Tiananmen Square and Two Chinas

Jayshree Bajoria did the following interviews for the Council for Foreign Relations (the following quotes are excerpted):

June 4, 1989 marks the anniversary of the Chinese government’s brutal crackdown on the largest protests for political reform since the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949. Widely known as the Tiananmen Square massacre, the event remains a stain on Chinese history. But twenty years on, China has experienced two decades of 10 percent annual economic growth, lifting millions out of poverty and propelling it into the forefront of global economic power. Six experts–CFR’s Elizabeth C. Economy and Adam Segal, Perry Link, Cheng Li, Orville Schell, and Michael Anti–reflect on China’s evolution since the spring of 1989 and prospects for democratic reform.

“The failure of China’s leaders to embrace the ideals embodied by the Tiananmen demonstrations has had far-reaching and often devastating consequences.” – CFR’s Elizabeth Economy

“So, it was the next decade and a half of dynamic growth that made it possible for many Chinese to imagine that 1989 was really just ‘the past,’ an epiphenomenon, and hopefully an aberrant moment in contemporary Chinese history that should best be forgotten.” – Orville Schell, Asia Society

“The Internet has liberalized the Chinese people in the past decade and will continue this process; however any substantial political reform has yet to come. The political future of China depends on not only the maturity of civil society, but also whether the Chinese ruling party is willing to offer reconciliation to its own people, who still think the June 4, 1989 event was an unforgivable mistake made by the authorities. This wound of history has made politics in China immoral, and will prevent this nation and her people from achieving greatness.” – Michael Anti (Zhao Jing), Freelance journalist and blogger in China

“Recent popular fiction and television reveal a strong attraction among the Chinese public for characters who–as if in contradiction to the surrounding society–are sincere, decent, and ready to do what is right, not just what is expedient. Religions have had revivals, but the project of letting religions lead the way to shared public values has been frustrated by government repression whenever a religious organization is seen to be wandering outside party control. Chinese people today feel far less secure, inside, than a bustling sidewalk in Shanghai might lead one to believe.” – Perry Link, Chancellorial Chair for Innovative Teaching, University of California, Riverside. Coeditor of “The Tiananmen Papers”

“Chinese leaders have begun using the term ‘inner-party democracy’ to describe the idea that the party should institutionalize checks and balances within its leadership.”- Cheng Li, Brookings Institution

June 2, 2009 8:26 PM
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