Dynamics of Multidimensional Interaction

The Beijing Upheaval of 1989 Revisited

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Rilly Chen University of Oxford rilly.chen19@gmail.com

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Fei Yan Tsinghua University feiyan@tsinghua.edu.cn

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Abstract

This article provides a multidimensional approach to understanding the interactional dynamics of political contention. By reexamining the highly influential case of the Beijing student movement in 1989 with newly published memoirs from top party leaders and central student figures of the movement, we show more clearly that the escalating conflict between the government and protesters and their nuanced interplay grew, developed, and took on its own identity as the process evolved. It was the increasingly boisterous divisions within both the Communist Party and the student body itself, coupled with their close interactional relationship and interdependence, that resulted in a violent outcome that neither party had envisaged or intended. This finding suggests that multidimensional interactions may have triggered causal processes that escalated both the scale and the influence of the mobilization.

Contributor Notes

Rilly Chen is a doctoral student in History at the University of Oxford. Her research focuses on modern Chinese history and the political transformation of China. Email: rilly.chen19@gmail.com

Fei Yan is an Associate Professor of Sociology at Tsinghua University. He received his PhD in Sociology from the University of Oxford and completed a postdoc at Stanford University. His research focuses on political sociology, historical sociology, and contentious politics. His work has appeared in Social Science Research, Urban Studies, The Sociological Review, Social Movement Studies, and Oxford Bibliographies in Sociology. Email: feiyan@tsinghua.edu.cn

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The Multidisciplinary Journal of Social Protest

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