The Revolutions of 1989 in Poland, Romania and China

Student Project by Weihang Wang

Autumn 2014 - History 3269
at The Ohio State University

Description of historical topic

History is full of coincidences. On June 4 1989, when the Polish people celebrated their first free election, the Chinese people were carrying out the dead bodies of the protestors from the Tiananmen Square. If June 4 symbolized the start of a new and democratic future in Poland, then it was the fateful end of the short-lived democratic movement in China.

In 1989, both the Eastern European states and China underwent a series of democratic movements and social revolutions. However, the Eastern Bloc witnessed the fall of the Communism while China was still under the control of the Chinese Communist Party. The different outcomes of the 1989 revolutions raise question: Why the Chinese Communist Party still stayed in power while the Communist states in the Eastern Europe started to fall apart? In order to answer this question, it is necessary to look back on each country’s history and find discrepancies. This Prezi explores the causes of the different outcomes of the 1989 revolutions from a social and historical perspective.

Rationale for the project:

The objective of this Prezi is to show the different social, economic, and political conditions in Eastern Europe and China in the 1980s. This Prezi focus on three countries, Poland, Romania, and China. In order to answer the question: Why the Chinese Communist Party still stayed in power while the Communist states in the Eastern Europe started to fall apart? This Prezi makes a comparison between the Eastern European countries and China, and shows how the different social and economic conditions shaped people’s attitudes toward the regimes and eventually affected the outcomes of the 1989 revolution. This Prezi focuses more on the economic conditions in each country in the 1980s and analyzes how the Chinese economic reform started from 1978 played an important role in determining the different outcome of the Chinese 1989 revolution. The Chinese Communist party was one step ahead of the Eastern Bloc to reform its economy and embrace the western consumerism, which ironically helped the regime to survive the 1989 revolution.

Download a pdf version of the presentation.

List of Sources:

Books and Articles

Cockerham, William C. 1999. Health and social change in Russia and Eastern Europe. New York: Routledge.

Dietrich, Craig. 1986. People's China: a brief history. New York: Oxford University Press.

Tismaneanu, Vladimir. 1999. The Revolutions of 1989. London: Routledge.

Garton Ash, Timothy. 1990. The magic lantern: the revolution of '89 witnessed in Warsaw, Budapest, Berlin, and Prague. New York: Random House.

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The Library of Congress Country Studies: Poland (accessed November 25, 2014)

The Library of Congress Country Studies: Romania (accessed December 10, 2014)

Thompson, Mark R. 2001. "To Shoot or Not to Shoot: Posttotalitarianism in China and Eastern Europe". Comparative Politics. 34 (1): 63.

What brought Romania into a sovereign debt crisis in 1981? (accessed December 10, 2014)

Zhao, Dingxin. 2001. The power of Tiananmen: state-society relations and the 1989 Beijing student movement. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.


Poland Round Table Talks (accessed November 17, 2014)

Tank Man----China 1989 (accessed November 17, 2014)

Romania 1989 November 17, 2014)

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Empty Meat Store in Poland in the 1980s (accessed November 18, 2014)

A Queue in front of a Shop (accessed November 24, 2014)

Solidarity Congress, Gdansk, September-October 1981 (accessed November 24, 2014)

August 14, 1980 Gdansk Shipyard Strikes (accessed November 24, 2014)

May 1988 near main gate of Warsaw University during polish students' demonstration (accessed November 25, 2014)

Polish pro-Solidarity pilgrimage, September 18, 1988 December 8, 2014)

A queue for cooking oil, Bucharest, 1986 December 8, 2014)

Romania 1981 (accessed December 8, 2014)

Heat 1980s Romania (accessed December 8, 2014)

Toilet Paper 1980s Romania (accessed December 8, 2014)

Queue 1980s Romania (accessed December 8, 2014)

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Production of wheat from 1961 to 2004. Data from FAO, year 2005. Y-axis: Production in metric ton. (accessed December 10, 2014)

Coca Cola re-entered the Chinese Market in 1979 (accessed December 10, 2014)

Farmers’ income and agricultural labor productivity December 10, 2014)

Pope John Paul II in Poland 1979 (accessed December 10, 2014)

A Chinese couple on a bicycle take cover at an underpass as tanks deploy overhead in eastern Beijing, China, June 5, 1989. (accessed December 10, 2014)

WELCOME MR. GORBACHEV (accessed December 10, 2014)