang around every day. Often they don't even know why they are following her. One young female guard, after hearing from Ms. Zhang what the purpose of her assignment really was, walked off her post in disgust. What courage these Tiananmen Mothers have.

The sad part of the story is that the Chinese government's efforts at hiding what happened in 1989 have been fairly successful where the younger generation of Chinese is concerned. Many are completely ignorant about the massacre.

On the other hand, the massive and pervasive efforts that the government undertakes in order to keep its June Fourth massacre concealed from the public is an indication of just how frightened it is of the truth. I wonder what this implies for China's future.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Courageous and Heartbreaking 22 July 2014
By Paul Frandano - Published on
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This brave, searing, beautifully and sensitively written book builds, Bolero-like, quietly, through profiles of carefully selected Tiananmen "types" - the soldier, the stay-behind, the exile, the student - up to the shattering chapter on "the mother," as in the "Tiananmen Mothers," what we'd call a lobbying group of "little old (Chinese) ladies"/activists who, for 25 years, have sought to get the truth out and to get the Chinese Communist Party and the Chinese government to "reverse verdicts," on 3-4 June 1989. (Very emotional reading.)

And then and onward, with a score that beguns to thump a little, to martial strains...and a chapter on the thoroughly mobilized contemporary "patriot," completely ignorant - as are most Chinese his age - of the events of 3-4 June, the core of whose patriotism is the aggressive, increasingly militaristic nationalism the Party and government has sought (since the early 1990s) to cultivate in the populace as a substitute for ideology (I mean, who knew that a third of the output China's huge Hengdian film studio involves battles against Japanese "devils" and that some call the studio "a huge anti-Japanese revolutionary base"?)

Down into the home stretch, very like Ravel, Ms. Lim hits a revelatory (no pun intended) peak (especially for an old China hand) in a remarkable chapter on a man some of us will remember as pivotal in late-1980s China: Bao Tong, then the Politburo Standing Committee's secretary and deposed Party General Secretary Zhao Ziyang's right hand man. Bao was arrested little more than a week after Zhao's last public appearance and the declaration of martial law in mid-May 1989. He spent seven years in solitary at the famous Qincheng Prison for disgraced senior officials, and now, an octogenarian, lives under perpetual surveillance. Why? Because he has the superpower of "seeing through" and has the system of China's "success" figured out, all the way down to the ground. Bao describes it to Ms. Lim as a long chain of "mini-Tiananmens" that go all the way back to the night the People's Liberation Army fired on its own children. Each odious event - the constant watching, the constant suppression if not quite forcible repression (but that too), the arrests of grandmothers, the obsessive following around and, if need be, putting away anyone seen as possibly threatening the Great Power by saying the wrong words to the wrong person, anyone who threatens to chip away at the collective amnesia, to undo the technique of forgetting history, and thus expose the rotten foundations of today's China - stands as a small-reproduction of mindset that mandated the actions of June 1989 at the Gate of Heavenly Peace. And all these take place with with the nearly perpetual complicity of a silent West, which shuts its eyes, covers its ears, and rakes in its profits from "People's China." Thus do all these single events that accumulated into one mountainous malignancy that ultimately renders "the China miracle" possible and all the Chinese who benefit complicit in the monstrosity of Tiananmen.

Finally, Ms. Lim's - and our - remarkable journey ends, in a Ravelian crescendo, in one of the not-so-mini Tiananmens that have, until now, dwelt in obscurity to both Western and Chinese eyes: Chengdu, capital of Sichuan Province, where Zhao Ziyang had as First Secretary led successful free-market agricultural reforms that dramatically increased production and led to a local jingle - "yao chifan, zhao Ziyang" ("if you want to eat, look for Ziyang" - punning on "Zhao"). Chengdu was another scene of the bloody suppression of students in June 1989 - reportedly one of the more than 60 major Chinese municipalities that experienced disorder similar to that of Beijing, but the stories of which have never been told, except in occasional snippets (we've heard, for example, about former President and CCP Chief Jiang Zemin's successes as Shanghai party chief, part of his hagiographic resume when he was named to head the party, state, and military).

Ms. Lim drags the Chengdu story out of the dark, and in doing so stimulated distant memories. Long before the events of 1989, I had stayed at the Jinjiang Hotel, scene of the most heinous events Lim has been able to surface and report. I can imagine looking out my window, into the courtyard where I had watched chefs skinning snakes for the night's dinner, and witnessing instead atrocities, committed by Chinese against Chinese.

And atrocities of a different sort are committed today in the Chinese leadership's failure to admit the success China today enjoys is built upon lies and serial inhumanity. We think of Lu Xun: men eat men. I know: we have our own ghosts in the American closet. (Think, for instance, of Ta-Nehisi Coate's persuasive argment that the greatest of the US economic achievement is built on the grimmest, ugliest feature of US history, indeed, an American holocaust: slavery and its ugly, prejudicial aftermath of lynchings, the denial of Federal benefits to African Americans, neighborhood redlining, overcharging, and on and on and on...) But here in the United States, we can discuss our ghosts, and worry about and become activists for solutions. We're able to expose the lie and have the power to TRY to disinfect the wounds.

But in China, one cannot raise the lies and serial inhumanities, because to begin that discussion risks bringing the entire corrupt house of cards down...and with it, the lives and fortunes of the families and friends who have benefited the most from the rot and corruption that permeates the "China miracle."

We owe Louisa Lim a debt of gratitude for bringing so much of the hidden story to light, and we can only hope that she has a legion of successors who will expose other stories of June 1989 from across China.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 25 years of amnesia? 26 June 2014
By SarahM - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Surely that borders on Alzheimer's?

This is not a history book, and it does not claim to be one. It is a series of interviews with participants in the 1989 democracy movement and/or their survivors. The stories presented are personal, compelling and damning. Damning of Deng Xiaoping in particular.

To paraphrase the paramount leader: "It doesn't matter whether the cat is black or white, as long as it kills those who oppose it ."
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Valuable book for anyone interested in China 20 June 2014
By Breyne Moskowitz - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Very informative. I thought I knew a lot about Tienanmen before, but this book gave me much new information. I knew nothing about the situation in Chengdu, which I found particularly interesting because I lived in that city for several years. Her views on how Tienanmen changed contemporary China were thought-provoking. I would have given it 5 stars except that it is somewhat repetitive in order to make it book-length.