Secrets of the Square

Smuggled out of China, The Tiananmen Papers shows Beijing's nervous leaders at a dangerous time

At the time of the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 in China, it was popular to compare the brinkmanship under way in Beijing's central square to a game of poker. It was easy to watch the student protesters and read the cards on their faces: they wanted political reform, but they held nothing more than their lives. China's leadership was unreadable. Some officials seemed eager for reform; others were enchanted by the possibility of a crackdown. How would they react? When? When tanks finally rolled through Tiananmen on the night of June 4, the world saw how the cards had been...

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