The People Speak Out: Popular Movements for Democracy and Liberalization in China’s Reform Era

Prof. Anne Mclaren1, Associate Professor Claire Roberts1, Dr Susette Cooke2, Professor Anne McLaren1, Professor Nicholas Jose3

1University Of Melbourne, , Australia, 2University of Sydney, , Australia, 3University of Adelaide, , Australia

Chair: Prof. Anne McLaren


The Hong Kong protests of 2019 have brought to the fore the ongoing problem of the lack of political reform in China. The People’s Republic has emerged as an affluent global power without a commitment to reforming its dictatorial one-party rule. It is timely to reflect on earlier social movements by ordinary Chinese people to call for broad reform in Chinese society, including constitutional government, freedom of speech and association, and greater scope for personal aspirations. The political protest movements of the 1970s and 1980s were accompanied by a remarkable outpouring of creative expression in literature, art, and photography. The panelists witnessed the new liberalization and democracy movements first-hand, either as students residing in China, or, in one case, as an Australian diplomat. They offer their reflections on the social and political impact of these earlier movements and their ongoing relevance in contemporary China.


The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

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