Audio/print excerpt of Zhao Ziyang’s memoir – in Chinese and English

This is absolutely extraordinary. A friend just tweeted it, asking, “So, is the Washington Post website going to be blocked in China?” I’ll be stunned if it’s not. We all know China can be quite tolerant of news on Western sites, as long as it’s in English, knowing you can never galvanize the masses if you’re not speaking in their language. Thus, this will almost inevitably be harmonized. And if not, it’ll be unprecedented.

Go there while you can if you want to hear Zhao dictating a portion of his story on cassette before it was smuggled out and published. Controversial stuff, too, as Zhao challenges the decision to crack down on what had been orderly if chaotic and messy demonstrations. Money quote:

Of course, whenever there are large numbers of people involved, there will always be some tiny minority within the crowd who might want to attack the PLA. It was a chaotic situation. It is perfectly possible that some hooligans took advantage of the situation to make trouble, but how can these actions be attributed to the majority of the citizens and students? By now, the answer to this question should be clear.

And it is clear, to everyone who has a mind. There were some disgusting acts of violence perpetrated by some enraged participants as the soldiers advanced. And sympathy must go to the soldiers who were attacked, as it must go to the vast majority of demonstrators who were killed or injured, who were peaceful and orderly. More on this later.

About the site: I know, it’s been quiet. And we have a big anniversary coming up, and I’ve been seeing some atrocious revisionist stuff over here on the Internets about that date that just begs to be fisked. Zhao’s memoir couldn’t have come out at a better time (coincidence, right?); itcertainly helps blast apart some of the more audacious claims I’ve been seeing. More to come.

Update: Be sure to see Granite Studio’s amusing response to the memoirs.

The Discussion: 50 Comments

You Westerners just don’t get it.

6/4 is a dead horse in China. There just aren’t many people care abut it, except some foreigners drumming the beat every so often as if it is the big deal in China. Most young people today are against the students of 20 years ago, considering them too idealistic and naïve and clueless for being duped by the Western ideologies such as Democracy and Freedom that are the best weapons to destablize and to destroy China.

Luckily, China had Deng Xiaoping at the time and China made the right decision. China’s success of last 20 years proved beyond doubt that Deng made the right decision on 6/4. China is China today and China rises now are mostly to that decision.

Sure there are a few hundred people killed, sure tanks roamed in Beijing, and sure a radical Westernization student movement got crushed. These are just some of the price China has to pay for her to “touch the stone to cross the river”. These lives lost are sacrifice to China’s march into a better future. China moves on, because China really belongs to the other 1.3 billion people, most of them are poor and rural peasants.

May 15, 2009 @ 9:31 pm | Comment

BTW, in that picture of Zhao Ziyang, standing behind Zhao was Wen Jiaobao, the current premier.

May 15, 2009 @ 9:48 pm | Comment

Any chance on you actually commenting on what Zhao had to say, tom? Or will it be just the usual CCP talking points?

May 15, 2009 @ 11:29 pm | Comment

Tom, I know exactly how Chinese people feel about Tiananmen Square. Read this. I have absolutely no illusions, and there are none reflected in this post.

This post isn’t about how Chinese people feel today. It’s about history, about what happened, about who did what, and about how some are trying to airbrush history. But Tom, I wouldn’t expect any other type of comment from you after your “lock them up, they’re just Mexicans” comments from last week. You’re just my latest troll. This site seems to be like flypaper.

May 15, 2009 @ 11:35 pm | Comment

I think Tom has the correct idea, maybe this is such a taboo subject not because it is like opening up an old wound and counterproductive. I’m sure that most Chinese can if they wanted to find information about this incident. Many Chinese want to put this incident behind and look toward the future, and not the past. However, the Western media just want to do the very opposite.

May 16, 2009 @ 1:26 am | Comment

The Tragicomedy of the Overseas Chinese Democratic Movement [Interview Transcipt with Former Democracy Activists]

Once upon a time, when Sun Yat-sen worked to overthrow the Manchurian dynasty, he had broad support among the Chinese Diaspora (in Hong Kong, Japan, the United States, Europe and Southeast Asia). Today, though, the overseas Chinese democracy movement just does not have that level of support in the Chinese Diaspora. Who is to blame? Less about the Communist Red Terror than the democratic activists themselves. The following is the translation of an interview with one retired activist who seemed willing to speak his mind.

Is this interviewee trustworthy? It does not matter, really. You can talk to any of the other people in the long cast of characters. They will probably give you a completely different spin as to who the heroes and villains are,
but the essential descriptions of the environment will be the same: a small number of democratic activists, maybe as few as 100 in total around the world; a confusing number of organizations (note: I kept think back to the Judean People’s Front vs the Popular Front for the Liberation of Judea in Monty Python’s Life of Brian); manipulation and control by governments, intelligence services and organizations (China, Taiwan, United States, a certain religious cult); the primacy of procuring resources over all other goals and objectives; internecine backstabbing; deceptions and betrayals; fighting for media coverage; etc.

A reading tip: Do not try to keep track of the persons and the characters, because it is not worth the trouble. Instead, stay focus on the question: What has any of this got to do with promoting democracy in China?

An interview with Lin Qiaoqing (林樵清), who was a very famous member of the overseas Chinese democracy movement, being the founder and leader of a number of organizations। All this time, he had been an agent of the Taiwan intelligence service. He is now retired.

Chen Bai (陈 白): The changes in the political situation in Taiwan affects the overseas democratic movement. Since the Democratic Progressive Party (民 进党) assumed power, Wei Jingsheng (魏京生) was ignored by Taiwan, while
Wang Dan (王丹) and Cho Changqing (曹长青) got lucky and received large amounts of funds. How do you see it?

Lin Qiaoqing: It was inevitable that Wei Jingsheng would go out of favor. Although he supports Taiwan independence, and he even said “Even Shandong province can become independent,” he is too egotistical and unreliable, and
therefore impossible to work with. We worked so hard to get funding for the Chinese Alliance for Democracy (联席会议). But he took all the money for himself and then he kicked us out in order to cohabitate with Huang Ciping (黄慈萍).

Chen: It is said that Wei Jingsheng has no friends anymore in the overseas democratic circle. The Taiwan National Security Bureau characterized him as “lacking ability to do things” and he only has “propaganda” value.

Lin: Anyone whom he does not like, he calls them “Communist spies”, including Xu Wenli (徐文立), Wang Cizhe (王希哲), Bao Ge (鲍戈), Wang Juntao (王军涛), Wang Dan and myself. Later on, he even loudly condemned Xue Wei (薛伟), Ni Yuxian (倪育贤) and Qi Mo (齐墨) as “Taiwan dog spies.” Huang Ciping is not having a good time right now, and her eyes are often red from the constant crying.

Chen: The US National Endowment for Democracy refused to fund Wei Jingsheng, and now they have cut off funding to Wang Dan and Wang Juntao’s Press Free Guide. What is the deal?

Lin: Wei Jingsheng’ organization — Overseas Chinese Democracy Coalition — was too politicized, and that is why the American don’t want to publicly support it. The reason why Press Free Guide has it funding cut off is probably because Wang Dan and Wang Juntao had been hooking up with Taiwan to foster independence over there.

Chen: Wang Dan and Wang Juntao claimed that Press Free Guide is a platform formed by more than 100 Chinese media workers in the United States to pursue the ideals of democracy and freedom after June 4. The Americans should not have cut off the funding just to save money.

Lin: The funding stoppage had nothing to do with the NED wanting to save any money. In recent years, the budget for the NED has grown a lot. They only give Press Free Guide some tens of thousand of US dollars per year, just enough to pay for the editor Wu Renhua (吴仁华)’s salary. Of course, the so-called “more than one hundred media workers” is obviously false, and they have no more than a handful of people.

Chen: Harry Hongda Wu(吴弘达)’s Labor Reform Foundation (劳改基金会) and Observe China (中国观察) website, Tan Jingchang (谭竞嫦)’s Human Rights In China and Huaxiabao can get hundreds of thousands of US dollars from the NED . It is a big difference.

Lin: When the NED administrator evaluates the proposals for funding from overseas democratic proponents, they often consult with Wu Hongda and Liu Qing (刘青). Neither Wu nor Liu want to see anyone else get money, so they always erect some obstacles. The Chinese Development Alliance (中国发展联合
会) and Dacankao (大参考) were hoping to get some funding, but Liu Qing and Wu Hongda barred them.

Chen: Supposedly, Liu Qing and Wu Hongda have split away from Wei Jingsheng and Wang Dan. In the battle between the sides, Wei Jingsheng and Wang Dan lost and so Liu Qing and Wu Hongda won the fight for the “resources.”

Lin: The greatest tragedy of the overseas democratic movement is that your ” own people” are often your most deadly enemy. China Spring (中国之春) once had large amounts of secret funds from Taiwan. Xu Bangtai (徐邦泰) and Wu
Fan (伍凡) seized the money and refused to hand it over according to procedure, so the organization was split up. Afterwards, Wu Fan and Wang Deyao fell out with Xu Bangtai and revealed Xu’s corruption problems. Taiwan wanted no part of any of this, and they cut off the funding altogether.

Chen: When Taiwan cut off the funds, they could no longer continue. So they had to accede Taiwan’s demands on reorganization in order to get funded again. Actually, this is one way for Taiwan to resolve the fights among
overseas democracy organization.

Lin: Yes. The DPP government in Taiwan used this method to elevate Zhang Weiguo and Wang Dan to become the “publishers” of China Spring and Beijing Spring (北京之春) respectively. At the moment, Taiwan is nurturing three major projects: Xue Wei (薛伟) and Wang Dan’s Beijing Spring, Tan Jingchang
and Hu Ping (胡平)’s Human Rights in China and Wang Juntao and Chen Pokong (陈破空)’s Friends of Practical Politics (宪政之友).

Chen: In the United States, the Falun Gong and the Tibetan independence movement are far more powerful than the overseas democratic movements. The Falun Gong started the “Resign from the Party” movement, and seems to have overtaken the overseas democratic movement. Taiwan is definitely counting on the Falun Gong, and have set up appropriate projects to fund them.

Lin: There are not many people in the overseas democratic movement. It adds up to only 100 people around the world, but somehow there are forty to fifty organizations. Whenever they attack each other, they label the other as “Communist spies” and this gives Taiwan a headache. There is no such problem with Falun Gong. Tang Baiqiao (唐柏桥) is very smart, and he jumped ahead of Xue Wei and Liu Qing to collaborate with the Falun Gong. No wonder Liu Qing must let Ni Yuxian oppose Tang.

Chen: The bottom line is that the internal fights within the overseas democratic movement is always about ‘resources’. You can only get financial support if you prove that you are the “mainstream” while everybody else is not, and then you can protect your own interests.

Lin: Liu Qing is a master in this. He inserted Wei Quanbao (魏泉宝) inside the Justice Party (正义党) and Chen Pokong with Wang Dan first and later with Peng Ming (彭明), Wang Juntao and Wang Dan to serve as spies and agent provocateur and then caused them to fold completely.

Chen: Xu Shuiliang (徐水良) had classified the overseas democratic movement into: “hooligan democratic movement”, “proper democratic movement”, “spy democratic movement” and “mainstream democratic movement.” He also said that many overseas democratic organizations are led by the Chinese communists and that more than half the people are “Communist spies.” Is that an exaggeration?

Lin: If you say that someone else is a spy, then you mustn’t be a spy; if you say that someone else is a hooligan, then you must be proper; if everybody else has problems, then you must be the “mainstream” or “core” of the overseas democratic movement. That was probably Xu Shuiliang’s logic. Of course, Xu Shuliang was principally used by Liu Qing and Xue Wei.

Chen: Liu Qing and Xue Wei were brilliant in using Xu Shuiliang’s voice to smear any number of famous people. Sometimes, Liu Qing uses Chen Pokong while Xue We uses Zhang Qing (张菁) to slander and smear other people.

Lin: Actually, Liu Qing and Xue Wei have never treated Xu Shuiliang as a ‘ friend.’ When Xu became the president of the Chinese Alliance for Democracy as well as a “democratic movement theoretician”, he was not admitted into the Beijing Spring group, so he could not even get his name listed in the
organization’s publication. Also, Human Rights In China and Civilian Political Discourse (公民议政) will not admit him either. Anything that pays in terms of money and fame is out of bounds for him.

Chen: Xu Shuiliang said that the World Journal (世界日报) is a Communist propaganda tool. If the newspaper praises someone, that person must be problematic; if the person disparages someone, that person must be a ‘true friend.’ He condemned the World Journal for carrying information on Bao Ge and Xie Fangjun (谢万军) and the Justice Party.

Lin: Xu is a representative of the democratic movement. But the World Journal published the news of his arrival in the United States very briefly. By contrast, when Bao Ge’s mother came to the United States, the World Journal repeatedly reported on her. First, they reported how she got a passport, Then Zeng Huiyan (曾慧燕) wrote a long report that Bao Ge’s mother will be arriving. Then, they published a report and a color photograph of Bao hugging his mother at the airport.

Chen: I can’t quite believe that the World Journal is a “propaganda tool of the Chinese Communists.” Back then, when the Lee Tenghui (李登辉) government of Taiwan funded Wang Ruowang (王若望) to hold the meeting to merge the Democratic Alliance and the Democratic Front, the 80,000 US dollars was
distributed by the World Journal in two separate payments.

Lin: Zeng Huiyan reported on Bao Ge being happy about Beijing winning the bid for the 2008 Olympics with a long article and a big headline, but she only made a brief mention of how Wei Jingsheng, Wu Honda and the Independent
Federation of Chinese Students and Scholars in the US (学自联) opposed the decision. But I think that the World Journal must have a reason to do this. After all, news is their profession. Zeng Huiyan is unlikely to be a “Communist spy.”

Chen: Tang Baiqiao said in the Epoch Times that the World Journal is “friendly towards the Communists.” This reminds me of what Xu Bangtai once said — “Without the World Journal, there would be no overseas Chinese democratic movement. The overseas Chinese democratic movement is actually the ‘World Journal democratic movement’.”

Lin: The Epoch Times was obviously happy to use Tang Baiqiao to attack the World Journal. But when the democracy activists do that, the result is that they lose a lot of sympathy from the neutral media. Liu Qing, Zhang Huiguo (
张伟国), Hu Ping, Lin Baohua (林保华) and Zhang Xianliang (张先梁) are editors, consultants and columnists for the Epoch Times. Why won’t they speak out themselves? There was no point in offending the World Journal.

Chen: After Xu Wenli came out, he started a Democratic Party In Exile (民主党流亡党部) and an Alliance of Chinese Democratic Political Parties (中国民主政党联盟), but he does not seem to have accomplished anything effective,and he has not been able to unite the overseas “Chinese democratic parties.”

Lin: If you want to get money from Taiwan, you must build an organization and set up a project. In order to get the resources, Xu knew that Xue Wei was a spy from Taiwan intelligence, but he still turned over control of the
Alliance of Political Parties to Xue. That is immoral, and he has sold out the Alliance. Xue Wei wants mainly to use the Alliance to neutralize Wei Jingsheng’s Chinese Alliance for Democracy and that is why he got along with
Xu immediately.

Chen: Logically, Xue Wei should be propping up Wang Dan. So why is he with Xu Wenli? When Xu Wenli, Wang Youcai (王有才) and Qin Yongmin (秦永敏) were sentenced in China, the North American edition of Beijing Spring refused to feature their photographs on the magazine’s front cover.

Lin: Neither Xue Wei nor Liu Qing want to see Wang Dan accumulate any influence. The revelations about Wang Dan’s homosexuality were forwarded by them to Taiwan’s TVBS Weekly. The process was identical to what Liu Qing once did to Wei Jingsheng — Liu gave negative information about Wei
Jingsheng to The Wall Street Journal, so that Wei ended up being regarded as a mental patient.

Chen: You supported Wei Jingsheng setting up the Overseas Chinese Democracy Coalition. Furthermore, you were supposed to get along very well with Wei Jingsheng’s younger sister Wei Ling (魏玲). Do you still communicate with
each other?

Lin: The overseas democratic movement has disheartened me. I have decided to withdraw completely and live out my remaining years in peace. There are some people whom I regarded as friends, but they stabbed me in the back;
there are those whom I injured by mistake, but they were actually good people in retrospect. Wei Ling and Wei Xiaopeng(尉小鹏) were closer to me. But then, we were just work associates.

May 16, 2009 @ 1:58 am | Comment

@Tom: A few questions for you (I doubt if it would help you, but might be of interest to others):

1. “Deng made the right decision on 6/4”: The decision back then was not about which political system to adopt, but on how to treat the protesters, and later – how to deal with they way in which the protesters were treated. Did he make the right decision? Do you really believe that China is so fragile?

2. Did China really achieve its goals by not being “duped by the Western ideologies such as Democracy and Freedom”? Is that why China’s GDP per capita is on par with Angola?

3. More so, do you really think that China is NOT “duped by the Western ideologies”, and the worst of them at that? (Selfishness, consumerism, social darwinism, etc). I would argue that Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and HK are today more Chinese than China itself, and display more GENUINE traits of Chinese culture than China itself.

4. Is Totalitarian Communism not a Western Ideology? Was China’s CCP (and KMT!) not indoctrinated and funded by Russian agents?

5. Do you really think that “6/4 is a dead horse in China”? Is that why you cannot find it on Baidu?

May 16, 2009 @ 5:52 am | Comment

I am CCP talking points, really?
CCP is very good in action but rarely reflects. I sometimes just reflect for them so as to make reason and meaning of their actions.

CCP is actually pretty silent on 6/4, and wisely so. After all, using military force on demonstration always looks bad, in the world and even in China.

Comrade Zhao Ziyang was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Both Zhao and his buddy Hu Yaobang deserve a lot credits for the initial Reform and Open in China. Hu was China’s Gorbachev, except that in China, besides Hu and Zhao there were also Deng Xiaoping and other party elders who were more conservative and powerful.

To understand 6/4 and its significance, one has to understand China in the 80s.

The 80s were totally different and very interesting time in China. It was a period of Renaissance, a bit reminiscent of the May 4th movement of 1919. China had just woken up after many years of Mao and the devastating Culture Revolution. Marxism and Communism were in doubt and decline. Poetry was the most popular in college campus. The US was extremely popular in China, maybe just a tad behind poetry. People were eager to learn and embrace Western culture and value, such as democracy, freedom, market economy and more. Everything Western, preferably US, is gold. There was a Westernization movement brewing in China fanned by college students, intellectuals and CCP liberals.

Meanwhile, CCP was undergoing its own share of soul searching that resulted in some enlightened members to openly embracing Western ideals such as democracy and freedom instead of the orthodoxy of Marxism and Leninism (they are Western too). There was a growing fissure between the politically conservative party elders led by Deng Xiaoping and his former protégés Hu Yaobang and Zhao Zhiyang. In 1987, Hu Yaobang was purged after student demonstration broke out in Hefei and Shanghai. It was Hu Yaobang’s death in April of 1989 that triggered student mourning and gathering in Tiananmen Square that ultimately led to 6/4.

Deng Xiaoping clear saw the danger of the rapid Westernization movement and considered it as a threat to CCP thus to China. When Deng saw student demonstration in Beijing, he immediately pounced on it and decided to use it as a showdown.

Deng order the famous April 26th People Daily editorial that denounced student demonstration as:
singling a very tough stand against the students. The 4.26 editorial angered students and triggered a full blown protest movement in Beijing.

Deng’s next move was even more deadly that foretold the whole story. In early May, Deng went to the city of Wuhan and convened a meeting with district military leaders. It was in that meeting that China’s fate was decided. Deng got the support from the military and Deng sent troops to Beijing.

The Aprial 26th editorial and the Wuhan military meeting were the two most important events. Basically, Deng concluded that student demonstration in Beijing – a product and climax of Westernization movement – was a deadly threat to China, and that only the most conservative force the military can be trusted to defeat them.

The fact that Deng had to go to Wuhan and to use military force to back up his 4.26 editorial was very telling of the political climate of the time in Beijing and in China.

Zhao Ziyang was out of the loop with 4.26 editorial and with military maneuvering. But as the party General Secretary, Zhao must take a stand. If he went along with Deng, he would have at least to cheer on the military campaign against students.

Zhao did not see the Westernization movement as a death threat to CCP and refused to use military force. Zhao did not want to be known in history as the party General Secretary who uses military to crush student demonstration.

The question of 6/4 boiled down to this – was the rapid Westernization movement of 80s led by intellectuals, CCP liberals, students and encouraged by Hu Yaobang a death threat to CCP and thus to China?

Deng says yes but Zhao says no.

May 16, 2009 @ 6:47 am | Comment

Democracy is not dictatorship and can’t be imposed upon the Chinese people. They have to fight to get it for themselves. That the Chinese people doesn’t rise against their master for now doesn’t mean that they prefer dictatorship to democracy. The people in China, unlike animals and like other human being, also aspire to democracy and freedom, which won’t be substituted by a master who tries to feed and clothe them well.

No doubt China rises, thanks to the totalitarian system. And again thank to the totalitarian system, no country including China can rise to be a great country under the totalitarianism to be able to challenge the U.S and West, not to mention to lead the world. At best, China can be a second-class country in the world, so the people in China.

It doesn’t look right to the people in China when they look around and see that the people in the rest of the world have established democracy and enjoy more freedom than they do. Their government is able to find ways to compensate for the people’s sense of inferiority by accomplishing some other things, among them the impressive Olympic medal count and the top-ranking GDP.

The swine flu gave the Chinese govt a chance to humiliate the Mexicans in front of the Chinese people to give them the illusion that they are better than the Mexicans. In fact, the Mexicans are much better treated by their govt than the Chinese. The Chinese govt has never helped the ordinary Chinese humiliated and hurt overseas as the Mexican govt did. For example, the Chinese govt did not even protest it after a Russian gunboat attacked and sank a Chinese freight liner and killed 7 Chinese sailors early this year. The Mexican govt would never remain silent if 7 Mexicans were killed by the American coast guard for no good reason. A Democratic govt has to care about their people if it wants to be elected. Despite the psychological manipulations by their govt, more and more people in China realize they are being treated like shit by their govt (屁民). Obviously, the reason is that they can’t vote

May 16, 2009 @ 7:32 am | Comment

[…] Richard at TPD has a post on this subject which is attracting an…interesting assortment of commentary.  Gird your loins and check it […]

May 16, 2009 @ 8:32 am | Pingback

pug, if no one cares about it why are there so many discussions about it, some of which you are participating in on other blogs?

Tom, I don’t disagree with much of what you say in your first non-knee-jerk comment here ever. I disagree with the conclusion, however, as Zhao was a key architect of the industrialization program and was instrumental in ending the horrific communal system that was Mao’s great vision.

I don’t want to argue now about the individual protesters and what was good or bad about them. I’ve said many times, they were not angels, they had their own politburo-style system and were not democratic. But that’s not the point, They could have been even worse, and the way Deng handled it would have been wrong Even the demonstrator I interviewed, who thought the students had to be stopped, agrees that the way it was handled was wrong, I hold Deng in high esteem for many of the things he did. Only an idiot would not. But this was not one of those great things.

May 16, 2009 @ 8:50 am | Comment

A Legalistic Analysis of the June 4th Incident.

Many people’s discussions of the June 4th Incident revolve around the following questions:

1) Are the students’ actions a legitimate democratic movement, or is it a counter-revolutionary riot?
2) Are the students actions illegal?
3) Are the government’s actions illegal?

This post wants to take the perspective of a Western “modern” legal system.

First, people say that the students actions are not a counter-revolutionary riot, therefore it is illegal to suppress the students. But I believe that a riot is not the only conditition suitable for suppresion.

According to American laws, if a citizen obstructs and resists the police officer’s efforts at enforcing laws, then he/she can be arrested, using violence if necessary. I remember there are many cases in New York where an old man is stopped by the police on the streets, and has trouble hearing what the police is saying and yells back at the police and does not follow the police’s instructions, and he was pressed against the police-car and handcuffed, and as a result has a heart attack and dies. And the police officer is not punished, because the officer was considered to be doing a perfectly legal thing.

Therefore, it is easy to conclude that it is not necessary for your actions to reach the level of “rioting” for you to be “dealt with” by force. In fact, as soon as your actions create the effects of disturbing social order and resisting instructions from authorities, then you can be “dealt with”.

Now, I think it is clear that we can divide the 1989 Incident into two questions:

1) Is the gov’t suppression of the students legal?
2) Is the methods of suppression appropriate.

The second question is not a very precise and legal one, and if you want to discuss whether the gov’t is too rough or too gentle in their methods, then of course you can discuss it all you want.

But the first question is very precise and this post wants to focus on the first question. If you ask me “math, I want to talk about the second question!”. Unfortunately, I do not want to discuss the second question right now, maybe next time.

I think we can reach certain conclusions about the first question:

1) The students’ actions have created considerable inteferrence with the government’s daily affairs in running the city of Beijing.

The students surrounded the gov’t office buildings, refusing to leave and paralyzing traffic around the buildings and preventing the gov’t from working. Is this an illegal act, just by common sense? Of course it is. The students forced the gov’t to “dialog” and forced the gov’t to accept their “conditions”. In a modern society, a citizen does not have the right to “force” an authority to do anything, only authorities have the rights (police, judges, etc). to force citizens to do things. The students also built a massive statue of liberty in Tiananmen Square, constructing buildings without permit from appropriate agencies are also clearly illegal anywhere in the world. Finally, the students built road blocks to disrupt the police cars from travelling, this is is also highly illegal just by common sense.

Now you may say “The students are simply keeping order by themselves!”. Well, I’m sorry, but in any modern society, a citizen does not have the power to take the role of law enforcement officials and keep order in a city, unless he was delegated to do so (for example, a construction worker on a highway). Can you force a car to stop because the car was speeding? Of course not, even if the car was indeed speeding.

So the claim that “the students were keeping order by themselves” is in itself an indication of the students’ illegality.

Clearly, now we see that the gov’t decision to “deal with the students” by force is 100% legal, given the numerous illegal acts (some are very highly illegal, others are moderately illegal) by the students.

Now, perhaps you feel very angry and yell at me “Math! The students are simply demanding freedom and want democracy!”. Well first, I have said many times that I do not like the word freedom or democracy because I don’t know exactly what do you mean by them. But it is ok, because it does not matter what the students were demanding, they could be demanding for more dictatorship and less freedom. Whatever their “slogans” are, as long as they have conducted illegal actions, then the gov’t has every legal right to take actions to enforce laws. And those laws, like I said, are discussed from a Western’s legal perspective in case you believe China’s laws are arbitrary.

If this massive and surrounding of top government compound happened in the Nationalist government in the past, the gov’t would’ve opened fire immediately. If it happened in Moscow in USSR, the Soviet Red Army would’ve opened fired immediately. If it happened outside the White House, the guardsmen would be ordered to open fire as well.

Without the success suppression, China would not have the economic development and social stability it enjoys today, and certainly would not be considered a real competitor and player in the international stage. And the Chinese people today overseas would not been feeling so dignified and respected today due to their own nation’s economic performance.

I want to dedicate this post to all the soldiers who gave their lives on the Square on that day, and all the people who worked for the People’s Republic of China in the 2 decades that followed. They are the true heroes of China.

May 16, 2009 @ 9:16 am | Comment


6/4 was a big deal some years ago, but as China becomes more successful, it gets less and less relevant.

Most foreigners don’t get 6/4 right. What was really critical was actually the April 26th People’s Daily Editorial that pronounced students as “动乱 (turmoil)”. Deng’s meeting in Wuhan with military leaders was equally important since it set precedence that China will stop at nothing in defeating “动乱” and in maintaining STABILITY.

Blame West as the source of “动乱” and China will stop at nothing in maintaining STABILITY. These are the essence of 6/4.

A new political doctrine emerges after 6/4, the doctrine of political STABILITY. At the core of this doctrine is the political conservatism that says China needs CCP as The leader.

This “China needs CCP as The leader” is really a variation of old Confucianism. China basically is reverting back to Confucianism for the last 20 years, to her traditional norm.

If we look a little further back in China’s history, 6/4 signals the end of a century long radical Westernization movement starting from May 4th movement with succession of revolutions from Sun Zhongshan to Jiang Jieshi to Mao zedong to Cultural Revolution and finally to the students in Beijing in 1989.

China actually still wants some kind of Westernization, a Westernization defined by China’s needs and pace. China wants a Westernization that is politically stable for China and China can choose or reject certain parts.

May 16, 2009 @ 9:38 am | Comment

Thanks, Tom. Which leads to my next question: Do you believe that China’s current economic and political model will bring it stability in the long term?

May 16, 2009 @ 10:26 am | Comment


I can see China in the next 10 years remain stable.

One key to China’s stability is the unity in leadership in the poliburo. China has done pretty well on that for the last 20 years.

Another equally important key is the leadership succession. China has done very well also, from Deng to Jiang to the current Hu. Hu Jintao’s heir apparent Xi Jinping appears another solid leader.

I see solid CCP top leadership for the next 10 years to come.

As usual, China’s rural population and some local CCP are the source of most challenges and trouble for China. The Internet is increasingly another unpredictable and destabilizing force. China’s traditional trouble maker, the students and intellectuals have been in harmony for the last 20 years and there is no sign of change thus far. Smart people in China are just too busy making money than making trouble destabilizing CCP rule.

Overall, I think if CCP top leadership stays united and focused and if students and intellectuals remain content, China should remain stable.

It also helps greatly if the West keeps attacking China. The West attack on Tibet is of great value to China for internal unity and for keeping Fenqing alive and strong. Fenqing can be very powerful in overwhelming and intimidating some West admiring elites and in keeping them quiet. Fenqing’s attack on West gives CCP much needed room for not making any change politically.

Still, China’s current conservative and defensive oriented political model is not yet tested in terms of severe economic down turn. But on the other hand, it is precisely this kind of uncertainty and vulnability that make CCP leadership united, focused, agile and strong and thus making China strong.

May 16, 2009 @ 11:45 am | Comment

Just checked the transcript on Washtington Post, looking forward to the full vision. I will definitely go into it once it become available, although I do not expect anything new or surprising. Because it is basically the same thing from Zong Fengming’s book “Zhao Ziyang ruan jin zhong de tan hua”.

However, I do find one thing troubling, everytime we saw these kind of talk, it usually comes from the person who was stripped of power, be it Zhao or Lu Dingyi. They only talk about politics like this when they are no longer part of it, when they become outsiders and no longer stakeholders. Of course they cannot talk like this on this offical position, but nor do they believe in these when they did have power.

May 16, 2009 @ 11:46 am | Comment

There is a very wide spectrum of opinions regarding June 4 in China both within and without the CCP. You don’t have to try very hard to hear them. tom and Richard are both oversimplifying this topic.

I am in Hong Kong at the moment, and just heard the law makers and the chief executive arguing over this issue.

May 16, 2009 @ 1:07 pm | Comment

@Serve the people – An example from Hong Kong demonstrates the level of discussion within the communist party? As far as I know, the only serious HK politician who ever bothered to join the CCP was Donald Tsang, and he was roundly mocked for doing so.

May 16, 2009 @ 1:40 pm | Comment

Wow, you know it’s a “special” topic when we get two canned Math posts!

May 16, 2009 @ 5:05 pm | Comment

As Tom points out, Zhao was outmaneuvered by Deng and his allies in the PLA. I wonder if this was about ideology at all. Sounds more like a move by a military elite to defend its privileged status by eliminating a political opponent that was about to leverage public sentiment to his advantage.

After all, ideology was never a strongpoint of CCP leaders. It was always more about power and PR than anything else.

May 16, 2009 @ 5:56 pm | Comment

Dror, if Zhao had cared only about power he wouldn’t have put himself at risk the way he did. He didn’t have to go back to the square in tears and beg the students to disperse. By that point he knew his goose was cooked, yet he still went. So I don’t believe we can say he was motivated purely by the will to power.

May 16, 2009 @ 6:36 pm | Comment

A case of morality against sheer desire for power…. the people(students) be damned?

It seems to be an constant in CH history.

One thing I find funny is the appeal to “preserver stability” to justify CCP reaction to TQ…. “incident”.

Preserve stability was quite far from CCP thoughts in 1949!

Maybe there is something lost in translation.

Preserve stability ==> preserve power.

New speak anyone?

May 16, 2009 @ 6:46 pm | Comment

Ecodelta, excellent point. I referred in my post to revisionist crapola I’ve been reading on some other web sites, and one of the authors of the worst post I’ve seen in this regard slams the students for bringing Beijing to a standstill. He is a card-carrying Marxist, and this is the pinnacle of hypocrisy, since this same person adores a good Marxist revolution and would be wildly in favor of passive resistance and demonstrations against regime’s such as America’s or other capitalist countries. But when you stand up and demonstrate against a communist government, that’s something else altogether. The Marxists promptly get their knickers all in a knot and talk about how no country can tolerate its capital city being closed down. No one can tolerate the disruptions. But that is exactly the point of passive resistance and mass demonstrations, a pillar of Marxist strategy. And worse than demonstrations, as you point out, full-blown war in 1949, is just fine. As long as you aren’t fighting or demonstrating against their side.

More on this to come.

May 16, 2009 @ 6:58 pm | Comment

At some point CCP will bring a closure to the Tiananmen incident. My guess is about 10 to 20 years from now, when the major participants in the CCP leadership completely exit the stage. There will be an official verdict, very much like the ones they had for the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution. At that time people will not seek revenge. They will forgive and move on.

This is not much different from the KMT’s 228 burden. Everybody in Taiwan knew that KMT did something terribly wrong, but this doesn’t stop the vast majority of Taiwanese from supporting the party.

Political parties in China (including Taiwan) do not come and go easily. Once they are established, they will be around for a very long time.

May 16, 2009 @ 7:25 pm | Comment

@Richard:”Zhao had cared only about power he wouldn’t have put himself at risk the way he did.”.

Right. My comment was about Deng and the army. From the (limited) evidence available, there is no doubt that Zhao was genuinely open to political change.

“The Marxists promptly get their knickers all in a knot and talk about how no country can tolerate its capital city being closed down etc.”

You hit the nail on its head there. The fact that this people call themselves “Marxists” or “Communists” to begin with is a farce.

The reality is that Marx has very little to do with anything the CCP was up to. Marx spoke about capitalism as a phase on the way to socialism, and of “democracy as the way to socialism”, and on the need to eliminate government as much as possible and have communal ownership and management of production. His whole theory relied on the existence of a large bourgeois class that China did not have at the time and hardly even has now.

Taking over the country and managing every little aspect of economic and social life “on behalf of the people” is a far far cry from what Marx had in mind. True, the Russian thwarted his ideas first, so the Chinese are not to blame, but this point must be mentioned when discussing the ‘ideology’ of the CCP.

Ironically, now that China is starting to become a society of outward-oriented, quasi-middle-class, consumers, the real ideas of Karl Marx might play a major part in undermining the country’ current brand of feudal capitalism.

May 16, 2009 @ 7:38 pm | Comment

According to Zhao himself, there was not much difference between him and Deng with regard to Reform and Open. The only difference is how to handle the students in Beijing.

But I think the difference is much bigger and actually quite foundamental. The key gap between them is really the attitude towards the popular trend of Westernization movement of 80s. Deng is correct to think such trend is a death threat to CCP and to China. But both Zhao and his predecessor Hu Yaobang think they can leverage the populous movement to their advantage. Both Zhao and Hu still had some idealism that by default consider democracy of people is good for China, while Deng was a 100% hardcore realist.

It was kind of conservative vs. liberal China style, think Deng as Dick Chaney + comrade Lenin.

Deng and Zhao also belonged to difference generations. At the time, there were generation based sects and power struggles in CCP. The group of party elders who consider themselves “founders” of New China was too old for daily affair but still keen on politics and in meddling ideology and direction. Party elders were in general not enthusiastic about Reform and Open and very critical of the Westernization trend. Deng being the same age as those party elders was sometimes susceptible their complaints.

May 16, 2009 @ 11:13 pm | Comment

“…such trend is a death threat to CCP and to China.”

Death threat to CCP but not to China.

About so called westernization today in CH. If some of those elders raised today from their tombs, they would fall back into them struck by a brain stroke. Dont think it will matter too much to CH youngster today.

All this westernization, liberal self righteous, democratic activist clique blah blah blah, has nothing to do with the westernization, liberalism or democracy itself, but with the grasp of power of a single party, that has pushed China through some of its worsts decades in history, even before 1949.

I would be nice to see what Docotr Sun Yat-sen would have to say about them.

May 17, 2009 @ 12:26 am | Comment

@server the people
“At some point CCP will bring a closure to the Tiananmen incident. ”

Hhhhmmm… 30% right 70% wrong?

Now, seriously, I don’t think that the CCP will not be considered as a civilized government until it faces that….. “incident”

China, of course, has always been far more civilized than CCP.

May 17, 2009 @ 12:33 am | Comment

My thought is, if the CCP is right and the majority of Chinese people really don’t care and it was no big deal, yesterday’s news, done and forgotten, why all the censorship around the issue?

May 17, 2009 @ 2:54 am | Comment

this is something only remembered by foreigners, especially people who claimed they had this freedom, that freedom. it’s like women’s period, happens once a year instead. when will it reach menopause?

i guess CCP slammed the face of “democrapcy” so hard that they have to remember it. pathetic.

May 17, 2009 @ 4:03 am | Comment

..a threat to CCP thus to China… such trend is a death threat to CCP and to China

Tom, a little history – China was around long before the CCP (“China has 5000 years of civilization.” Ever heard that?) and China will be around long after the CCP is dead and buried (provided that we hairless apes don’t wipe ourselves out first)

You might want to consider where you throw in your lot.

As to Tiananmen, I understand your arguement that Deng had to slow things down and I feel that there is a certain amount of truth to it. But, the idea that the crackdown was a reasonable response is fucking stupid.

Who knows, maybe if Deng didn’t have to contend with that vile,little shit-bag, Li Peng (amongst others), stirring up trouble, he may have turned his formidable intellect to creating a more sensible response.

As it is, the actions of June 4 were and still are a huge loss of 面子and 脸 for China as a whole. You can’t change that by trying to make peole forget it – people don’t forget.

May 17, 2009 @ 8:54 am | Comment

South Korea’s government had far more student protests than China in 1989 yet never used their military tanks and machine guns; instead resorting to tear gas and water cannons. South Korean students were far more militant than China’s as well, making use of improvised weapons such as Molotov cocktails. Why couldn’t China learn from South Korea and direct Shenzhen factories to copy such implements?
The students in Tiananmen were totally unarmed and practiced a disciplined pacifism in the face of the PLA (Pupil Liberation Army).
The corrupt government leaders in China try to cover up the violence against unarmed civilians with lies and propaganda. This pattern has been repeated over and over at villages where thugs beat down people who try to seek justice, whether it’s for land misappropriation or petitions against tofu school construction.

May 17, 2009 @ 12:44 pm | Comment

@Spelunker: Violent student protests in South Korea are still in fashion. My friends who were there during May 1st took some photos during such a protest. There were lots of soldiers there, and they indeed used a creative method of ‘pushing’ the crowd and showing whose in charge without shooting anyone or bringing in tanks.

Israel, btw, had the same problem in Gaza during the late 1980s. Instead of using water cannons and tear gas to silence protesters, it used live ammunition and sparked an armed conflict that goes on to this day.

May 17, 2009 @ 1:35 pm | Comment

“3. More so, do you really think that China is NOT “duped by the Western ideologies”, and the worst of them at that? (Selfishness, consumerism, social darwinism, etc). I would argue that Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and HK are today more Chinese than China itself, and display more GENUINE traits of Chinese culture than China itself.”

Culture is whatever the people make it to be. It is in constant flux. To argue there’s some kind of rigid zone that constitutes “Chinese culture” and that HK and Taiwan is more “GENUINE” when they themselves both differ from each other and the mainland is blantant cultural imperialism.

May 17, 2009 @ 1:56 pm | Comment

Dror, Kent State is, of course, the classic American example many Chinese point to (at least in past discussions on this blog), with the “America does it, too” argument, forgetting that the massacre utterly traumatized America and is still a source of anxiety and controversy today, 40 years later. Instead of being covered up, it was examined endlessly and is taught in all courses on modern American history.

May 17, 2009 @ 2:02 pm | Comment

@Farnsworth: I was fighting fire with fire. Just pointing out the fallacy in trying to justify CCP violence as some sort of cultural defense against “foreign ideas”. China is not the CCP and the CCP is not China.

@Richard: Right. One day, the CCP might learn the repressive tolerance is much more effective than censorship.

May 17, 2009 @ 2:58 pm | Comment

In order to justify the 6.4 killing, pro-CCP fenqings often refer to the Philadelphia bombing of MOVE in 1985, the shooting at Ohio Kent State Univ., the massacre of Mexican students prior to the Mexico City Olympic Game (they claimed CIA was also involved in the massacre), the attack on the veterans of Bonus Army by the U.S. troop in Washington DC, 1932. Fenqings only see the U.S. govt committed crimes against its people, but ignore the fact that the U.S. govt can be held responsible for its wrongdoings and justice can be done. ON the contrary, the Chinese govt can always commit crime against its people with impunity and can also punish those who try to seek justice. So, the 2 countries are way too far from being comparable in terms of social justice, kind of like the big difference between ape and homo sapiens. YEs, both do bad things, but the former has failed to evolve any better or change itself and the latter can learn from its mistake, correct it and improve itself.

May 17, 2009 @ 3:33 pm | Comment

el chino AIP,

I suggest that you make your point even stronger by letting the “fenqings” know what justice has been done in relation to the Philadelphia bombing of MOVE in 1985, the shooting at Ohio Kent State Univ., the massacre of Mexican students prior to the Mexico City Olympic Game (the “claimed” involvement of the US gov. is verified by the disclassfied documents, unfortunately), the attack on the veterans of Bonus Army by the U.S. troop in Washington DC, 1932.

May 17, 2009 @ 5:34 pm | Comment


You sounded like a perfect Communist agent to me. If should be happy you live in a free society so that you could voice your support for the communist system so strongly. You cannot do the opposite in china, you know that? Your argument that the ONLY that themartial law and killings saved China and got it here today is very absurd, as if you are arguing that the society has advanced because we had many wars in the past. Could it have been a lot better without the wars?? The June 4th killing is completely unnecessary. I was there during those days, in Beijing. You really have to support the CCP dictatorship to understand why marshal law and the killing was necessary. I guess you are on that boat.

May 17, 2009 @ 6:16 pm | Comment

I find the memoirs interesting if only for how Zhao may be seen later on in Chinese history. Assuming he will be fully rehabilitated, which seems inevitable, maybe he will be given greater credit for China’s economic growth than he has been even outside of China.

Rightly or wrongly, Deng has been seen as the main person behind China’s boom. I was suspicious of that after reading up on Zhao. Though any change in how Zhao and Deng are seen may rely on what other documents are available – a set of memoirs may not be enough to really rebalance things.

May 17, 2009 @ 6:28 pm | Comment

Many Chinese want to put this incident behind and look toward the future, and not the past.

That’s strange, pugster, because exactly the opposite argument is used by many Chinese in favour of discussing the Sino-Japanese War regularly – that China can’t move forward without looking at the past.

So do you think it’s time to put the wars of the past behind and stop going on about how foreigners haven’t apologised for what they did, etc, or is it necessary to discuss the Tiananmen protests openly, seek a public apology from the Chinese Communist Party, reparations, a monument to the dead and so forth?

May 17, 2009 @ 6:35 pm | Comment

@Raj: Good point. Ouch.

May 17, 2009 @ 9:28 pm | Comment

Thanks for that comment, Raj. Can’t wait for pugster to reply.

May 17, 2009 @ 11:15 pm | Comment

Most young people today are against the students of 20 years ago, considering them too idealistic and naïve and clueless for being duped by the Western ideologies such as Democracy and Freedom that are the best weapons to destablize and to destroy China.

If the students 20 years ago were naive for not realizing how Democracy, Freedom etc could be tools to use against China, what of the young idealistic Communists of the 1930s? Russia definitely believed that exporting Communism into China would give them a lever and they did attempt to make use of it.

Of course Russia only wanted influence over China’s leadership and direction, they didn’t intentionally hold back China’s development and cause social chaos. But that was the result. China could have ended up like North Korea today. If the intention is to destabilize and destroy a country (or render it irrelevant) then supporting a Communist movement is at least a workable strategy.

May 18, 2009 @ 8:50 am | Comment

Hong Kong journalist Tsui Sio-ming makes an insightful observation in a HK Economic Journal column: “June Fourth was broadcast live, and remains in the memory of several generations. Opening fire to suppress a peaceful demonstration was a political accumulator that sooner or later will have to be accounted for. But the victims were mainly students and civilians, with no one visible from Zhongnanhai. Not like the Cultural Revolution, where large numbers of worthy party and state leaders saw their families brought to ruin by the treatment they received and took the initiative to reverse the verdicts.”

May 18, 2009 @ 11:07 am | Comment

Fenqings only see the U.S. govt committed crimes against its people, but ignore the fact that the U.S. govt can be held responsible for its wrongdoings and justice can be done.

During the Bonus March incident, the two chief commanders of the tank division that faced off against the veterans on the Washington Mall (how eerie the similarity was) were named George Patton and Douglas MacArthur. Tell me, how were those 2 men “held responsible”? If my memory serves my correctly, these 2 are revered in the US today.

I remember watching a PBS documentary on the tank man, and in it two Chinese college students were shown image of the tank man, and they expressed total ignorance of it. This then was used as a classic example of how the Chinese gov’t “covers up history”.

How many of you can tell me confidently that if a CCTV crew picks two random American college students and shows them images of a student being shot by the police in Kent State, and the images of the veterans facing off the tanks by General MacArthur on the DC Mall, that they’d be able to identify either one? And thus if the American students also fail in their answers, is it fair to then say that the American gov’t also “covers up history”?

Both cases show that students these days are apathetic towards history, and are not well-informed enough. Nothing more.

May 18, 2009 @ 11:11 am | Comment

Morgan,nearly all educated and semi-educated Americans will recognize the Kent State footage and photos. A famous shot of the young girl weeping over the body of her slain friend is an institution and is still used on posters that adorn the walls of college dorms across America (at least dorms with left-leaning students).

Your comparison with the MacArthur “face-off” on the DC Mall is bizarre. This was a relatively tiny footnote in American history, and judging by the wikipedia entry (scroll down to “Bonus Army”) it is still very murky what MacArthur’s exact orders were and whether he actually received them. This was not a significant incident in America’s history. In addition, since television didn’t exist then, it did not electrify the country and the world they way Kent State and Tiananmen and 911 did. No comparison. Even if there had been television, this was a relative non-event and there is no reason why Americans could ever be expected to retain fresh images in their minds about it now, more than 70 years after the fact. I repeat, bizarre.

Joel, thanks for the excellent-as-always comment.

May 18, 2009 @ 11:40 am | Comment


What happened to your Gingrich and Uighurs thread? I can’t see it anymore when I visit

May 18, 2009 @ 11:03 pm | Comment

Serve, I wrote the Gingrich-Uigher post right before going to work on Sunday morning, in a total rush. When I looked at it after work I felt it wasn’t duck-worthy. Sorry about that, it’s something I do from time to time. It had little information or viewpoint to it and I just thought it was a bad post.

May 18, 2009 @ 11:08 pm | Comment

I just put up a new post on this topic and am closing this thread. Please leave all comments there, thanks.

May 19, 2009 @ 12:08 am | Comment

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