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Book Review: Tiananmen Square: The Making of a Protest

Updated: Apr 23, 2022

By describing the political landscape leading up to the Tiananmen Square incident in 1989, Vijay Gokhale details the nuances of the decision making process of China’s party-state system

It’s been over a year since the start of the ongoing China-India stand-off in eastern Ladakh that resulted in the deaths of 20 Indian and at least four People’s Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers. The Indian strategic community is still struggling to comprehend the motivations behind the Chinese aggression on the northern border. India’s China scholarship generally suffers from a firebreak between linguist and strategic studies but Vijay Gokhale, former Ambassador to China, bridges this gap. His scholarship, Chinese language skills and diplomatic experiences help in understanding the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) internal politics, which shape its foreign and security policy decision-making.

Gokhale’s book on Tiananmen Square offers a view of the factionalism within mainland politics and breaks the myth that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is a monolith with leadership having a whip over every aspect of the party. By describing the political and geopolitical landscape leading up to the June 4 Tiananmen Square incident, he details the nuances of the party-state system’s decision-making process. This is the biggest takeaway from the book as scholars often interpret the party’s decision-making processes subjectively due to the opacity surrounding the regime.


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