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!Download ☰ Prisoner of the State: The Secret Journal of Premier Zhao Ziyang ♃ How often can you peek behind the curtains of one of the most secretive governments in the world Prisoner of the State is the first book to give readers a front row seat to the secret inner workings of China s government It is the story of Premier Zhao Ziyang, the man who brought liberal change to that nation and who, at the height of the Tiananmen Square protests in , tried to stop the massacre and was dethroned for his effortsWhen China s army moved in, killing hundreds of students and other demonstrators, Zhao was placed under house arrest at his home on a quiet alley in Beijing China s most promising change agent had been disgraced, along with the policies he stood for The premier spent the last sixteen years of his life, up until his death in , in seclusion An occasional detail about his life would slip out reports of a golf excursion, a photo of his aging visage, a leaked letter to China s leaders But China scholars often lamented that Zhao never had his final sayAs it turns out, Zhao did produce a memoir in complete secrecy He methodically recorded his thoughts and recollections on what had happened behind the scenes during many of modern China s most critical moments The tapes he produced were smuggled out of the country and form the basis for Prisoner of the State In this audio journal, Zhao provides intimate details about the Tiananmen crackdown he describes the ploys and double crosses China s top leaders use to gain advantage over one another and he talks of the necessity for China to adopt democracy in order to achieve long term stabilityThe China that Zhao portrays is not some long lost dynasty It is today s China, where the nation s leaders accept economic freedom but continue to resist political changeIf Zhao had survived that is, if the hard line hadn t prevailed during Tiananmen he might have been able to steer China s political system toward openness and toleranceZhao s call to begin lifting the Party s control over China s life to let a little freedom into the public square is remarkable coming from a man who had once dominated that square Although Zhao now speaks from the grave in this moving and riveting memoir, his voice has the moral power to make China sit up and listen Brutally, criminally dull Poor guy gets put under house arrest for having an unpopular opinion, then spends 16 years writing letters to The Powers That Be who assiduously ignore them, and him, until he dies of old age and boredom No one, but no one, does bureaucracy like the ChiComs. My only, rather big, problem with this book is that it is dreary and dull in writing with an official and documentary tone.I didn t care for the first half of the book where Zhao gives an account of history of Tianamen incidents and the treatment he was dealt by the party politics and Deng Xiaopeng.The second half that is an account of China implementing open door policies and the party politics related to that whereinteresting. China is a complicated place Truth is as malleable as play dough Whether this work is an accurate depiction of historical events or a place setter in a contrived image, might be the subject of debate It does give a glimpse into a part of what the political culture might be The writing is excellent and the story compelling If nothing else it stimulates our imagination about what our present and future rival is all about. I d never heard of Zhao Zhiyang and didn t know much about the events that led to the Tiananmen Square incident before I read this book It s fascinating on a number of levels as it lays bare the inner workings of the CPC and how power is really held and distributed within the party It was also interesting to read that the CPC even then was not a monolithic body and wasn t always able to drive down plans from the top without getting buy in at junior levels It was also interesting to see how pr I d never heard of Zhao Zhiyang and didn t know much about the events that led to the Tiananmen Square incident before I read this book It s fascinating on a number of levels as it lays bare the inner workings of the CPC and how power is really held and distributed within the party It was also interesting to read that the CPC even then was not a monolithic body and wasn t always able to drive down plans from the top without getting buy in at junior levels It was also interesting to see how pragmatic they were in their experimentations around opening up the economy This book gives rare view into the murky doings of the single party bureaucracy and extent it holds the grip of the power in the China Zhao Ziyang was touted as rising star and one to succeed Deng Xiaoping His fall from the grace is spell bounding From being a high ranking politburo official General Chairman of the party to house arrest and being shunned off from public life It is sad to read how one man s valiant effort to stand up against the party s decision to quell students demonstrat This book gives rare view into the murky doings of the single party bureaucracy and extent it holds the grip of the power in the China Zhao Ziyang was touted as rising star and one to succeed Deng Xiaoping His fall from the grace is spell bounding From being a high ranking politburo official General Chairman of the party to house arrest and being shunned off from public life It is sad to read how one man s valiant effort to stand up against the party s decision to quell students demonstration against the brute force labelled him as liberal bourgeoisie and anti party element This also gives glimpse of the purges which would have happened during the cultural revolution under Mao s iron fist This book also clarifies how difficult is to spur democracy and voice dissent in despotic China Zhao was big economic reformer, but politically conservative During the end part of life, he realized how political freedom is as important as the economic advances He advocates of the change in the system And I absolutely agree with the Zhao.If it can happen to him it can happen to anyone The scary part is the grip is only tightening evenin recent times It was an interesting book I was in the Third World over those years so I don t remember the events at all Even the Tianamen Square massacre was a blank to me until I returned to countries with television and books.They are a clever, subtle and devious lot in the Central Committee Super intelligent, every one of them That was interesting to me, from the outside it looks like a lot of them are order following drones serried rows all dressing the same and all with the same haircuts Well, not It was an interesting book I was in the Third World over those years so I don t remember the events at all Even the Tianamen Square massacre was a blank to me until I returned to countries with television and books.They are a clever, subtle and devious lot in the Central Committee Super intelligent, every one of them That was interesting to me, from the outside it looks like a lot of them are order following drones serried rows all dressing the same and all with the same haircuts Well, not so Order following policy wonks with responsibilities for a huge country, is a better description If the CCP knew I read this book, they d probably revoke my visa before I got on the plane.Or maybe not I guess the ultimate lesson of a book like this one is that you never know what the people in power in a country like China are really thinking.Zhao Ziyang was the Premier of China for most of the 1980s, and was the General Secretary of the Communist Party in 1987 1989 That means two things 1 In the vague, byzantine upper echelon of the Chinese government, he was essentially the number two If the CCP knew I read this book, they d probably revoke my visa before I got on the plane.Or maybe not I guess the ultimate lesson of a book like this one is that you never know what the people in power in a country like China are really thinking.Zhao Ziyang was the Premier of China for most of the 1980s, and was the General Secretary of the Communist Party in 1987 1989 That means two things 1 In the vague, byzantine upper echelon of the Chinese government, he was essentially the number two most powerful person in China during that decade or at worst he was tied in that position with a tiny handful of other men the top man the whole time was, of course, Deng Xiaoping 2 He was the number two most powerful person in China during the June 4th, 1989 massacre at Tiananmen Square On June 5th, he became the least powerful person in China, and spent the rest of his life under unofficial house arrest until his death in 2005 The reason He directly refused Deng Xiaoping s order to send in the military to crush the demonstrators Deng was Zhou s long time ally, mentor, and co crusader in favor of economic reforms, but Deng immediately forced Zhou to resign when he wouldn t bring the hammer down on the student protesters Deng and the CCP elders never allowed Zhou his freedom again, for fear he might reveal the truth about everything that happened in 1989 and shine a bright light on an incident they all wanted to forget.Too bad he kept a journal I m not exactly up on the Chinese history it s not a subject that we covered much in school Most of what I know comes by way of hazy pop culture references and exposure via the slightly counterfactual nature of science fiction and historical fiction Moreover, having been born and raised subsequent to the Cold War and the height of anti communist sentiment in the West, not to mention just after the Tienanmen Square incident, the history that features in Prisoner of the State belongs to that mi I m not exactly up on the Chinese history it s not a subject that we covered much in school Most of what I know comes by way of hazy pop culture references and exposure via the slightly counterfactual nature of science fiction and historical fiction Moreover, having been born and raised subsequent to the Cold War and the height of anti communist sentiment in the West, not to mention just after the Tienanmen Square incident, the history that features in Prisoner of the State belongs to that middle part of the twentieth century I fondly call the lost years If it happened after World War II, we didn t really talk much about it in school So I try to remedy that oversight by reading about it on my own time I can t quite recall what put Prisoner of State on my radar It s been on my to read list for a few years now My public library in Thunder Bay didn t have a copy, so I had relegated it to the to buy, eventually shelf Fortunately, I managed to find a copy in the Suffolk library system, so I jumped at the chance to read it now And it isn t quite what I was expecting.What strikes me the most about Zhao Ziyang is his unwavering focus on economic reform From the title, not to mention the fact that he composed these thoughts while under house arrest, set me up to expect apolitically focused tract Knowing precisely nothing about Zhao, or indeed the structure of the Chinese leadership, prior to this point, I wasn t prepared for Zhao s intense, detailled discussions of how China s economy changed in the latter part of the twentieth century At times the minutiae become tedious, the trees threatening to rise up and swallow the forest For the most part, though, Zhao s account is enlightening.Zhao s discussion of the different paths that China could take in the 1980s provides an important context to the China that exists today I now better understand the paradox of the People s Republic of China a country ruled by One Party where personal freedoms are constrained, but economic freedom has expanded markedly Much of this is thanks to Zhao and his supporters, for they believed that the strict, centralized planned economy inherited via Stalin and Mao was doomed to failure, at least for a country the size of China Zhao repeatedly explains that he could not abide the waste and inefficiency that resulted from a top down, planned economy, and he sawfree market solutions as the only way to drag China towards a twenty first century where it could compete and interact at an international level.That Zhao was notinterested in the political side of things might seem surprising to an outsider like me, but he also offers some insights into why this might be so He admits that he was, at least until they came for him, fairly conservative regarding the possibility of the Party abusing its power Like something out of Nineteen Eighty Four, he is complacent about the system until it turns against him This is most evident when he contrasts himself and his associate Hu Yaobang, who shared Zhao s zeal for economic reform but was also muchinterested in bringing aopen democracy to the country Zhao s caution allowed him to remain even when Yaobang was removed byconservative opponents though, of course, that same caution and lack of political deftness contributed to Zhao s own eventual downfall.It d be inaccurate for me to represent Zhao as completely devoid of political leanings Importantly, Prisoner of the State shows his growth in this area Even before his house arrest, Zhao begins to understand that economic reform is difficult without political reform The beloved Party elders are slow to retire they like to hang on to power, unsurprisingly, and the cult of personality style political system has encouraged reverence from their followers to the point of deference The most conservative elders are very opposed to Zhao s reforms, but there are no checks and balances to remove their influence Similarly, once they begin to turn against Zhao and investigate him, he experiences firsthand the way an authoritarian government can trammel upon the rights of an individual, Party constitution or no.The Zhao who speaks in this journal is a different Zhao, a Zhao who understands that China s future is as much about political reform as it is economic reform Just as he recognized the terrible inefficiencies that plagued a centralized, planned economy, Zhao began to understand the inefficiency inherent in political power concentrated within an oligarchy His personal journey towards these revelations, recounted with a small dose of hindsight, provides intimate insight into China s political climate in the late twentieth century I definitely emerged from this book with a better understanding of how the people in power thought and the way communism was operating in China during those years.I wouldn t necessarily recommend this book to a general audience It s somewhat technical at times economics isn t my best subject, whereas Zhao clearly lives and breathes such theory and packed with historical, geographical, and ethnographical detail that can overwhelm at times For students of Chinese history or political science in general, though, this would be a fascinating firsthand account Prisoner of the State is less about Zhao s own personal gripes with house arrest he gets past that after the first chapter or so anda meditation on what he dreamed China could be versus what it has turned into It is at times cynical and at times hopeful, for even though he spent the last years of his life in a gilded cage, Zhao still dreamed of a China that could change Assembled by family and friends of former Premier Zhao Ziyang, for me today, this book is quite valuable for its history of how the Communist Party leadership in China moved from Maoist orthodoxy to pragmatic reform, as exemplified in Zhao s life Deng Xioaping, the man who twice survived purges, to take command of China during the 80 s, turns out to have been surprisingly conservative politically All this is strikingly relevant today The same issue Zhao supported, that political reform should Assembled by family and friends of former Premier Zhao Ziyang, for me today, this book is quite valuable for its history of how the Communist Party leadership in China moved from Maoist orthodoxy to pragmatic reform, as exemplified in Zhao s life Deng Xioaping, the man who twice survived purges, to take command of China during the 80 s, turns out to have been surprisingly conservative politically All this is strikingly relevant today The same issue Zhao supported, that political reform should keep track with economic reform, is on the table every day for the Chinese leadership now So far, the answer has been that there is a special Chinese model for economic growth Just see the article by Evan Osnos in the October 11, 2010 New Yorker for the Chinese version of the this time is different argument Zhao, who is now written out of Chinese history, may come back to haunt his oppressors one day The awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to Liu Xiaobo will inspire young Chinese, like those who demonstrated in Tiananmen 21 years ago, to wonder if they can t be both prosperous and free