Jeffery Wasserstrom: Beyond Communist Rule and Capitalist Change, What’s the Real Story?

Jeffery Wasserstrom writes in an op-ed in the Christian Science Monitor:

When the Chinese economy makes headlines, the emphasis is likely to be on breaks with the past. No surprise there. While Mao was alive, who thought capitalists would be welcomed into the Communist Party and Big Macs sold in Beijing?

If political issues rather than economic ones are the focus of the China story du jour, though, the emphasis is likely to be on how deeply China remains stuck in old ruts. Here, again, the logic is obvious, and not just because Party Congresses and National Day parades can give someone who has been following Chinese events for years a sense of déjà vu.

Consider the case of dissent, as exemplified by the treatment of Liu Xiaobo, a scholar and human rights activist who was sentenced to 11 years in prison on trumped-up charges of “subversion” last Christmas. He had already been imprisoned for participating in the Tiananmen protests of 1989. So his latest incarceration immediately brings to mind the fact that the government still clings to the “Big Lie” narrative that treats the Tiananmen struggle as a “counterrevolutionary riot” that was handled with restraint, rather than what it was: a popular upheaval crushed by a massacre.


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