Memories (or lack of memories?) of June 4

This morning I received a request from a reporter I know asking if I could comment on how my Chinese friends and acquaintances were responding, if at all, to the upcoming 20th anniversary. (The reporter was not in China.) I replied that to the best of my knowledge they mostly were not responding at all, because to them there was nothing to respond to. As far as airbrushing June 4 from the collective Chinese psyche is concerned, Mission Definitely Accomplished.

But being thorough and obnoxious, I spent the next hour or so buttonholing people and calling friends and asking them all the same questions: were they hearing any “buzz” about the impending anniversary? Are their friends talking about it? Have they heard of any plans to commemorate the dead?

The answers were unsurprising. June 4 will be a day like any other that will come and go without any particular fanfare. The day is mainly meaningless for them and the event has “been faded from people’s memories,” as one said to me. (I like that used of words, that it’s “been faded,” as though someone had done the fading, not just the passage of time.)

Finally I asked how many of them knew who “Tank Man” was. Out of the 12 or so people I asked, only one – someone who studied in the US – had heard of him. When I asked what images of June 4 they remembered, they said without question it was the photos of burned and/or disemboweled PLA soldiers left hanging by militant protesting workmen.

Once again I marveled at the party, so efficient at some things, so hideously inept at others. I tried to explain the significance of “Tank Man” to a couple of people, but it didn’t seem to register, the anonymous “everyman” holding his shopping bags, and for one insanely dramatic moment capturing the minds and hearts of the world and bringing the military machinery of The Party to a halt. It didn’t work; my friends didn’t seem to understand why it was particularly admirable. The one who knew of him said she wondered why he was so revered. This isn’t because my friends aren’t smart or sensitive; they are both. But our views of what makes a hero are quite different. Again, River Town says it all. The hero would be those who unite people, bring them together and create constructive harmony. It wouldn’t be the lone rebel throwing a monkey wrench into the state machinery.

I understand this, and I was not surprised. One friend said, “Maybe some of the older people here care. My friends and I don’t really know much about it.” I took solace in Alice Poon’s post (courtesy of China Geeks,” which tells us in Hong Kong it’s a bit different, as people react with revulsion to Donald Tsang’s remarks that “economic prosperity” has in effect neutralized the tragedy and caused most Hong Kongers to allow it to drop into the memory hole.

I can still recall the scene in Toronto in which I broke down in tears when I watched TV news while in my brother-in-law’s house – I saw tanks rolling towards Tiananmen Square and the frightened students scrambling to get away, some carrying the wounded on carts. The first thought that came to mind was: “Why on earth are they using tanks to kill those helpless and unarmed young people? Why are the soldiers killing the peacefully demonstrating students?”

Twenty years have passed. Those questions still remain unanswered as of today. Meanwhile, Hong Kong has been able to reap economic benefits from China’s open and reform policy. But most Hong Kongers would never conflate economic prosperity with a serious matter of right and wrong. Tsang could not have made a worse judgment on this issue. Even when the Mainland authorities have been trying to twist the truth around (like laying the blame on the students’ alleged intention to revolt against the CCP – an allegation that is refuted by Zhao Ziyang in his secret memoirs) and to forbid discussions of the subject in the Mainland, this has done nothing to obliterate the shameful deed from Hong Kongers’ memory.

With the passage of time, people’s vehement disgust with the ignominious murderous act has indeed been diluted, as is evident from the declining attendance at the Victoria Park June 4th vigil over the years. Yet, as if to help reverse the trend, a couple of recent incidents have managed to re-ignite Hong Kongers’ feelings of revulsion. In 2007, pro-Beijing DAB legislator Ma Lik blurted out a preposterous “pigs-crushed-by-tanks” analogy which caused a public outcry and, last month, the HKU student union president surnamed Chan tried to defend and rationalize the Beijing government’s violent crackdown, which caused an outburst of anger in Hong Kong society and led to his being ousted from his post.

Still, I find it heartbreaking that here, in what 20 years ago was the vortex where it all took place, there remains in the minds of the young no image of the men and women who died in the crackdown, no stories of the bravery or even of the daily turn of events, the “Goddess of Democracy,” the sort-of hunger strikes, the meeting of Wu’er Kaixi wearing his pajamas with Li Peng, etc. Instead, it’s basically a void, interrupted with a few government talking points and state-issued photos, like those of pre-“Liberation” Tibetan serfs with their limbs hacked off by evil landowners. And I say, What can I do? And I answer, Write it down, and do your tiny, microscopic bit to keep the memory alive.

Demonstrating students in Shanghai with their makeshift statue of liberty

Demonstrating students in Shanghai with their makeshift statue of liberty

Photo courtesy of Diane Gatterdam’s ongoing series of stories and photos about the demonstrations on Facebook.

Update: The erasure of TAM from China’s memory is getting noticed.


Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.

The Discussion: 93 Comments

About the money and debt thing, just playing with wolfram alpha

I tried the following queries:

china gdp

EU gdp

US gdp

china gdp / china population

eu gdp / eu population

us gdp / us population

(eu gdp / eu population) / (china gdp / china population)

(us gdp / us population) / (china gdp / china population)

((us gdp + eu gdp) / (us population+eu population) ) / (china gdp /china population)


((us gdp + china gdp) / ( us population + china population))) / (eu gdp)

((eu gdp + china gdp) / ( eu population + china population))) / (us gdp/us population)

Hhhhmmmmmmmm…… Just bear with me a little bit.

us gdp / china population

china gdp / us population

eu gdp / china population

china gdp / eu population


Controversies apart. It seems this WolfranAlpha thing has its uses….

Now. If we move the CH population to US, and US population to CH. The new CH-Americans will have more money and will consume more, and new american-CH have less ans spare more. A more balance distribution of riches.
Besides, American-CH start to buy CH-American govt bonds, eventually compensating the current imbalances.
Economic crisis solved!

May 23, 2009 @ 8:23 am | Comment

A Chinese reader,

支持! How dare Westerners have an opinion on this. It is clearly an internal Chinese matter. Anybody here in the PRC has access to all the information they need to reach an informed opinion on this matter, they don’t need anything written by so-called outside “experts”. China cured polio AND invented the computer, who needs the outside world? Chairman Mao was correct to reject foreign ideas and foreign investment.

Furthermore, there should be no place online for the “information imperialism” of the West with their libraries and free speech. Don’t they know — as you and I do — that free speech and debate are just tricks to try and re-enslave the Chinese people?

You keep fighting the good fight.

May 23, 2009 @ 9:11 am | Comment

Chinese Reader,

How old are you? I was 17 in June ’89. I watched the shit going down on TV. My memory isn’t skewed.

May 23, 2009 @ 9:29 am | Comment

Change takes time,and in this case it will take a looooooong time.
But the change is not impossible.
The Party is not a solid block of steel,the members take sides.And there’s also this thing called “inner-party democracy”…
Maybe in the end we’ll have something similar to the political structure of Japan.
But I personally think the progress will happen in a time span of two generations or more.

May 23, 2009 @ 10:39 am | Comment

@ Matt Rice

Thank you, irony is alive and well…..

May 23, 2009 @ 10:55 am | Comment

When you say the memory of the Chinese are skewed, what you really mean is that their memory is different from yours. And since *your* memory and interpretation, thanks to the great perch on which you stand, can be the only correct one… it is they that are skewed.

China Reader, absolutely false. By saying they have their memory skewered I am simply saying, as they tell me, that they have no exposure as the grow up to what happened except whatever they are taught by the government, which is either nothing, or that the killing had to take place because students were about to transform rising China into chaotic Russia, and that they were disemboweling PLA soldiers and police officers along the way. All I say is make the information available and stop the cone of silence that drops down at the very thought of TAM. I have never said the “Western version” (a bullshit phrase by the way since there are many schools of thought) should be accepted.

May 23, 2009 @ 12:39 pm | Comment


The NYT article is not bad. I must say that the Western coverage of Tiananmen is in general better than their coverage of many other topics, like Tibet. This is not surprising considering the large number of scholars working in the field of contemporary Chinese politics.

But there is still room for improvement. For instance we call the 1989 movement a pro-democracy movement without giving too much thought about democracy. The students did build things that resemble the Statue of Liberty. But were they really democrats? Most student leaders have left China and what they have done since Tiananmen gives no indication that they are really interested in building democratic institutions, nor have they learned the concept of loyal opposition. They are a group of people who spend most of time bickering among themselves, frequently accusing each other of being CCP spies. A few of them even flirted with the Dalai and his separatist followers. They operate on the principle that your enemy’s enemy is your friend.

I cannot see that these people will bring democracy to China. One party system is probably the best that China can have for some time. Within the party, one can have different factions, so a degree of inner party democracy can be achieved. But there is no sign that an opposition party can emerge in the near future. One exception: the KMT. If it can bring Taiwan back, then a CCP-KMT two party system may be workable.

May 23, 2009 @ 12:46 pm | Comment

[…] Ng’s post on Sensitive Anniversary, Edited Memories, which takes up the Peking Duck’s lament: I find it heartbreaking that here, in what 20 years ago was the vortex where it all took place, […]

May 23, 2009 @ 1:12 pm | Pingback

Serve, I really would love to do a counter-story detailing the myths about the Tianamen Square myths. Most major media dropped the line that the students were protesting for democracy many years ago. Democracy, in terms of greater representation and accountability, was always a part of the picture, but most media now agree that the real complaint was more about economics and corruption. Other “myths” I’ve seen revisionists huffing and puffing about include:

1. The students were shot in the square in a huge and evil massacre. All responsible media discarded this lie many years ago, although some politicians have tried to keep the myth going for political purposes.

2. Tank Man was a demonstrating student. I saw this on one of the more blatantly deceptive “myth lists” a few weeks ago. No media of any importance makes this claim. Most say he was an unknown young man carrying a shopping bag.

3. The students were gentle and united, etc. (all of the stories that lionize the students). As I mentioned above, most respected media now take a much more sober look at the students, and their sins and foibles have been reported at length.

What we have to remember, though, is that even after the media has recanted and corrected their stories, myths take hold in the public mind. The media corrected the falsehood that Al Gore said he invented the Internet, but most people still believe he said it.

We also have to remember the media’s situation in 1989, in a highly fluid, fast-paced environment where often all they had to go on was rumors and hearsay, where it was nearly impossible to step back and get a panoramic picture of all sides. It is absolutely impossible for them to get a balanced, correct version of events no matter how hard they try because history was simply being made too fast. The most egregious example was Wang Dan’s (if I remember right) assertion of an in-square massacre a week later which got picked up and caught on like wildfire. This is not a media conspiracy. Before the crackdown, the stories raged in both the foreign media and even in some Chinese media, amazingly enough. So this stuff about a conspiracy to paint China in such and such a way is another myth. Public opinion forms in an odd way, and sometimes myths become part of it – but everyone can be a victim of this phenomenon. People actually believe Humphrey Bogart says, “Play it again, Sam” in Casablanca (he doesn’t) by this same odd process. And in the case of TAM, we have one major factor to blame: Government silence and secrecy, which allowed the myths to gain traction and go largely unchallenged by those who could have straightened them out. The longer you wait to respond, the faster and deeper the spread, just like SARS. Countless articles can come out over the years correcting these false notions, but by then, many aren’t listening and take comfort in the myths they’re convinced are reality.

May 23, 2009 @ 1:48 pm | Comment

Richard, history is written by the winners, but a revolution is truly over when the fundamental reasons that caused it are eliminated. In China, they are far from it. I found a heartbreaking quote from a 1989 BBC report. The reporter describes how the students were singing while being shot, and how, a little earlier, a female student told him: ‘What can they do to us? We have our whole future ahead of us, and we’ve see it.’


May 23, 2009 @ 1:50 pm | Comment

But were they really democrats? Most student leaders have left China and what they have done since Tiananmen gives no indication that they are really interested in building democratic institutions, nor have they learned the concept of loyal opposition. They are a group of people who spend most of time bickering among themselves, frequently accusing each other of being CCP spies.

Serve, the sentence I’ve bolded is an almost perfect definition of a democratic system, there’s nothing smooth or easy about democracy.

As for loyal opposition, that’s pretty hard to achieve from a prison cell or home arrest. And to whom should they be loyal? The CCP?

May 23, 2009 @ 2:24 pm | Comment

Many things happened in the 20th century.

Even after 1949, the Great Leap, the great famine, the Cultural Revolution, the inflation in the 80s, the massive lay-off in the 90s and all those other things make TAM pale in front of them.

My parents were sent to remote areas when they were only 16 as part of the xiaxiang drive, and what they and the entire Chinese public went through goes beyond the wildest imagination of their counterparts in the West born after WWII. And what happened in the cultural revolution still haunts my maternal grandpa’s family. So excuse them for not caring too much about what, no matter how you measure it, was a minor incident in their lives compared with the famine (their family members and neighbors were starved to death) and the CR (do i need to say more?) and the one-child policy and the getting laid off and the skyrocketing real estate prices that their children cannot afford who also cannot find jobs after graduating from college. Excuse them for letting more urgent things occupy their minds and not feigning outrage at something way less traumatic than what they went through 40 years ago. They made peace with the massive injustices that happend to THEMSELVES; of course they find TAM distant.

And for foreigners to slap their faces and shout “What can’t you be angry, you pathetic mindless people!” is extremely insensitive. You want them to get angry? Focus on unearthing the tragedies of the CR first. I bet people in Hong Kong were never sent to the desert when they were teenagers and never had to denounce their family members in the CR.

May 23, 2009 @ 2:42 pm | Comment

And for foreigners to slap their faces and shout “What can’t you be angry, you pathetic mindless people!” is extremely insensitive. You want them to get angry?

Woodoo, that’s a pretty repellent comment. Who has said they want to get Chinese people angry? There’s awareness and there’s anger. Awareness can lead to growth and maturity and topple some old idols and false beliefs, without driving people to rage.

On a philosophical level, China and TAM aside, do you believe the government should keep people ignorant in order to keep them passive and contented? Do you believe knowledge should be forbidden and resources censored or closed to keep people blissfully unaware? Just wondering. And remember, many of the people quoted in the NYT article, the CN Review and the people I talked to – these were all Chinese people. Did you see the quote Si pasted above, about the Chinese academic speaking out for the truth? This is yet another myth – that only foreigners care about TAM.

Zijin Releasing these information would inflame anti-China opinion and allow enemies to paint Chinese troops with a broad, damning, and inaccurate brush, thereby endangering them in theaters of world.

Obama has released the torture memos (though his stance on them is infuriating). Truly strong, secure countries can deal with their pasts. Weak and insecure and paranoid ones are the only ones who can’t. Not that China is all those things, but it’s got some of those qualities to some degree. And especially with the architects of the crackdown still holding a respectable share of power it makes it harder for the current government to open the books. But they will one day, and China will survive. If your country is that fragile, you’re in deep shit.

May 23, 2009 @ 2:55 pm | Comment

And Dror, thanks for that link. I’ve been combing through the book on Google Books and it looks fantastic.

May 23, 2009 @ 3:37 pm | Comment

Someone, preferably Chinese, should maybe write a book titled

“Born the 4th of June”

Make a movie later too.

Plot synopses, just fill in the points.

“The film opens when ….. is a young boy living in ……, ……, …… He grows up in a patriotic and …… household, instilling within him a strong sense of pride in his country and his ……. As a teenager, and a top member of his high school’s wrestling team, he proves himself physically fit and athletic, as well as an exceptional student academically. When local ….. recruiting …. visit his school and give …. and his fellow seniors an impassioned lecture about the ….., …. decides to enlist. He misses his prom, because he is unable to secure a date with his love interest, …… He confronts her at the prom and has a dance with her on his last night before leaving, etc”

May 23, 2009 @ 7:21 pm | Comment

Seeing the photo of the students sitting outside the Shanghai government building, it’s hard to believe it even happened, and only 20 years ago!

May 23, 2009 @ 10:42 pm | Comment

I guess it also worth mentioning that the pictures of ‘Tank Man’ were at the time juxtaposed with the then similarly famous pictures from the Prague Spring of 1968:

21 years after the crushing of the Prague spring, freedom came to Czechoslovakia, and for that reason these pictures are no longer as well known.

May 24, 2009 @ 12:36 am | Comment

“But they will one day, and China will survive. If your country is that fragile, you’re in deep shit.”

The book will be eventually open, but now is not a good time. It is reasonable that turbulent years could be expected and econoomic growth will most likely be interrupted.

In reality, China is indeed very fragile. If full-scale democracy is introduced before China become more integrated and wealthier, I believe China will be split up into pieces. Some of you may secretely love that idea, but most of chinese will loath that thought.

After China becomes wealthier on par with $10,000 GDP, I guess China will be in a position to open the book. By that time, people will have less drive to seek revenge and may appreciate that Deng made a very difficult decision during a difficult time. By that time, if India is still in similar shitty state with explosive population, I will guess CCP will have a very good chance to make its case.

May 24, 2009 @ 1:00 am | Comment


“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” – Edmund Burke

Perhaps it is because too many Chinese people are too submissive and content to be bullied by rulers and those in power that civil society still seems a remote possibility even as of today.

If you keep silent about a gross injustice, it is equivalent to condoning the injustice. When enough people keep their mouths shut about egregious deeds, evil prevails. It is tragic that the Cultural Revolution happened. But the more important question to ask is: have we Chinese learned from our past mistakes?

May 24, 2009 @ 1:42 am | Comment

Hedrick Smith’s The Russians could be a good read,in case you haven’t read it.It may answer some of the questions.

May 24, 2009 @ 3:43 am | Comment

Hedrick Smith’s “The Russians”( could be a good read,in case you haven’t read it yet.It may help you understand the thinking patterns of the Chinese people.

May 24, 2009 @ 3:49 am | Comment

“Perhaps it is because too many Chinese people are too submissive and content to be bullied by rulers ”

Alice, your whole statement is quite inflammatory. I remember another famous person made a similar statement and, in addition, also said, “where there is suppression, there is rebellion”. When that person took power, we all know what has happened.

It sounds like you think Deng is a evil man and has done gross injustice. In reality, he made a difficult decision during a difficult time. China has had too many years full of empty inflammatory slogan pitting good vs. evil.

If the turbulent past in China teaches us anything, the lesson is to stay away from those people using inflammaotry slogan in the name of justice.

May 24, 2009 @ 3:54 am | Comment


You are absolutely right. The Chinese are too poor for such splittist schemes as “free thinking” and “critical reasoning.” Don’t outsiders know that only Japanese people, Western Europeans and Americans have the money and background necessary to be allowed to exercise their critical faculties and have rights such as free speech and assembly? Those Westerners and traitorous Chinese who want to have the government take a closer look at 6-4 or encourage discussion of such a sensitive and complex issue only do so because they clearly hate China and want to see China destroyed.

Is there no end to their scheming?

Of COURSE the Chinese can’t handle democracy right now. I mean, in China too many times have I seen people having problems with such basic tasks as “getting on a bus in an orderly fashion,” “waiting their turn in a queue,” “not pushing somebody off a bridge,” and “driving.” For goodness sake, the buses are like the last plane out of Saigon and foreigners want these same people VOTING? It’s obvious to me, anyway, that any kind of political liberalization would naturally lead to total chaos, people burning live babies in the street and that sort of thing. This is why I support the CCP.

On a personal note, I’m glad that you recognize your own limitations Steve. I’m from a developed Western country, so I know I can handle democracy, but it’s refreshing for a Chinese person to stand up, write into a blog run by Western expats, and say, “Hey, not me! At this time, I’m not able to handle free thinking. Please protect me from a full accounting of 6-4 a little longer!”

I applaud your candor. You’re my hero.

May 24, 2009 @ 6:38 am | Comment

China has had too many years full of empty inflammatory slogan pitting good vs. evil.

Then it hasn’t learnt anything. It does just that with the Dalai Lama – he’s “evil” and the CCP/Chinese government is “good”. The same sort of attitude was presented in regards to Japan when Koizumi was Prime Minister.

May 24, 2009 @ 7:06 am | Comment

the lesson is to stay away from those people using inflammaotry slogan in the name of justice.

Yep, gotta watch out for those slogans.


Imagine if the CCP had tried to use these, China would have crumbled years ago.

May 24, 2009 @ 8:26 am | Comment

The Chinese people are just tired of radical political movements,they want peace and they have their lives.And the fall of USSR is a bad example happened not long ago.No wonder they don’t even bother to think about such things.
And I must say the over use of sarcasm is lowering the level of discussion considerably.It’s ridiculous and not helping anyone.

May 24, 2009 @ 9:18 am | Comment


I am disturbed that you think I am being sarcastic. Cypher…I am on your side. Peace is important. Look at the US. In the 1960s African-Americans followed Martin Luther King and his radical political movement and the country almost collapsed. All those people with problems speaking out for civil rights, it was ugly and disorderly and led to complete chaos. Now the country is run by Democrats. Could it be any worse?

And the USSR is a GREAT example. There was a country, first the USSR, now Russia, without a single social or economic problem. A veritable paradise on Earth. Introduce one person, one vote and suddenly the whole nation turns to a steady diet of vodka and bullets. What a shame. This is EXACTLY what the West wants for China. Every laowai I know in China has a countdown clock secretly installed, counting down the days till the country implodes and we can bring back colonial rule in Shanghai. We MUST stop this. Cypher..ARE YOU WITH ME!?!??

Moreover, today’s China is a perfectly harmonious society. Why can’t poor people just shut up and let those in the elite enjoy their plasma televisions and nice cars? It’s their own fault they are so poor. In China EVERY person who wants to can live a nice modern life if only they work hard and study in school. Anyone who disagrees is clearly a dangerous radical and must be silenced.

May 24, 2009 @ 9:51 am | Comment

Cypher, actually sarcasm can be very useful, as Matt shows. It can really drive a point home and cause you to see the weak or even silly sides of arguments.

Alice Poon’s comment a bit up the north is too good to pass without being singled out. So here ii is again in case you missed it:

“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” – Edmund Burke

Perhaps it is because too many Chinese people are too submissive and content to be bullied by rulers and those in power that civil society still seems a remote possibility even as of today.

If you keep silent about a gross injustice, it is equivalent to condoning the injustice. When enough people keep their mouths shut about egregious deeds, evil prevails. It is tragic that the Cultural Revolution happened. But the more important question to ask is: have we Chinese learned from our past mistakes?

May 24, 2009 @ 10:08 am | Comment

That’s why I mentioned Hedrick Smith’s The Russians in my comment above(by the way sorry for the double post).There are similarities between the Russians in the book and the Chinese now.They are both demotivated by their cynical thinking and broken by the bitter memories and the hardship of life.USSR fell shortly after the book published(1976).May be it’s some kind of signal…Let’s see where it gose.

May 24, 2009 @ 11:51 am | Comment

excuse me, just to establish a baseline: the fall of the USSR was a bad thing how?

May 24, 2009 @ 4:10 pm | Comment

[…] As a commenter pointed out in the comments yesterday, the US has succumbed to pressure from bleeding hearts and will grant asylum to two convicted Chinese terrorists, one of whom served the longest sentence of anyone involved in the TAM incident. Two men who spent years in jail for daring to throw paint at a portrait of Chairman Mao have been granted political asylum in the United States…. […]

May 24, 2009 @ 6:46 pm | Pingback

Nah,sorry if my comment above caused misunderstanding.
No,I’m not saying the fall of the USSR is a bad thing.The problem is HOW it fell and the AFTERMATH.The sudden death of USSR left a big mess behind:territory fell apart,financial shock,sky rocketing crime rate and the born of all kinds of crime organizations,shortened life expectancy and more.
Who benefited most from the fall of USSR?Oligarchs of whom many are also higher ups in the old rank.They forked large part of the formerly state owned properties into their own plate for virtually nothing.And they still have a major say in the new government.
And where are the average Russian people,the supposed beneficiaries of the political shift?They got hit hard by the fragments of the old regime,had no share of the legacy,and have to clean up the mess-under the same officials as before.
Destroy for the sake of destroy is no good.You have to calculate the profit and loss.No problem will be solved by merely yelling “democracy now!”,not to say democracy won’t establish overnight.If you don’t have some operable road maps which can hold some water,the masses just won’t buy it.Anyway to most people here,there’s no greater evil than poverty and no worse sin than .(Better find a job for my unemployed ass before my relatives start to tease my :P)

May 24, 2009 @ 9:23 pm | Comment

However, it is important to remember just what the immediate cause of the break-up of the USSR was – the hardline August coup. Gorbachev certainly did not intend it to happen, and it was only the rebellion against the Soviet junta led by nationalist leaders like Yeltsin which allowed centres of power to form away from that of the supreme Soviet. Hence, it was hardline communists who destroyed the Soviet Union, not democrats.

If the coup had not happened, Gorbachev might well have been able to conclude the ‘new union’ treaty (which itself was remarkably similar to ‘one country, two systems) and the Soviet state might have remained in place maintaining a common currency, foreign policy, and military. As it was,after the coup he lost all credibility.

I cannot see how political reform along the lines of what Gorbachev was supporting would have been a bad thing for China. The PLA’s tanks and soldiers would have been much better employed against CCP hardliners that they were against unarmed protesters.

May 24, 2009 @ 9:54 pm | Comment

It’s also worth remembering that most of the things which people point to when they describe the ill effect of the break-up of the USSR were caused by the collapse of the USSR’s command economy, which had in fact been on-going since the late 70’s. Coupled with the ruthless and excessive ‘shock therapy’ economic reform, which resulted in the fleecing of the state-owned industry by what passed for the Soviet economy’s capitalists (i.e., gangsters and people who had become rich through hard currency trading) this resulted in the initial crisis of the immediate post-soviet space. This was followed in ’93 by the White House siege, which essentially destroyed the democracy in Russia ten years before everyone started blaming Putin, who (and everyone seems to forget this) was hand-picked by Yeltsin, for it. Medvedev also owes his position to Yeltsin.

1998 brought the Russian currency crisis (itself a follow-on from the 1997 Asian crisis), which also postponed the resources-based recovery we have seen in the last few years. Blaming the current state of Russia on democracy is ridiculously simple-minded and just plain wrong – democracy was pretty much a dead-letter from the moment the tanks opened fire on the Russian White House in ’93.

About the only western bodies which have a real responsibility for Russia’s economic decline are the IMF and the World Bank, with their avocation of rapid ‘shock therapy’, but as the example of Poland shows us, ‘shock therapy’ could have worked if it had not been implemented in such a amateurish and excessive fashion.

May 24, 2009 @ 10:25 pm | Comment

The greatest legacy of the students massacred in TIA square is that withoug them the CCP would not have opened the country so much

It is still a cage, where mouths are muffled and throats are choked, but it is a larger cage nevertheless.

Lives and hopes are no longer so brutally destroyed like in the past,… with some exceptions..

A part of the future they dreamed became real thanks to them.

It is their greater legacy (CCP withstanding)

May 31, 2009 @ 4:25 pm | Comment

[…] Do young Chinese know enough about Tiananmen? Yu Hua, author of Brothers, calls it China’s forgotten revolution. Zhao Ziyang’s secret diaries have renewed concern about what has been lost in 20 years. Every one is asking the question. ‘Tiananmen Now Seems Distant to China’s Students’ says The New York Times; ‘China’s students put jobs over democracy’ says Financial Times; ‘… faded from people’s memories’, writes blogger Peking Duck). […]

May 31, 2009 @ 8:36 pm | Pingback

Repellent? That’s nowhere near how I am repelled by the undercurrents of condescension towards the Chinese population among all the comments.

To Poon,
My maternal grandpa doesn’t want to mention what happened to him during the CR. You wanna come to his apartment and shame him out of his silence with your sanctimonious speech? Sometimes when you’ve been sitting in front of your computer in your cozy room and making snap judgements for so long, you forget how an individual’s incurable trauma is involved. Sure, I and the rest of my generation can talk about it because it didn’t happen to us, but I find it too inhumane to force the older generations to re-open the wounds. And I’ve been very careful when I approach these issues in real life because someone might get hurt, again. And that’s why I’m so repelled by the cold and casual judgements passed around on this blog.

June 1, 2009 @ 3:26 am | Comment

And no, I’m not a fan of the commies. There’s nothing political or nationalistic involved in my comments.

Anyone else here have close family members who went through all those things and find out they are being judged incessantly by people speaking another language hundreds of miles away? If you have you’ll understand my sentiments. It feels personal.

June 1, 2009 @ 3:49 am | Comment

To Wooddoo:

Did you think the Tiananmen Mothers would want to “re-open their wounds” any more than the older generation who suffered in the CR? They lost their children in their prime whose only crime was to speak out againt government corruption and abuse of power. For 20 years they have not been allowed to even openly mourn the deaths of those innocent youths and Mainlanders have been prohibited to discuss the matter. Luckily for Hong Kongers who have a conscience can still utilize their ever dwindling freedom of speech to keep voicing their demand for vindication. We speak out not for political or nationalistic reasons and we are not related to the dead or their families. We speak out only because we think it is dead wrong for a government to kill its people for daring to speak the truth. The CR was tragic enough, but apparently the Chinese leaders have not learned their lesson. If they keep refusing to admit their wrongdoing, there is no guarantee the same tragedy won’t happen over and over again. Maybe, just maybe, the next time it will affect you and me.

June 1, 2009 @ 7:02 am | Comment

To let people see all the facts without colouring from politics. To let people decide for themselves what really happened and why. To allow people to decide for themselves, if they wish, who was right or not. Is all I ask. The facts should lead to the truth. I hope.

June 4, 2009 @ 2:37 am | Comment

[…] other in China, especially because memories of the events 20 years ago have been edited, lost, or never existed especially among younger Chinese who have no way of finding out about the […]

June 4, 2009 @ 3:23 pm | Pingback

How to take Baidu Chinese Network down, its easy with the DaiLama!
Its not a joke, it real fuck what happen with me and Baidu.
What is the the difference between Baidu and
I my opinion google have never blocking me if search serial key’s! Baidu is real Extreme if do something wrong or search on serial key then blocked you the access to search engine!

June 16, 2009 @ 10:12 pm | Comment

How to destroy China internet

for each host in china do
rsh @host ‘get

Or just create the Dalai Lama botnet, the TIA botnet, the Falung Gong, The Tibet botnet, etc, etc.

June 17, 2009 @ 1:08 am | Comment

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