During the year the campaign against the so-called ” spiritual pollution ” was launched, deriving from the greater contacts that China was having with the Western world; in particular, the dangers of ” decadent ” music, pornography and bourgeois individualism were pointed out; other Western ideologies such as existentialism and even science fiction were also criticized. This led to greater censorship of publications and film production. There was almost talk of a second cultural revolution, but, in reality, the campaign was carried out to make the purge of leftist elements more acceptable, especially in the provinces. In the economic field, as of March 1984, tighter control by the government over foreign trade was re-established,
In October 1984 the Central Committee of the Communist Party approved a plan of economic reforms aimed at strengthening the urban industrial sector, by means similar to those used in 1978 for the rural sector. It was the recognition of an inefficiency for the previous period, when there had been confusion between the functions of the government and those of individual companies. On April 10, 1985 the National People’s Congress ratified the agreement between China and Great Britain which provided for the return of Hong Kong to the motherland in 1997 and guarantees of a different regime for the English colony for fifty years.
According to calculatorinc.com, the ideological discussions continued, caused by an editorial in the People ‘s Daily of December 7, 1984, according to which the ideas of Marx and Lenin were outdated and “one should not have dogmatic attitudes towards Marxism”. Towards the end of 1985, the tendencies to disengage from a type of economic centralization in favor of a re-emergence of market forces and sole proprietorships were established. At the beginning of 1986 the presence of Deng Xiaoping seemed to diminish, who in March of the same year publicly announced his desire for his gradual withdrawal from official commitments. In the spring of 1986, the fourth session of the National People’s Council met to approve the seventh five-year plan (1986-90). The Central Committee of the party instead adopted a resolution on ideology: it reconfirmed itself, in it,
In March 1986, China became the 47th member of the Development Bank of Asia and applied to join the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). After the student demonstrations in December 1986, Hu Yaobang was accused of “bourgeois liberalism” and replaced at the party secretariat by Zhao Ziyang. In October 1987, the 13th Congress of the Chinese Communist Party met in Beijing, characterized by the report by Zhao Ziyang who stated that “socialism with Chinese characteristics was the result of the integration of the fundamental principles of Marxism with the impulse to modernization in China”. In the final session of the Congress there were notable changes in the leadership of the party: among those who voluntarily withdrew were Deng Xiaoping (who would leave his last post as chairman of the Central Military Commission in March 1990) and President Li Xiannian. Zhao Ziyang himself later announced his desire to retire from the post of prime minister, where he was replaced by Li Peng.
1987 saw a series of demonstrations in the Tibet Autonomous Region, particularly in Lhasa, with the consequent dispatch of police reinforcements from the Chinese side; at the protests from India of the exile Dalai Lama, Deng Xiaoping accused him of encouraging unrest in Tibet. In the same year, the Sino-Soviet Joint Commission met in Beijing, which succeeded in reaching an agreement in principle on the question of borders and on the reduction of Soviet troops to the borders.
In March 1988 Li Peng was confirmed prime minister by the National People’s Council, which, among other things, approved some economic reforms establishing a legal basis, for example, for Sino-foreign joint ventures; military ranks, abolished during the Cultural Revolution, were reintroduced. In March, Japanese Foreign Minister Sosuke Uno visited Beijing for a long-term investment treaty. Student demonstrations were held in June in Beijing to criticize bureaucratic corruption, but while arrests were made on the one hand, some intellectuals were rehabilitated, including astrophysicist Fang Lizhi.
The Panchen Laman, the second spiritual leader of the Tibetans, died in January 1989; two months later, due to violent demonstrations, martial law was imposed in Lhasa. In April Hu Yaobang died and his funeral was an opportunity for the students to start new demonstrations, which continued in the following weeks; the center of Beijing was occupied by tens of thousands of students, who went on hunger strike and praised democracy, with considerable support from the population. The meeting at the Sino-Soviet summit began on May 15 with the arrival of the general secretary of the Soviet Communist Party, M. Gorbačëv; while decisive discussions were launched for the reduction of troops, for economic cooperation and for agreements in the international field, the students exasperated their agitation. On May 20, the government imposed martial law in Beijing and a harsh repression began on June 5, culminating in the Tian An Men Square massacre the following day. Repression that caused – according to some observers – at least a thousand victims. Foreign powers froze their policy of opening up to China. On June 24, Zhao Ziyang, who, to some extent, had supported the students, resigned as party general secretary and was replaced by Jiang Zemin. Astrophysicist Fang Lizhi took refuge in the US embassy. The 1990s saw some concessions made by the Chinese government (e.g. permission to expatriate Fang Lizhi) and a different attitude, continued in 1991, especially by the Japanese and the US, of not wanting to isolate China.