How Did the United States Approach the Tiananmen Square Crackdown?
Learn how idealism and realism shaped U.S. foreign policy following China’s deadly repression of pro-democracy protesters.
In 1989, the Chinese government cracked down on pro-democracy protesters in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, killing hundreds, if not thousands, of people.
Following the massacre, U.S. policymakers debated how best to respond. The United States could pursue an idealist foreign policy and punish the Chinese government for its clear human rights violations. Or the United States could adopt a realist foreign policy and remain relatively quiet to preserve its strategic relationship with the Chinese government.
Ultimately, the United States combined elements of both approaches.