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China warns of chaos if party yields power

February 8, 1990

Article from: Chicago Sun-Times
Article date: February 8, 1990
Author: Guy Dinmore

BEIJING China’s Communist Party responded quickly Wednesday to the radical changes approved in the Soviet Union by warning that taking a similar path in this country would bring on civil war.

Some Western diplomats said China and the Soviet Union, the world’s two Communist giants, appeared to be on the brink of a new ideological rift.

After President Mikhail S. Gorbachev won agreement from the Soviet Communist Party to surrender its 70-year-old guaranteed monopoly on power, China’s 47 million-member party delivered its reply in ominous tones. It was the most extreme warning since senior leader Deng Xiaoping ordered the army to crush pro-democracy demonstrations last June in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square.

“In China, without the strong leadership of the Chinese Communist Party, new turmoil and wars would surely arise, the nation would be split and the people – not to mention state construction – would suffer,” the party statement said.

It renewed the old Chinese fear of chaos to justify the need for a united and supremely powerful authority that governs 1.1 billion people. The specter of turmoil also was delivered by an editorial in the party newspaper People’s Daily, released in advance by the New China News Agency.

Neither Gorbachev nor the Soviet Union was mentioned by name, but diplomats said the message was clearly aimed at heading off any possible reaction among the Chinese people to events that have shaken the foundations of communism elsewhere.

China’s state-controlled media have maintained a blackout on the Soviet party plenum, but many people have tuned in to foreign radio broadcasts.

“Will Gorbachev survive?” asked one anxious hotel worker, concerned that the Soviet leader would meet the same fate as China’s reformist party leader Zhao Ziyang. He was ousted by hard-liners last June.

Many Chinese are worried about the fate of their country after the death of Deng, who is 85.

The party editorial avoided using Zhao’s name but condemned the “elite” who, it said, had stirred up turmoil and counterrevolutionary rebellion in 1989 with the aim of removing the leading role of the party and creating Western-style multiparty politics.

A veteran Eastern European diplomat said China was only a few steps away from denouncing Gorbachev and the Soviet Union as “revisionist,” the term used to brand the Kremlin in the ideological rift of the 1960s.

But some diplomats said China in the 1990s, increasingly isolated in the Communist world and suffering from Western sanctions imposed in the aftermath of the June crackdown, was unlikely to seek open confrontation with Moscow.

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