At the time when this iconic photograph was taken, 20 years ago today, it seemed to the rest of the world that China was on the verge of collapse. For the Soviet Union, by contrast, the prognosis was much more positive: for the first time in its history, it appeared to be moving towards a genuinely democratic and accountable government. Elections held between 25th May and 9th June in the USSR brought in the First Congress of People’s Deputies, and many commentators were optimistic that this was the beginning of fruitful liberalisation.
Within a matter of months, however, the Soviet Union fell apart—eventually all 15 republics abandoned it and Russia lurched into financial choas throughout the 1990s while, by contrast, China’s economy grew at a dizzying rate. In his web exclusive free to read online today, Professor Archie Brown looks back at what might have been and, with the economic uncertainty China now faces, what its leaders might still learn from the Russian example.
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