It is difficult to say with any certainty how China would have evolved had Zhao Ziyang not been overthrown in 1989. The ostensible cause of his purge was his refusal to endorse martial law and authorize the use of force to suppress the Tiananmen demonstrations (thus “splitting the Party”)—but even before that fateful Politburo meeting and his final public appearance in the square during the early morning hours of May 19, 1989, Zhao was locked in intense factional struggle with Li Peng, Yang Shangkun, and arch-conservative elders Wang Zhen and Deng Liqun.

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