Wednesday, June 03, 2009

It was 20 years ago at this time, late on the night of June 3, 1989, that the People's Liberation Army rolled into Tiananmen Square and killed hundreds of people. An unusual article here challenges the traditional view of Tiananmen as a failure. It should be somewhat gratifying for the victims that their government is troubled to this day by what it did long ago. Never mind that to Westerners, Beijing's most famous landmark is synonymous with a massacre.

A pessimist could charge that the Tiananmen Square protests amounted to little. Nothing changed in the years that followed, and China's liberalization followed its modernization by the very power structure that protesters targeted. Tiananmen Square remains part of a subversive undercurrent in Chinese culture but had little direct influence.

One of the nicer parts about Chinese governance this decade is that the federal government allows citizens to challenge the state in court, partly as a means of guarding against unscrupulous local officials who defy orders from Beijing. As well, the Chinese government has a duty to ensure a commodious living for everyone in the interests of maintaining social stability. When thinking of social stability, the State Council likely remembers the lessons of the spring of 1989, when thousands of students protested for weeks in Tiananmen Square.

No discussion about the Tiananmen Square protests would be complete without a mention of Tank Man

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