Democracy movement in China has started since early 20th century. Dr. Sun Yat-Seng was considered the pioneer of democracy movement in China. As the founder of the Nationalist Party (or Kuomintang), he led the first democratic revolution in Chinese history, which overthrew the Qing Dynasty and the final Chinese emperor, establishing the original Republic of China (ROC). However, the democratic revolution that Sun strove for ultimately did not succeed.
Not long after the establishment of the ROC, China experienced a short period of restoration of the dethroned monarch, followed by a de facto dictatorship ruled by Sun’s Nationalist successors. They eventually lost support of the Chinese people and then were thrown out of the mainland by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). In fact, the key reason that the CCP could defeat the Kuomintang during the last Civil War was because of democracy. The founding fathers and leaders of the CCP all stressed the importance of democracy, especially Chen Duxiu, who was one of the leaders of the famous democratic movement “the May 4th Movement of 1919” in modern Chinese history. Chairman Mao Zedong was also a feverish advocator of Chinese democratic politics. After 1949, the CCP made tremendous exploration into promoting democracy in China, which led to several outstanding achievements. Examples could be listed such as: abolishing feudalistic hierarchy and privilege, equalizing gender differences, and enabling poor workers and farmers to be involved in national administration. However, very soon after 1949, Chinese democracy regressed into a severely degraded situation. The Great Proletariat Cultural Revolution, also led by Mao Zedong, completely destroyed the normal democratic mechanism and legal progress and culminated in absolute autocracy. After the 1976 death of Mao Zedong, democracy became the focus of many intellectuals who were targeted during Mao’s Cultural Revolution. As Deng Xiaoping, Mao’s successor, came into power as de facto leader after political conflict in 1976-1978, made reforms that placed emphasis on students and education were not followed by reforms creating new jobs for these new intellectuals. As a result, the quality of life of many students dwindled markedly. These students, who had nothing to their name, decided to speak out against the government, calling for democracy as a solution to their economic distress. In the year 1989, they protested in the name of the anniversaries of the French Revolution of 1789, the May Fourth Movement of 1919, the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, and the arrest of activist Wei Jingsheng in 1979. The protest failure represented the students’ strong commitment to swift economic reform and impatience towards achieving this goal. Improving the economic situation was the motivation behind the student-led Democracy Movement that culminated with the massacre at Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989; the students believed establishing a Chinese democracy was the only way to carry out this task.
Democracy Wall Movement
After the fall of Chairman Mao Zedong, animosity towards the anti-intellectual movement that was the Cultural Revolution sparked the Democracy Wall movement, which started in Beijing in the autumn 1978 when it was known that at third plenum of Eleventh Central Committee due to meet in December, Deng would seek to launch his programme of reforms, against the opposition Hua Guofeng. It is regarded as the beginning of the contemporary 1980’s Chinese democracy movement. In October 1978, a large group of young people assembled before blank wall in one central Beijing’s main streets and began to cover its surface with wall newspapers, in the manner of Cultural Revolution. The posters were soon supplemented by mimeographed journals which could spread the message further. Similar campaigns took place throughout China. The vast majority of these posters and journals...