Much have been said about Tian An Men incidence or massacre as some would put it. The hundreds of lives that was lost in 1989 was tragic moment in China’s modern history. Ever since then, the West has been capitalising the moment to depict Chinese brutality and harshness of Communism. When Chinalco wanted to buy large part of Australian mining giant Rio Tinto, the incidence was used by the opponent of the deal as part of the scare tactics.
Why should the West care so much for the hundred or so lost lives, when there are a million of lives lost due to US armed invasions of Iraq. Shouldn’t they commemorate the events leading to the millions who died as a result of US bombing and attacks during Vietnam wars, or the almost 500,000 killed by Indonesian military (supported by US intelligence) in the 1960s.
The much heralded photo of tanks column stopping in front of a man with plastic bag is used to illustrate the event. It could also be argued that tank commander was humane enough so as to not crush the man, unlike the Israeli tank which had no qualm in crushing Palestinian protestors. Graphic real photos of US M1 tank rolling over Iraqis, can also been seen from the internet.
I remember the event then back in 1989. I was fixated to the radio, listening to BBC report. It did not happen overnight. The massive demonstration in Beijing lasted for a few weeks, with the student leaders refusing to compromise with Prime Minister Li Peng. The leadership was divided, and police was ineffectual. Finally, a bold decision was undertaken by Deng Xiao Ping, after almost a month of standstill – to crush the protest with force.
It was a tragic event. The protesters were not as peaceful as potrayed in Western press. A number of PLA soldiers were brutally killed, and this might be one reason that the soldiers took to shooting the civilians. Almost all the student leaders escaped overseas. No one was killed in Tian An Men square. Those killed were mainly along ChangAn Avenue, and were mostly workers.
On hindsight, the disastrous event could somehow be prevented if the leadership was not divided in the beginning. Also, having well trained and equipped anti riot squads with tear gas and water cannons would certaintly allow authorities to disperse and contain the demonstrators easily, and thus reducing casualties from both sides.
The question that need to be asked is what if the demonstrators have been successful in purging the communist leadership? What kind of country will China be ?
Here’s an attempt to answer the question by 2 persons (whose views mirror my view):
1. (Erhard Sanio – Asiawind phorum)
I wholeheartedly agree. And without wanting to slander the defeated, it should be allowed to remark that the students’ movement was one of the most outstanding failures among political and social movements in world history.
In the beginning, the whole of China, the press, the media, the society, and considerable parts of the state and party apparatus, were sympathetic to the students’s claims and willing to listen and to follow proposals made by the movement.
The students’ leaders managed to spend all and any of the moral and political credit they were granted by their wanton challenge of the whole political system. China at that time was prepared for reform, not for revolution. Any movement had to spell its wishes into practical steps working without overthrowing the existing order and structures.
The movement completely failed in the art of negotiating and finding a compromise. It was not even able to grant minimum face saving to its opponents, as demonstrated when student leader Wuer Kaixi humiliated Li Peng in TV. There is a Chinese proverb "the rat gnawing the tiger’s tail invites destruction". That exactly was what the students did: completely ignoring the realities of their country.
Few movements managed to shoot themselves in the foot in the way the Tiananmen movement did. They managed all their supporters in media, institutions, and party to be ousted or at least to assert self-criticism about their previous views.
The final blow for the movement occurred from outside. The demise of the USSR demonstrated to every thoughtful Chinese what "democratization" for a country under CP rule meant and would lead to. Instead of cheering political change and helping the new-won market economy and Western democracy country the West looted the weakened former USSR, split it down to as many powerless small states as possible (US strategist Brzesinsky objected that it was not possible to break the Russian federation further into four or five rivaling states) to install a divide and rule system.
The GDP of the former USSR states dropped to the levels of the early 1960s, GDP per capita fell by nearly two thirds. It took well 15 years for the Russian Federation to regain the modest wealth of the USSR times. Life expectancy fell by 15 years in worst years causing abnormal deaths similar to Great Leap – only in a country with one fourth of the populace. Interestingly, nobody in the West blamed Yeltsin for, as well as not for his coup against the parliament in 1993 causing more deaths than liusi.
Yet, for any thinking individual in China, the demise of the USSR demonstrated what they were saved from when the PLA ended the protests of 1989. China, with at that time a GDP of 360 billion Dollars, compared to 2.900 billion of the USSR, could not have afforded the GDP reduced to one third without hundreds of millions starving.
In June 1989, Deng Xiaoping and the CP elders saved China from an extremely grim Chicago boys’ style "democracization". The harsh methods notwithstanding, the world should be grateful for.
As an addition: What I complain about, is that Chinese authorities and media duck away from the challenge. They have damn good arguments to defend their case. They should do it in a more offensive way.
2. Anonymous said…
Had the June 4 1989 rebellion been successful, and the communist regime toppled, what would China today be like? Simply, a return to the 150 years of humiliation.
Worse off than Somalia, with rival gangs killing each other (and anything else in between them) for land and resources.
The re-emergence of a modern opium trade, whereby the West and Japan get to sell drugs with impunity and the re-colonization of China.
The Dalai Lama will be God-Emperor, ruling an independent empire the size of over 25% of China, wherever there are Tibetans.
In short, everyone will be happy except the Chinese people.
11:32 AM, June 08, 2009