Even the long-dead Mao Zedong was treated with more reverence by the rebel students than the hapless premier. Li Peng was criticised precisely because he wasn’t the toughest kid in the sandbox; you could get a rise out of him because he was ill-tempered, thin-skinned and quick to take offence. So why did the reticent, mild-mannered Li become known as the “butcher of Beijing”?
The phrase, at once alliterative and catchy, falls off the lips with a resonance reminiscent of “dadao Li Peng” but it is less honest and less accurate. It was a Western media meme obscuring a reality that was plain for the Chinese people to see.