10 Year Anniversary: May 8, 1999

While other historic dates are getting more press time this year, the ten-year anniversary of the bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade by NATO missiles, and subsequent protests in China, passed relatively quietly last week. China Beat provides links to some readings on the incident:

The events that began with the May 4th protests and the struggle that took place seventy years later during the lead-up to the June 4th Massacre loom largest in the history of Chinese youth activism in years ending with the numeral 9. But there were also protests involving university students in other years ending with that number, including 1999. These took place soon after the 80th anniversary of the may 4th Movement was marked, and they were triggered by NATO missiles hitting the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade, killing three PRC nationals. The Embassy was hit on May 7 European time, but by then it was already May 8 in China. So, following a time-honored tradition, the term “May 8th Tragedy” was used for the event. Here are links to five accounts of the protests of that year (some by people whose names will be familiar to many readers of China Beat). They remind readers of what happened ten years ago and offer differing interpretations of how the demonstrations of 1999 should be contrasted with and in some cases can be linked to the student-led actions of years such as 1919 and 1989

On his blog 6, Alec Ash interviews a Chinese student about the meaning of that event ten years later:

2. What do you believe has changed now in the attitude of young Chinese (like those who protested 10 years ago against the USA) towards America?

Over the past decade, I think the young Chinese have gradually dropped their illusion of the U.S. and begun to view it more objectively.

After reform and opening-up, to be more specific in the 1980s and 1990s, the Chinese people began to know more about the outside world. The prosperity of the west attracted the young people so much that all of a sudden everybody wanted to go abroad. At that time, we had a popular saying, “Moon of the west is even more beautiful than that of China.” Experiencing the sharp contrast between China and the west, many Chinese people became critical of China, perhaps in a cynical way.

However, when the Chinese embassy was bombed, many people began to think: is this the kind of democracy and human rights that we want to pursue?

People’s Daily also published an editorial on the anniversary:

Ten years later, US media has selectively forgotten this event, and re-examinations by US authorities are rare. “Mistaken Bombing” is the final explanation and attitude of the US.

A member of the US president China-focused advisory group said that China has already risen 10 years after the event, and the relations between China and the US have been stable and developed a good momentum. The “Mistaken Bombing” has become a blip in history. Experts on China’s military issues believe however, that over the past 10 years, it is just because China has made such tremendous and sincere efforts that the cooperation between China and the US has expanded rather than stagnated. Taking into account that this event is a page already turned in history, the alertness and latent hostility that the US holds towards China seems not to have vanished. The best example to prove this issue is with the results from the monitoring of US troop ships in Chinese seas over the past two months.

You can also read an article I wrote ten years ago from Beijing for The Nation.


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