The documentary film THE GATE OF HEAVENLY PEACE interweaves into the story of 1989 a number of major themes that are central to political debate in China. These are debates that have been relevant for over a century, issues that are still discussed today and that will be relevant to China's future. Some of these themes are:
Democracy: The word democracy (minzhu) has meant many things for many people in China. It was the main element of sloganeering in 1989, observed by the student protesters more in its breach than application.
Reform and Revolution: Many complex political issues have been repeatedly cast in terms of whether reforming the pre-existing system is better than outright revolution and starting afresh.
Human Rights: The very definition of human rights continues to be debated. Chinese authorities argue that Western values concerning human rights are unsuited to Chinese tradition and reality. Some Westerners agree.
Making the News: Reporting the news about China has never been simple, and in some cases myth-making has been useful to both sides. The Chinese authorities created their version of reality, as did much of the Western media, and the dissidents.
Making History: Or, using the past to serve the present.
Nationalism: Patriotic sentiment in China is no longer the sole province of the Party and its propagandists.
Parallel Cultures: Reform and Revolution in Russia and Eastern Europe: Many of the issues raised in THE GATE OF HEAVENLY PEACE are familiar to people who have experienced popular opposition to communist rule in other countries, whetherthose nations be in Asia, Central Europe, or elsewhere.
This site also contains the full manuscript of a previously unpublished book entitled "On the Eve--China '89 Symposium, Bolinas California, 27-29 April, 1989". "On the Eve" covers discussions about Chinese politics and culture at a major symposium of Chinese, U.S. and Australian writers on the key issues faced in China in the late 1980s and 1990s. Organized by Orville Schell, Liu Baifang, and Hong Huang, this symposium -- on the cusp of the 1989 Protest Movement in Beijing -- brought together prominent commentators for freewheeling debates. Each section of the material is introduced by a leading academic in Chinese studies.