instead of Zhao Ziyang marked an initial turn away from reforms, but Hong Kong's proximity to Shenzhen had already planted too many seeds of free-market economy in Guangdong for economic reform to be slowed down. The failure of the Soviet Union also impressed upon the party leaders than going backward was not a path forward. So, the Tiananmen protests were not without effect, even if much of the effect may be attributable to factors that led to the protests rather than the protests themselves. Crucially, there was a period of about 20 years of relative religious freedom that has borne spiritual fruit in ways that are not widely disclosed.
One could argue that, absent the protests, Zhao Ziyang would have had more power to foster reform, but he would have still been impeded by Li Peng and other hardliners, so, in some sense, the protesters and the factories and stores of Shenzhen did Zhao Ziyang's work for him in irrepressibly urging reform. The pragmatic navigation of the Chinese through the last few decades is what makes the coronavirus outbreak arising from ChiCom concealment and suppression of expression something of a wildcard as to where it may lead China.