Deng’s Children: Chinese ‘Youth’ and the 1989 Movement

  • Fabio Lanza
Part of the The Palgrave Macmillan Transnational History Series book series (PMSTH)


In 2011, while writing on the category of ‘youth’ in twentieth-century China, I found a measure of inspiration in media representations of the Arab Spring.1 Western media presented the ousting of Mubarak and similar dictators as the work of technologically inclined young kids (they tweet! they are on Facebook!) rather than as the result of a complicated mixture of Islamist organizations, economic inequality, and political dispossession. Understood in such terms these events appeared much less threatening to Western ears. After all, if these were democratic, secular and West-friendly young people -analysts and editorialists seemed to imply — then they could and should be supported without ambiguity. ‘Americans need feel no ambiguity’ was precisely what the New York Times editorial board had told its readers on 6 May 1989 apropos of the student demonstrations that had shaken Beijing since mid-April. These young students, ‘China’s future’ — the editorial argued — were protesting for things that were as vaguely defined as they were immediately understandable to US readers: economic prosperity and democratic reforms.2 Unlike their elders, these young people were ‘like us’.


York Time Chinese Communist Party Cultural Revolution Newspaper Advertisement Student Movement 
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© Fabio Lanza 2015

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  • Fabio Lanza

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