The Legacy of Tiananmen Square
By Michel Cormier
Translated by Jonathan Kaplansky
With the loosening of restrictions on the Chinese economy in the 1980s and 1990s and the rise of the middle class, many observers thought that Western-style democracy would soon follow. Instead, China has adopted its own version, with a market-driven economy where actions that ... Read more
With the loosening of restrictions on the Chinese economy in the 1980s and 1990s and the rise of the middle class, many observers thought that Western-style democracy would soon follow. Instead, China has adopted its own version, with a market-driven economy where actions that might call into question the decisions of the governing party are strictly forbidden. In this fascinating account, Cormier chronicles numerous failed attempts to bring democracy to China in the last century, starting with a handful of brave souls who tried to move China towards a constitutional monarchy at the turn of the century and peaking with the student uprising of 1989. Using historical research (including surprising transcripts from Party meetings) and candid interviews with many of the dissidents — some now living in exile, others under house arrest in China — Cormier tells the very human story of real people struggling for human rights and freedoms. The Legacy of Tiananmen Square was originally published in French as Les héritiers de Tiananmen. This updated edition was translated by Jonathan Kaplansky.
Michel Cormier is the Executive Director of News and Current Affairs at Radio-Canada. He was the CBC and Radio-Canada correspondent in Moscow and Paris and, from 2006 to 2010, in Beijing, where he covered events such as the Sichuan earthquake and the 2008 Olympics and followed China's meteoric rise to economic superpower. Cormier has also reported on major events in Europe, the war in Afghanistan, and the deaths of Yasser Arafat and Pope John Paul II. His coverage of the toppling of Eduard Shevardnadze in Georgia resulted in a Gemini Award nomination.Cormier is the author of four books, including La Russie des illusions, which was shortlisted for the Governor-General's Award for non-fiction in 2007. He has also won both the Anick and Judith-Jasmin journalism awards. His latest book, The Legacy of Tiananmen Square, was originally published in French as Les héritiers de Tiananmen.
Jonathan Kaplansky studied at Tufts University and received his MA in French Language and Literature from McGill and MA in Translation at the University of Ottawa. He has translated works by Hélène Rioux, Hélène Dorion and Annie Ernaux. Originally from New Brunswick, he currently lives in Montreal.
"For a Western audience, still glued to the photo of a man with shopping bags staring down a phalanx of military-green tanks on the day after the Tiananmen Square Massacre, democracy in China has taken on that quality of being an impossible and unreachable dream — something the Chinese just don't get and never will. Michel Cormier's short The Legacy of Tiananmen Square is here to dispel that impression. ... Cormier succeeds in transforming this ambitious project into an easy-to-read précis for a world in growing need of understanding a country with which it has deepening ties."
"Cormier tells the story of the twisted and tortured path of Chinese-style democracy with purpose and clarity. ... Cormier has written a moving and tragic book, but one that is by no means hopeless."
"In The Legacy of Tiananmen Square, fluidly translated into English by Jonathan Kaplansky, Cormier asks why democratization efforts in China have repeatedly failed. ... Cormier's central argument — that Tiananmen's legacy was the entrenchment of authoritarianism — is nonetheless persuasive."
— Kate Forrest
"Michel Cormier's passion for telling the story of the Chinese people is obvious throughout The Legacy of Tiananmen Square. It's an important work of journalism that traces the forces that collided in the centre of Beijing on June 4, 1989, and explains where that collision leaves today's China. Michel Cormier makes it clear that China is still reeling from what took place during those bloody days. The country, as he writes, is still locked in an 'unfinished battle.' Read this book if you want to understand why the Tiananmen Square crackdown still matters almost 25 years later and why the struggle for democracy continues."
— Mark MacKinnon
"The Legacy of Tiananmen Square is a fascinating recounting of tumultuous political missteps and the devastating human cost of ideological intransigence."
— Lauren Rushton
"Michel Cormier's recounting of China's push for liberal democracy puts the country's more than a century-long struggle in an illuminating historical context, reaching from the reforms of Sun Yat-sen to the emblem of this habitually stalled progression that Tiananmen Square has become, and beyond. Shining a light on the country's dissidents, Cormier manages what only the most effective historians do, which is to constantly remember that politics is never more than the sum of the actions of remarkable people and to show momentous change through the lens that each provides."
— Noah Richler
"Cormier succeeds in transforming this ambitious project into an easy-to-read précis for a world in growing need of understanding a country with which it has deepening ties. ... After Cormier gets you to appreciate China's wild and fascinating history, and after he leaves you with the impression that Chinese democracy is a homogenous ambition and not a patronizing vision dreamed up by Westerners, you're left excited — if not a little apprehensive — for what the next period of China's history has in store."
"Cormier's history is rich and nuanced, showing the conflict of policy, politics, and strategy both within the regime and among its opponents."
— Jan Dutkiewicz