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largely accommodated the profit motive. Put simply, the Chinese
Communists did not understand political economics, and the people
they ruled over suffered as a result.
Some students seemed to have a naive faith in a vaguely defined
“democracy” as the panacea or cure-all for corruption, low education
budgets, and abysmal civil rights, and in this they were reflecting the
convictions of their May Fourth-era predecessors of the late 1910s
and early 1920s. Official corruption was probably the single greatest
grievance the students had with the government, and in voicing an
objection to it they had the concurrence and support of millions of
workers, intellectuals, and other ordinary citizens. What millions of
people thought, the young and brash students shouted from the tops
of their lungs in Tiananmen Square, to the thrill and delight of resi-
dents in Beijing and many other major Chinese cities. These were
intoxicating and heady times, and eventually millions of people joined
the student protests. The students were, in fact, more likely to get
away with these protests than the ordinary run of people would have
been because of China's traditionally paternalistic and tolerant atti-
tude toward youthful student enthusiasm. While the students were
being tolerated in their protests, large segments of the rest of society
joined with them, cheered them on, and coddled them with free food,
beverages, and frozen confections in the late spring heat.
The “Beijing Spring,” or the popular protests against the Chinese
Communists' tyranny and corruption, began on April 15 and came to
a decisive end with the June 4 bloodbath (see Yu and Harrison 1990,
15-34). The movement was led by university students in Beijing, with
students at Beida (of May Fourth-era fame) the most influential
among them. Former General Secretary of the Chinese Communist
Party Hu Yaobang, who had expressed sympathy with previous stu-
dent movements in China during the 1980s and was a hero to most
Chinese students, died of a heart attack on April 15, 1989. The next
day students at campuses all over Beijing put up big-character posters
commemorating him and attacking the governmental corruption he so
heartily abhorred. When wreaths placed in Tiananmen Square in his
memory were removed on April 17 (a Monday), some 3,000 Beida stu-
dents marched to Tiananmen Square in protest and demanded that the
government reevaluate Hu Yaobang's achievements, grant freedom of
the press, increase funding for education, allow freedom of protest and
demonstration, and publish the financial holdings of several high
government officials they suspected of massive corruption. The
students had no way to know it at the time, but their march would
inaugurate 47 days of student protests in Beijing and other major
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