June 4th, yes, again

Once again, I am resisting the temptation to write another long post about a story that has been rehashed and argued about so many times that any attempt at serious debate would most likely be futile. Instead, simply go to my post on the TSM last year and follow the excellent links. Whatever you do, don’t miss the post by Philip Cunningham, someone I’ve taken issue with in the past and who is known for cutting the CCP a lot of slack. Read it, and see why he calls it an “unnecessary tragedy.”

No, the students were no angels, and yes, some angry mobs killed some Chinese soldiers, and yes, the story is in no way black and white. But most of the demonstrators were sincere and they were idealistic and they hoped to make a difference. None deserved to die. The argument that it was all worth it because the CCP then did so much good is depraved. The CCP could have gone on to do all that good stuff and grow the economy without the massacre. Revisionists who see the killings as a good thing are, in my humble opinion, self-deluded and, yes, brainwashed.

Also, if you are new to this blog, check out my post on an interview with a demonstrator from 10 years ago, It’s still among my very favorites, even if I totally disagree with the young man I interviewed.

We don’t have to make a huge deal about this day, but like 9/11, we should never forget it. That’s why every year I’ll say something about it, even if it’s all been said before. And let’s not forget, the CCP can be a benevolent force that can do a lot of good. But when its survival is threatened, something very different can emerge. Things are good now, China’s huge middle class is relatively content. But if things go sour and the people demand change from their government, don’t think what we saw on June 4, 1989 couldn’t happen again. The party will do absolutely everything it needs to to stay in power. Everything. Never forget.

______________

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: 18 Comments

Hi Richard, hope all is well. I agree 100%, people don’t have to make a big deal about it but they should remember it.

June 4, 2013 @ 2:29 pm | Comment

Hi Richard,

Agree 100% with your ending comment, “Never forget.”

I have 3 friends here in Beijing (all in government jobs or working for SOE’s now) who were student protesters then. When I heard their recount of events & why they joined in it was uniformly “because it was fun, and everyone else was joining.”

That’s quite anecdotal I realize. What I still find most fascinating about my conversations with them and their versions of their experience is that it lacked idealism. It was more like what 1 of my friends says was a “sheep mentality” (her words) among the larger group of students who joined towards the latter part of this.

Having now spent >40% of my life living in China, I’ve concluded that violent revolution is not going to produce a positive change of governing this country. And, it’s probably never going to be allowed to happen on any large (certainly not massive) scale.

Much has changed since those days, the biggest difference NOW is the internet. Censorship & firewalls are a no brainer for most Chinese netizens now. Hell the proxies you can download from Baidu.com in Chinese and they even have ads targeted at PRC clients. So is international travel / foreign studies / living together with foreigners in China, etc. 1989 was a very different time for everyone in China vs. now.

By this description very innocent lives were sadly lost on June 4, 1989. So, I would argue with you that Chinese people should make a “huge deal” out if it IF they chose to?

I’m running my own restaurant now in Beijing, surrounded by students from 5 local universities (working & eating here) and not 1 student said a word to me about June 4th. I was easily in conversation with 60+ university age Chinese today. Heading back there now for dinner shift, let’s see.

As Americans, we have a lot of examples where our government has made serious judgement errors. We talk about it, we document it in history, we share it with the world. We have even brought down our political leaders for this, but we go on without a complete demise of our political system.

Keep this alive each year. It’s not something to bury. And, like other nations have done (e.g. Germany, Japan, etc.) learn from mistakes.

That’s “Management 101″ in the academic world.

There’s a lot of hope for China!

Bill

p.s. As we used to say when I was a young student in the West, “It takes 100 yrs for history books to get matters correct.” That was high school, 1980. Now, with i-net. 10-20 yrs is enough.

June 4, 2013 @ 5:12 pm | Comment

[...] party will do absolutely everything it needs to to stay in power. Everything. Never forget.” -Richard Burger, one of my favorite China watchers and [...]

June 4, 2013 @ 7:29 pm | Pingback

Can someone in China help me out: I’ve tried to access Hidden Harmonies the last few days (I feel I don’t loathe humanity quite enough yet) and… it seems to me I can’t access the site. Only with a proxy or VPN can I see the site.

Someone please, please tell me they have been censored…

June 5, 2013 @ 10:50 am | Comment

Did the Chinese government intentionally block off all exits on the square, in order to entrap the students so they can carry out a massacre?

Is that what happened?

No.

The government issued martial-law. What is ‘martial law’ ? Martial law means the area under it is now a warzone. Anyone resisting commands from the Army will be treated as enemy combatant. After martial law is declared, repeated warnings through PA systems and TV, radio were issued, repeated attempts were made to ask the students to leave the square, to give civillians ample warning and opportunity to move to safety and outside the zone of martial law.

If you ignore such warnings, who can you blame but yourself when the consequences, which were made abundantly clear to you weeks and weeks prior, come bearing down?

Let me put this in simpler terms. If the NYPD points a gun at you asks you not to move, and you openly refuse and swing your arms around and shouting wildly, what will happen next?

June 5, 2013 @ 12:34 pm | Comment

The students DID leave the square. The killings took place not in the square, which most of the students/demonstrators had already left, but in the side streets as they wre leaving. There was no reason for them to be fired upon. They were leaving peacefully. Anyway, I should know better than to try arguing with Red Star. And note how he’s actually buying into the myth that the students were killed in the square. Interesting.

June 5, 2013 @ 12:43 pm | Comment

# 4 Sorry. The Californian Green Card Han Charlie Manson gang are alive and well it seems. Minutes ago.

Not being able to access is not a life and death issue.

However, they have circled the wagons and getting a comment registered isn’t easy.

June 5, 2013 @ 2:15 pm | Comment

And let’s not forget, the CCP can be a benevolent force that can do a lot of good. But when its survival is threatened, something very different can emerge.

Big question mark. To “decide” this question, we would have to go back into the 1930s – and we would have to know a lot more about the KMT’s economic, social and technological balance sheet at the time.

It’s often been said that the KMT couldn’t rule China “selflessly”, i. e. without cronyism. That’s probably quite true. The same is true for the rule of the CCP.

Two big factors: the Japanese war, and the civil war (and I don’t believe for a moment that the CCP “convinced” everyone, even have-nots, all “peacefully”, as its own records like to suggest.

It’s the arrogance of power that blinds the powerful. Chen Xitong appears to have become more clear-sighted once he fell from power. If Li Peng’s published diary is authentic, he, too, tried to clean his hands of some of the blood – or, at least, to clear his name to an extent.

Most politicians, east and west, become wise like trees full of owls once they are pensioners. Wish it could be the other way round.

But thanks for the reminder, Richard. This day in history must never go unnoticed.

June 5, 2013 @ 5:06 pm | Comment

“The CCP could have gone on to do all that good stuff and grow the economy without the massacre. Revisionists who see the killings as a good thing are, in my humble opinion, self-deluded and, yes, brainwashed.” – Dui, dui, dui.

June 6, 2013 @ 12:01 am | Comment

Richard, you should take a look at the PRISM story blowing up in the faces of Google, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, et al

What do you think that portends in terms of their market entry into China?

Do you think the CCP now has additional justification to keep them out?

June 7, 2013 @ 1:47 pm | Comment

t_co I don’t have a crystal ball but I doubt it will make any difference. I had always assumed the government kept databases of Internet activity and phone records and I don’t think it’s going to affect their market entry into China in any way. We’ll see.

June 8, 2013 @ 1:23 am | Comment

t_co I don’t have a crystal ball but I doubt it will make any difference. I had always assumed the government kept databases of Internet activity and phone records and I don’t think it’s going to affect their market entry into China in any way. We’ll see.

I mean, the larger issue here is that this action accelerates what China (and to a lesser degree Russia/Iran/Arab states/Venezuela) want, which is the Balkanization of the internet. What country would trust a US social network or email provider now? Instead, every US internet services provider could be classified as a security risk, and quite legitimately so.

The long-term effects here are pretty huge. It’s a mistake to downplay them IMO.

June 8, 2013 @ 2:22 am | Comment

I’m beginning to think the PRISM controversy may be a hoax, at least in regard to the claim, now being retracted by the Washington Post, that the tech companies “knowingly” gave the government access to their servers. It’s beginning to smell like a faux-scandal.

From one of the best pieces I’ve seen yet on the topic (and you need to read the whole thing if you’re getting sucked into the media hysteria):

You would think that the government was listening in to the secrets of 200 million Americans from the reaction and the hyperbole being tossed about. And you would think that rather than a legal court order which is an inevitable consequence of legislation that we drafted and passed, something illegal had been discovered to the government’s shame.

Nope. Nothing of the kind. Though apparently, the U.K.’s Guardian, which broke this faux-scandal, is unrelenting in its desire to scale the heights of self-congratulatory hyperbole. Consider this from Glenn Greenwald, the author of the piece: “What this court order does that makes it so striking is that it’s not directed at any individual…it’s collecting the phone records of every single customer of Verizon business and finding out every single call they’ve made…it’s indiscriminate and it’s sweeping.”

Having labored as a police reporter in the days before the Patriot Act, I can assure all there has always been a stage before the wiretap, a preliminary process involving the capture, retention and analysis of raw data. It has been so for decades now in this country. The only thing new here, from a legal standpoint, is the scale on which the FBI and NSA are apparently attempting to cull anti-terrorism leads from that data. But the legal and moral principles? Same old stuff.

June 8, 2013 @ 6:52 am | Comment

Best article yet on how the media, and especially Glenn Greenwald, covered the NSA scandalette in an irresponsible, deceptive way.

June 10, 2013 @ 2:56 am | Comment

Correct me if I’m wrong, Richard, but wasn’t this, originally, a post about June 4? How come that you need to address the PRISM issue here, as if it was a topic of equal magnitude?

June 10, 2013 @ 2:00 pm | Comment

t_co posted about Prism and I replied. There’s a strange tradition here that the top post becomes an open thread if there’s no thread open. But you’re right, I should put it up as a separate post.

June 11, 2013 @ 1:13 am | Comment

This NSA wiretapping news is no surprise to any Chinese living in America. Most Chinese people are much more ‘cynical’ and ‘jaded’ about the world, we are more ‘experienced’, we are not naive teenagers, we know how the world works. Most of hte shock comes from a lot of ‘pure and innocent’ Americans who still harbor the dream of the American government being the ‘protector of freedom’, being morally superior to all the ‘dicatorships’ in the world. When this news breaks, they feel shocked and betrayed, everything they’ve told about their gov’t before has been a lie.

To the Chinese, we know gov’t are in essence evil, we know CCP spies, and we know the US govt does it too, only in more sophisticated manner and with a veil of ‘legality’. (This is something the CCP needs to learn yet: how to do bad things but still talk and walk like a gentleman. In other words, how to be a civil and sophistcated gangster)

June 11, 2013 @ 7:16 am | Comment

@Clock: This is something the CCP needs to learn yet: how to do bad things but still talk and walk like a gentleman.
The CCP doesn’t need to learn. It simply controls everything in China and knows the details of the masterful use of propaganda. Don’t teach your grandmother to suck eggs.

June 11, 2013 @ 12:23 pm | Comment

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment