MRI Forum 6

"In Search of a Chinese Shadow:
The Chinese Pro-democracy Movement"

by Professor Jean-Philippe Béja, CNRS/CERI, Paris


Summary of the Presentation

Fifteen years ago, tanks crushed the pro-democracy movement in Beijing. This event led some observers to state that the students had been out of touch with the mass of the people, that China needed an authoritarian government.

Today's impressive growth rates seem to confirm these opinions. However, the search for democracy has been a constant in China's contemporary history. It started at the beginning of the 20th century with Sun Yat-sen's revolution and the May 4th movement, continued under Chiang Kai-shek, and was not even completely suppressed by Mao Zedong.

Although it was never structured in a political party, like a shadow, it never disappeared. The quest for democracy is still strong in post-Tian'anmen China, and one has to trace it in the various struggles which emerge periodically, and in the networks that come to light only when an opportunity presents itself.

Profile of the Speaker

Jean-Philippe Béja is a Senior Research Fellow at the National Centre for Scientific Research, Centre for International Research, Paris. He has been the scientific director of the French Centre for Research on Contemporary China, Hong Kong, and is a member of the editorial board of China Perspectives and Chinese Cross Currents .

His most recent works include: A la recherche d'une ombre chinoise. Le mouvement pour la démocratie en Chine (1919-2004), (In search of a Chinese Shadow: The movement for democracy in China 1919-2004), Paris, Le Seuil, 2004, and "The Responses of Intellectuals to the 21st Century Challenges," Contemporary Chinese thought , (1) Summer and (2) Fall 2003.