The Tiananmen Papers provide a detailed account of the power struggles within the Communist Party of China and the party's struggle to manage the protests. According to the Papers, Deng Xiaoping was largely responsible for the critical decisions surrounding the handling of the Tiananmen Square protests. Premier Li Peng is ascribed a secondary role in the government's decision to clear the Square by force. He is depicted as convincing Deng that the students have created "turmoil" and have begun "networking" (terms often used to describe student behavior in the Cultural Revolution). President Yang Shangkun is portrayed as a moderate who attempted to support General Secretary Zhao Ziyang and avoid confrontation, until Deng's decision to dismiss Zhao was clear.
Some readers have pointed to sections of the Papers which they believe are plagiarized or fabricated. Other readers have complained that expressions found in the Chinese documents are uncommon in Mainland dialogue. For these reasons, the authenticity of the work has been questioned.