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Digital Archive International History Declassified

July 14, 1989

LETTER TO CDE. ERICH HONECKER FROM CDE. SCHABOWSKI ON A MEETING WITH JIANG ZEMIN

This document was made possible with support from the MacArthur Foundation

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    Jiang Zemin describes the Tian'anmen Square Incident, stating that the "counterrevolutionary revolt had deep roots" and that the People's Liberation Army suffered casualties during the protests.
    "Letter to Cde. Erich Honecker from Cde. Schabowski on a Meeting with Jiang Zemin," July 14, 1989, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive, SAPMO-BA, DY 30, 2437. https://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/122031
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Beijing blitz – n

strictly confidential – t – b7/2 – 55/89   1st copy 3 pages [July 14, 1989]

To: Comrade Erich Honecker

Today I was received by Comrade Jiang Zemin for a very friendly meeting that lasted 1 hour and 20 minutes. I conveyed your heartfelt greetings and congratulations as well as the conviction that the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party will undertake all appropriate measures to strengthen the party and to guarantee the further successful development of socialism in China. Comrade Jiang Zemin asked to convey to you the most heartfelt greetings and best wishes. He emphasized that China received in a period of great testing the full support of the SED and the GDR. The Chinese Communist Party was very well understood by the comrades of the SED. It was shown again that you recognize your true friends in trying times. The position of the SED during this period demonstrates that both party share the same Marxist foundation.

Comrade Jiang Zemin stated he has positive memories of his meeting with you in 1986 in Shanghai and of his visit to the GDR in 1984.

On the situation Jiang Zemin informed as follows:

The counterrevolutionary revolt had deep roots. The revolt itself, however, brought the result that many people in China are today more clearheaded than before. The revolt has demonstrated that the capitalist world, and especially the United States, wants to destroy socialism. They thought, with those unrests the time for action had come. For many years, bourgeois liberalism got spread in China. Leading functionaries of the party, especially Comrade Zhao Ziyang, did not oppose this with the consequence needed. Now the revolt has been essentially quelled. However, there is a still a lot to do. Many lessons are still to be drawn.

The unrests did not come as a surprise, they were on the horizon for quite some time already. If the party would have had a clear assessment and would have been united, the events could have been blighted. However, Zhao Ziyang let those things happen. For this, and his splittist activity, he was severely criticized. Through that policy, the leading comrades in Beijing were brought into a very complicated situation. If actions would have been undertaken in the spirit of the editorial from April 26 (appeal to end the unrests), a faster and easier resolution would have been possible. However, with his speech to the representatives of the Asian Development Bank on May 4, Zhao Ziyang lighted the fire again when the unrests had already become weaker.

Now there is the task to increase socialist and patriotic education of the students. The slogans by the students demonstrated large confusion about questions of democracy and freedom. When we, Comrade Jiang Zemin emphasized, were young revolutionaries, we constantly reviewed and solidified our class-based position and our Marxist standpoint. Recently there had not been much emphasis any more on questions of a political standpoint. In contrast, bourgeois politicians state their class-based position very straightforwardly. For instance, [Ronald] Reagan was asked in France about the repression of students in California. He openly admitted it and provided the justification that those were leftists, and there was information that the communists were behind it. [Jiang Zemin:] one has to say openly that repressive measures in China were directed against the small number of rightist forces. Furthermore, there was information that the CIA and forces from Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan supported those directly. Even the tents on Tiananmen Square came from Hong Kong. China's domestic and foreign propaganda displayed major weaknesses during this period. The “Voice of America” had hourly, and organs from Hong Kong every 30 minutes, direct contact with Tiananmen Square. In Shanghai though (where Comrade Jiang Zemin stayed during that time) there was no information. Anti-Chinese news were reported in Western media during prime time, for instance about the 'bloodbath' on Tiananmen Square according to the motto a lie becomes a truth when you repeat it a thousand times. The People's Liberation Army has crushed Jiang Jieshi's army of 8 million men. This army would not have to suffer the heavy casualties that occurred during the unrests. Yet there existed a new situation, good and bad people were intermingled. This way the troops did not have the order to fight back. They only did so at the very last moment in self-defense. Otherwise there would not have been so many casualties among the soldiers.

Comrade Jiang Zemin said he had received a letter from [West German Chancellor Helmut] Kohl, where he pleaded on behalf of the three rebels sentenced to death in Shanghai. He called them student leaders and representatives of the democratic movement. However, those were multiple previously convicted rowdies who burned down a train in the city. With a different wind direction, a chemical factory would have been endangered. This would have had unpredictable consequences for Shanghai.

Comrade Jiang Zemin again reiterated: we really were holding back. Where are instances in this world where the central political square is occupied this way for a long time by oppositional forces?

Comrade Jiang Zemin expressed his conviction that relations between both our parties, states, and peoples will further develop. He noted that unfortunately the visit by Comrade Krenz could not have been scheduled yet [initially planned for late April 1989, BS]. He is hoping that Comrade Krenz will visit the People's Republic of China at a convenient date.

Myself I informed Comrade Jiang Zemin about the 8th session of the [SED] Central Committee and the preparation for the XII Party Congress. With special thanks Comrade Jiang Zemin received the information about coverage of the events in China by the press of the GDR, among else the multiple broadcasting of the documentary film about the counterrevolutionary revolt.

There was agreement between us that the Beijing Days in Berlin in September will be arranged as an important event in bilateral relations at the eve of the 40th anniversary of both states.

Schabowski

July 14, 07:30 hours.

[1] From Günter Schabowski, Member of the Politburo of the Central Committee of the SED and SED Chairman of the District of Berlin.

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