Prisoner of the State: The Secret Journal of Premier Zhao Ziyang

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Simon and Schuster, May 19, 2009 - Biography & Autobiography - 336 pages
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Premier Zhao Ziyang reveals the secret workings of China's government behind the Tiananmen massacre—and why he was deposed for trying to stop it.

Prisoner of the State is the story of Premier Zhao Ziyang, the man who brought liberal change to China and who was dethroned at the height of the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989 for trying to stop the massacre. Zhao spent the last years of his life under house arrest. An occasional detail about his life would slip out, but scholars and citizens lamented that Zhao never had his final say.

But Zhao did produce a memoir, secretly recording on audio tapes the real story of what happened during modern China’s most critical moments. He provides intimate details about the Tiananmen crackdown, describes the ploys and double crosses used by China’s leaders, and exhorts China to adopt democracy in order to achieve long-term stability. His riveting, behind-the-scenes recollections form the basis of Prisoner of the State.

The China that Zhao portrays is not some long-lost dynasty. It is today’s China, where its leaders accept economic freedom but resist political change. Zhao might have steered China’s political system toward openness and tolerance had he survived. Although Zhao now speaks from the grave, his voice still has the moral power to make China sit up and listen.

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - bowedbookshelf - LibraryThing

Zhao Ziyang, former Chairman of the Communist Party in China, was politically sidelined in May 1989 and went into house arrest as a result of his opposition to the government response to students ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - Smiley - LibraryThing

The internal workings, and funtionary names, of the Chinese Communist Party can be dizzying but Ziyang's very detailed account, from the General Secretary's seat, of the politics involved in China's ... Read full review

Selected pages


Hu Yaobang Resigns
Zhao Walks the Line
The Ideologues
Preparing for the Main Event
After the Congress
Panic Buying and Bank Runs
A Series of Missteps

Zhaos Talk with Gorbachev
Zhao Becomes a Prisoner
The Investigative Report
Zhaos Lonely Struggle
Conflicting Views at the
An Early Setback
Opening Painfully to the World
Finding a New Approach
Zhao and Hu Clash
Playing a Trick on a Rival
One Step at a Time
The Economy Gets Too
The Magic of Free Trade
Freedom on the Farm
The Coastal Regions Take
Coping with Corruption
The Problem with Prices
Reforms Take a
Zhao in Retreat
The Campaign to Overthrow Zhao
Dengs View on Political Reform
Hus View on Political Reform
How Zhaos View Evolved
The Old Guard Fights Back
The Way Forward
A Brief Biography of Zhao Ziyang
Who Was
Photographic Insert

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About the author (2009)

ZHAO ZIYANG was the Premier of China from 1983 until 1987 when he became the General Secretary of the Communist Party of China, a position he held until 1989 when he was deposed and put under house arrest until his death in 2005.

Adi Ignatius is an American journalist who covered China for The Wall Street Journal during the Zhao Ziyang era. He is currently editor in chief of the Harvard Business Review.

Bao Pu, a political commentator and veteran human rights activist, is a publisher and editor of New Century Press in Hong Kong.

Bibliographic information