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Culture & Religion

Where’s China’s Gorbachev?

A look at China’s leadership and how, since the Tiananmen crisis, differences over power and policy have been fought out behind a rigorously sustained facade of unity and discipline.

What’s the Latest Development?

A variant of ‘Where’s Waldo?’, in this case, ‘Where’s China’s Gorbachev?’ seems to be preoccupying some China watchers. But it seems unlikely a Chinese Gorbachev exists, at least not near the top rungs of China’s leadership. No matter what might go on beyond the scenes, the need to maintain a public face of consensus was reinforced as a lesson in 1989 when months of leadership splits led to paralysis as public demonstrations began in Tiananmen Square.

What’s the Big Idea?

Since then, leadership differences have played out behind a “rigorously sustained public facade of leadership unity and discipline.” “The upshot is…that while splits certainly exist among China’s leaders today, they work themselves out in a significantly different political setting.” It’s not like in the “good old days” of the Cultural Revolution “when ‘left’ was left and ‘sham left’ was really ‘ultraright.'” 


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