May 16, 1989 – USSR and China End Their Thirty-Year Rift

On this day in history, Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev met with Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping in Beijing, formally ending a 30-year rift between the two Communist powers.

As The New York Times reported, the itinerary for the meeting had to be changed repeatedly to avoid an estimated 150,000 students and spectators who took over Tiananmen Square:

The demonstrations were doubly embarrassing for the Chinese leaders because of the obvious enthusiasm that many of the protesters felt for Mr. Gorbachev. Several had prepared banners in Russian hailing him as a great reformer, and a crowd of workers and bicyclists applauded when he drove past them on his way to the Great Hall of the People.”

The two leaders met for over two hours. Afterward, 84-year old and frail Mr. Deng along with 81-year-old President Yang hosted a banquet for the clearly more vigorous 58-year old Soviet President. Mr. Yang announced “There is no need for us to recollect the past,” quoting Mr. Deng, and Mr. Gorbachev agreed, saying, “That is an approach that we welcome.”

Both Yang and Gorbachev made the point that they would be pursuing independent foreign policies.

[Deng Xiaoping was the reformist leader of the People’s Republic of China who, after Mao Zedong’s death, led his country towards a market economy from 1978 to 1992.]

Deng Xiaoping in 1979

Deng Xiaoping in 1979

[Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev is a former Soviet statesman who was the seventh and last leader of the Soviet Union, having served as General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1985 until 1991, and as the country’s head of state from 1988 until its dissolution in 1991.]

Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987

Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987

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