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Photo essay

A Photo Essay of a Failed Reform

Beida, Tiananmen Square and the Defeat of Deng Xiaoping in 1975-76
David Zweig
p. 5-28


In mid-1975, Deng Xiaoping, with Mao’s blessing, initiated reforms that targeted the negative consequences of the Cultural Revolution. To bolster Deng’s effort, Mao endowed him with penultimate authority over the Party, government, and military. However, in late October, Mao turned on Deng, and within five months, Mao and the radicals toppled Deng from power. As a foreign student at Peking University, David Zweig observed and photographed four key points in this historic struggle: (1) the initial establishment of a “big character poster” compound at Peking University; (2) emotional mourning for Zhou Enlai in Tiananmen Square following his death: (3) the intensified assault on Deng in February 1976 in the posters at Peking University; and (4) the massive demonstration of support in Tiananmen Square on 3-4 April for the end of Maoist politics.

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Bibliographical reference

David Zweig, « A Photo Essay of a Failed Reform », China Perspectives, 2016/1 | 2016, 5-28.

Electronic reference

David Zweig, « A Photo Essay of a Failed Reform », China Perspectives [Online], 2016/1 | 2016, Online since 01 March 2016, connection on 16 December 2018. URL :

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About the author

David Zweig

David Zweig is chair professor, Division of Social Science, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, and director of the Center on China’s Transnational Relations. He is senior research fellow of the Asia-Pacific Foundation, Vancouver, and vice president, Center on China and Globalization, Beijing.Academic Building 3386, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Kowloon, Hong Kong (

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