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The People's Republic of Amnesia: Tiananmen Revisited

4.23  ·  Rating details ·  786 ratings  ·  108 reviews
Despite its emergence from backward isolation into a dynamic world economic power, a quarter-century after the People's Army crushed unarmed protestors--labeled anti-revolutionaries--in Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989, the defining event of China's modern history remains buried. Memory is dangerous in a country built to function on national amnesia. A single act of public ...more
Hardcover, 264 pages
Published June 4th 2014 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published May 2014)
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Petal X Planet
It seems to be a mark of Chinese regimes to inflict the utmost brutality on the population, including massacres on an unimaginable scale where it is as if the whole population of a country such as Canada was entirely wiped out. And then years later somehow swing it so that even those who, they or their families, were victimised, make light of it, as if they hardly remember it, it just wasn't important, they never talk of it. It brings to mind Santayana's "Those who do not know history's mistakes ...more
Louisa Lim is an experienced China-watcher and has been an NPR and BBC reporter in China for at least a decade. She has completely captured a strange phenomenon of modern-day China: the heady mix of strong-arm political repression and an intolerant nationalism that is captured in the term “moral absolutism.” She shares the candid views of a cross-section of Chinese citizens and in the process manages to give an excellent update to our view of post-Tiananmen China.

Lim gives us a series of snapsh
Michael Perkins
Jul 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
As informative as this book was, the author was not able to cover the story of the "big four" of the confrontation. From the sounds of the article below, I gather none of them would have wanted to participate in this book.

It's also interesting how pessimistic they are and don't want to think about it any more. The confrontation clearly exposed China for the totalitarian society that it is, but democracy is certainly not around the corner. The country has been ruled by emperors and di
Horace Derwent
Aug 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Reading this book is just like watching a gory, splatter horror movie or worse, and the content is really real
Ying Zu
Apr 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Ironically, I finished this book on April, 27th, 2014, exactly 25 years after the grand demonstration held by the students in Beijing in response to the ridiculous accusations made by the party mouth "people's daily". During the entire week reading this book, I cannot get into sleep without having snapshots of what had happened in that year going through my mind over and over again, the passionate students, the brainwashed soldiers, the zombie-like conservative party members, the innocent civili ...more

4.5 stars

June 4th, 1989. This is a date that has been seared into my memory for the past 30 years – a date that, being from Hong Kong, I have an obligation never to forget. It doesn’t matter that my family immigrated to the U.S. when I was barely old enough to talk, or that I was only 11 years old when the events of June 4th took place, or that I was thousands of miles away, living and growing up in Los Angeles and barely even remembered what Hong Kong looked like at that time, let a
May 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history-general
Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to see the author Louisa Lim speak about this book at a reading session. As she was discussing the work she put into preparing the book, in terms of interviewing witnesses in China of the Tiananmen Square Massacre whose accounts had hitherto been unknown or unspoken, I drew on my own memories of the pro-democracy movement in China during the spring of 1989. At the time, I had the impression from TV and radio news reports that the heart and soul of that m ...more
Feb 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A very important book on how the events of 1989 - forgotten, suppressed, remembered in different ways - inform China today. Highly recommended.
Dec 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Adults.
Recommended to Helen by: No-one.
Shelves: china
This is a well-written book - the product of the author's extensive research, including tracking down eye-witnesses of the violence that ended the protests at Tienanmen Square in Beijing and protests Chengdu, in 1989. The author provides in-depth reportage of several figures - such as an artist who was a soldier at the Square the night of the massacre, mothers who lost sons in Beijing, who subsequently became activists, and the story of a high-level government official who was detained for years ...more
Skymarks (Rainy)
I grew up, quite literally, in the shadows of Tiananmen Square. One of my grandmother's favorite picture of her grandchildren was her holding a two-year-old me, standing under the iconic portrait of the Chairman. As a native Beijinger, my family has been living there for generations. It was, and still is, my favorite city.

I also grew up in the shadows of what had happened there ten years before I was born. My uncles were out on the night of the 3rd, going through the city on their bi
Missy J
It's a very quick read and especially here in Hong Kong, witnessing the Occupy Central Protests now, I can understand what worries the young people here. Despite the praise that China receives for pulling out millions of people out of poverty and the constant applaud it hears because of its stellar economic performance, the safety and freedom of the Chinese people is actually as fragile as ever before.

The main argument of the author is that the Chinese government was successful in wiping away t
The book was good, and I learned much new information. But the overall tone of the book was same-old same-old. I've heard many of these same criticisms of the Communist Chinese government before. The criticisms were valid and well-researched, and some of them were quite moving. But I didn't hear anything in this book that struck me as new.

What I want to know is this: How many atrocities has the U.S. government and people in the U.S. committed that governmental and cultural forces hav
Dec 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This book came at an interesting time, as I had just finished interviewing a Chinese-born American who recalled June 4th as "a bunch of emotional youth who got out of hand." He had been living in Georgia at the time. When I asked if he knew what was happening at Tiananmen Square, he said, "From the US media's point of view." That's when I opened Lim's book. She interviewed various participants in the massacre--from a PLA soldier who came moments away from having to fire at students to a demonstr ...more
Jun 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing
A very readable account of the backstories of many people affected by the June, 1989 crackdown in China, and a government's attempt to suppress and reimagine history.
Alice Du
Jan 16, 2019 rated it liked it
My parents were among those who protested in Chengdu in 1989. In their words, "Everyone had taken to the streets, even government officials." But unlike the people in the book, they always discussed it openly with me.

I picked up this book to learn more about the June 4th incident. I wanted a systematic overview of the political backdrop, the events that lead up to the protests, the internal struggles within the Chinese government, as well as actual protests and aftermath. I was disappointed --
Jun 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is a terrific insiders' account of the events that transpired during and after the Tiananmen Square massacre twenty-five years ago, from noted NPR Beijing-correspondent, Louisa Lim. She interviews students involved in the protestations leading up to the atrocities; soldiers and Communist Party officials sympathetic to the students' plights and whose support cost them their freedom; mothers who lost sons in Beijing on June 4 and who have since demanded justice but who are threatened and jail ...more
Tina Reynolds
Dec 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Very well put together. Louisa Lim shares the intimate experiences of those directly affected by the Tiananmen Square Massacre in 1989, how the event has shaped their lives, and China as a whole. This book really struck a chord with me, as I was only 2 hours away from Beijing at the time. My heart is broken for the innocents killed, their loved ones who continue to fight a somewhat losing battle, and the hope for political reform that was so violently dismantled.

The State's decisions surroundin
Adam Minter
Feb 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This outstanding, intimate history of 1989 is told through the first-hand experiences of those who participated in and were touched by it. It is personal, complex, and above all heartfelt. Lim doesn't engage in hagiography here - she is upfront about the flaws in the student movement and its leaders - and that makes for a far more moving and human history than any I've read on this period. At the same time, she is unerring in her focus on the violence, and its tragic consequences, both for the p ...more
Sep 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A must-read. In the words of the Wall Street Journal "Sensitive,skillfully drawn portraits of individuals whose lives were changed by 1989. This book enhances our sense of the human costs of suppressing the past"
Jun 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: china
It is like experiencing it once again. It all comes back. It is by far the best book I have read this year.
Jiahui Huang
Jun 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am glad to read this book published five years ago for the 25th anniversary of June 4th now, 2019, another important anniversary of the 'incident'. Unfortunately, nothing seems to have changed as time passed by. The still on-going waves of protests in Hong Kong made the reading experience even more special.

Among the books for June 4th I read, I found this one particularly stunning, not because they are the 末日倖存者的獨白:劉曉波的「六四」回憶錄memoirs of the victims (prominent figures or ordinary people), nor because they are the Prison
Jul 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book is haunting. Lim writes extraordinarily compellingly yet her words take patience to read, because the historical accounts she tells holds her reader to reading every word -- demanding that her readers know the stories that have otherwise been buried and rewritten by China. For me personally, I really wanted to keep reading while also finding a lot of the book hard to swallow because of the tragedy and how hope was gained and lost over and over again. I found the chapter about the Tiana ...more
Oct 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I’ve been meaning to read this book since it came out in 2014, and finally picked it up as Hong Kong continues to be engulfed in turmoil. Although Louisa Lim finished the book just as Occupy Hong Kong ended, there are so many parallels and lessons for what’s going on in Hong Kong now. It’s also a sobering look, of course, at how much China has tightened up since 2014. If the situations she writes about in the book seem bleak, it’s even more depressing to think about China and Hong Kong today. It ...more
Paul Frandano
This brave, heartbreaking book builds, Bolero-like, quietly, through profiles of carefully selected Tiananmen "types" - the soldier, the stay-behind, the exile, the student - up to the shattering chapter on "the mother," as in the "Tiananmen Mothers," what we'd call a lobbying group of "little old (Chinese) ladies"/activists who, for 25 years, have sought to get the truth out and to get the Chinese Communist Party and the Chinese government to "reverse verdicts," on 3-4 June 1989. (Very emotiona ...more
Shannon Hong
Aug 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mindblown, china
Incredible, honestly incredible. An lucid view of China, post 1989, through the histories of dissidents, students, and party leaders, with their experiences interwoven with historical notes and commentary. Lim is wonderful at telling stories and wonderful at getting to the point.

The resemblance of the Chinese state that Lim describes to Orwell's 1984 is breathtaking, with true happenings of surveillance, detention, and overall paranoia in re-writing history. A must read.
Edward Lengel
Aug 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
An important book, demonstrating the danger of forgetting history--accidentally or deliberately.
Jun 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Read this after watching Carma Hinton's "Gate of Heavenly Peace" documentary on youtube. This book adds onto the sense of sobering loss at the muffling of a people's history. Though published 5 years now, Lim's interviews remain as relevant and important as ever — as we are now at the 30th anniversary.
Melvin Nez
Apr 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing

The appeal for democracy and free speech in the 20th Century world is palpable, with many modern societies having recently developed these attributes within their governments. But one such government that still retains a hold on free speech is the People's Republic of China (PRC). Twenty seven years ago, a demonstration of students and intellectuals had observed the corrupt practices of the Chinese Communist government and desired radical change. Hence, the Tiananmen Square protests which starte
Forgetting is a practised art form in modern Chinese history: from the true cost of liberation to the crazed furore of the Cultural Revolution, much of the modern history of the country and the Communist Party has been forgotten or at best, re-imagined. One event that is the pinnacle of state-sponsored amnesia is the incident of 4th June 1989 - the protests on Tian'anmen Square and their suppression by the government and army.

In Louisa Lim's analysis of the June events, she explores and investi
Jan 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing
As Tiananmen features in every account of modern China that one reads, including biographies of any statesman at the time, or simple accounts of mdoern history, this reader was already very familiar with the event, and as such was somewhat uncertain about reading a whole book on the subject. However, I was pleasantly surprised at not just the informative nature of the book, but also of the emotionally harrowing accounts.
People's Republic of Amnesia addresses several key issues not included
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Louisa Lim found her path into journalism after graduating with a degree in Modern Chinese studies from Leeds University in England. She worked as an editor, polisher, and translator at a state-run publishing company in China, a job that helped her strengthen her Chinese. Simultaneously, she began writing for a magazine and soon realized her talents fit perfectly with journalism.

In 199
“our amnesia is a state-sponsored sport.” 2 likes
“One of the tragedies of discourse in China, Zhang believes, is that grey areas have been swallowed up by black-and-white moral absolutism. Rule by the emperor, or the strongman, has become the only mode of governance that people recognize: Obey or be crushed, for there is no alternative. Even the students, while clamoring for democracy, had become mini-dictators of the world that they had created with their wordy titles, petty denunciations, and fervid inner-court power struggles.” 0 likes
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