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Mar 07

Chas Freeman’s view of the dominant view on June 4th in China

Written by DJ on Saturday, March 7th, 2009 at 12:09 am
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This post is perhaps a bit ahead of its proper time since the 20th anniversary of June 4th is still about three months away. Nevertheless, the recent chatters in the blogsphere made me check out the background of Chas Freeman, Obama’s choice as the head of the National Intelligence Council, and his comment concerning June 4th. Well, it’s kinda difficult to keep on skipping through posts concerning Freeman, about whom I knew absolute nothing, when James Fallows decided to jump into the fray with a post titled “A fight I didn’t intend to get into: Chas Freeman“.

Apparently, Freeman is a realist and someone not afraid of spelling out other than established views on a variety of topics. That made him a number of enemies and they have been out in force in recent days to attack his appointment. In particular, the Weekly Standard offered this following email written by Freeman in 2006 as a manifest evidence of his disqualification. (The highlight on the text is added by me.)

I will leave it to others to address the main thrust of your reflection on Eric’s remarks. But I want to take issue with what I assume, perhaps incorrectly, to be yoiur citation of the conventional wisdom about the 6/4 [or Tiananmen] incident. I find the dominant view in China about this very plausible, i.e. that the truly unforgivable mistake of the Chinese authorities was the failure to intervene on a timely basis to nip the demonstrations in the bud, rather than — as would have been both wise and efficacious — to intervene with force when all other measures had failed to restore domestic tranquility to Beijing and other major urban centers in China. In this optic, the Politburo’s response to the mob scene at “Tian’anmen” stands as a monument to overly cautious behavior on the part of the leadership, not as an example of rash action.

For myself, I side on this — if not on numerous other issues — with Gen. Douglas MacArthur. I do not believe it is acceptable for any country to allow the heart of its national capital to be occupied by dissidents intent on disrupting the normal functions of government, however appealing to foreigners their propaganda may be. Such folk, whether they represent a veterans’ “Bonus Army” or a “student uprising” on behalf of “the goddess of democracy” should expect to be displaced with despatch from the ground they occupy. I cannot conceive of any American government behaving with the ill-conceived restraint that the Zhao Ziyang administration did in China, allowing students to occupy zones that are the equivalent of the Washington National Mall and Times Square, combined. while shutting down much of the Chinese government’s normal operations. I thus share the hope of the majority in China that no Chinese government will repeat the mistakes of Zhao Ziyang’s dilatory tactics of appeasement in dealing with domestic protesters in China.

I await the brickbats of those who insist on a politically correct — i.e. non Burkean conservative — view.

Jon Chait, in an Washington Post article titled “Obama’s intelligence blunder“, felt the same way and described this above email as the most extreme manifestation of Freeman’s realist ideology. Incidentally, Mr. Chait started his quotation of the email in the middle of the highlighted text above.

As for my view, I find Chas Freeman’s view of the dominant view in China about June 4th very plausible.

[UPDATE] The Weekly Standard kept up the attack on Freeman by leaking another email written by him, addressing on June 4th and other broad China related subjects, again as something so evidently vile on its own. It is well worth a read. So please do.

Of course, the US should maintain the capacity to intervene in the Western Pacific, not just with respect to the Taiwan issue but with respect to Indonesia-Australia and other potential conflicts involving our interests as well. Do you know anyone who advocates not doing so? With our defense spending now over half that in the world, it is, in any event, pretty hard to generate a lot of worry about our capabilities in this regard.

I have, until recently, been among those most outspoken in tolling the warning bell about the possibility of Sino-American conflict over Taiwan. All signs seemed to me to point toward a Chinese decision, faute de mieux, to use force to resolve the issue when the prospects of success seemed good and Taiwan and the US had been lulled into a mood that would facilitate surprise. More recently, I have noted a conclusion by the Chinese leadership that the use of force will not be necessary. I think that is a credible judgment on their part and that armed conflict in the Taiwan Strait is therefore now less likely than in the past and, given sensible policies on our part and some measure of self restraint in Taiwan, will become still less likely in future. Notwithstanding this judgment, however, I think we must keep our powder dry. So we have no disagreement on that score.

But I take issue with the “facts” on which you rest your conclusions. On your facts:

(1) I can’t imagine there was no surprise to the Chinese offensive against Vietnam. (At least, although not working on China per se at the time, I was not in the least surprised by it.) The Chinese had repeatedly warned Vietnam that continued empire-building in IndoChina would draw a forceful response. They gained the tacit support of some sections of the USG for their decision to make good on this warning. Having demonstrated that they could take Hanoi, QED, they withdrew and then quite cynically used the artillery and infantry duel on the border as live-fire training to battle-harden the remainder of their flabby post Cultural Revolution, internal security-oriented forces. This was a classic use of force for diplomatic purposes. It is very hard for me to condemn it while endorsing our uses of force in Grenada, Libya, or Panama not too much later. Great powers do what they must. There is nothing particularly insidious about the Chinese in that regard.

(2) The attack on “unarmed students” at Tian’anmen (actually at Muxudi and Fuxingmen and other locations outside Tian’anmen) came after many weeks, even months, in which the Chinese leadership had lost control of security in their own capital. (The troops were, in fact, fired upon at Muxudi, though it is not clear by whom.) The only surprise to me (and other realists, including, I gather, you) was that the Chinese leadership did not act earlier to restore order. We would have done so, judging by the precedents set by MacArthur and our National Guard over the decades from 1920 – 1950. The main lesson those leaders who survived the affair have drawn from it, in fact, is that one should strike hard and strike fast rather than tolerate escalating self-expression by exuberantly rebellious kids. If June 4 tells us anything about the Chinese leadership it is that they are reluctant, often to the point of rashness, to resort to the use of force against their fellow citizens.

(3) I am frankly stunned that you would argue that China has not “become more tolerant of dissent” in recent years. No one can have spent any time at all talking to ordinary people in China over the past two decades and have this view. Of course, outright opposition to rule by the Chinese Communist Party continues to draw a sharp response from the authorities. No government, including our own, is or should be asked to be prepared to tolerate efforts to overthrow it and the constitutional order it administers. (Ironically, despite our ideological predilections to believe the contrary, I am aware of no evidence that Chinese currently consider their government less “legitimate” or worthy of support than Americans do ours — but I defer to [name redacted by TWS] and other experts on this.) Certainly, China continues to fall far short of our minimal expectations for human and civil rights in many respects but it has made very significant progress on many levels. To deny this is primarily to raise questions about the extent to which one has been able to observe readily observable reality.

(4) You did not repeat the Rumsfeld / Rice canard that China has yet to make a decision whether to integrate itself into the existing order or to stand outside it. So you cannot be accused of embracing that quaint but hystrionic absurdity about a country that has joined just about every international organization and regulatory regime that exists, while emerging as a strong defender of the status quo in each against attacks on them, primarily from the US.

Like you, I worry that we will get China fundamentally wrong. It is certiain that we will do so if we allow our idées fixes and ideological preconceptions to guide our reasoning about China rather than deriving our conclusions from first-hand and empirically validatable data. I do not disagree that we need to keep a wary eye on China, that much could yet go wrong on the Taiwan issue, and that broad Sino-American hostility is a possibility (indeed, a probability if our defense intellectuals — who have been fundamentally wrong on so many issues in Southeast Asia and the Middle East but who have apparently not been chastened by the remarkable consistency of their erroneous judgments and fallacious policy prescriptions– keep us on the course they now have us on).

But I fundamentally disagree that China is inherently inimical to our interests, unmanageable by skillfull diplomacy, or ineluctably aimed at mirror-imaging our own hegemonic and scofflaw behavior internationally. In any event, to conclude that this is so, it seems to me, begs the key policy question: what do we do about it? In the militaristic mood of contemporary Washington, there is little patience for anything other than coercive approaches to international problem solving. But there are lots of alternative methods, with a better track record of success, than that. Where’s the foreign policy approach, as opposed to the military deterrent approach, to dealing with a rising (or re-rising) China?

[UPDATE 2] The more I read about Chas Freeman, the more I want to express my sincere appreciation for the editor of Weekly Standard, Michael Goldfarb. His tireless effort in recent days at exposing all of Freeman’s formulated views on China makes a happy reader out of me. Seriously, I heartily encourage all readers to check out all the posts and their linked material concerning Freeman at the Weekly Standard. In particular, I credit Mr. Goldfarb for directing me to Freeman’s 2006 remarks on Mao Zedong and 2008 speech at the National War College Alumni Association on China policy for the 21 century. The later speech, given a month after the deadly riots in Tibet, was cited by Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) in a letter to Obama objecting to Freeman’s appointment because he described the events as race riots. Well, the following is the actual remarks by Freeman. Judge for yourself.

Whatever the reason for it, the absence of a unifying concept has left us and everybody else to figure out for ourselves what the United States is actually trying to do with or to China. The Chinese, it must be said, are particularly bad at this kind of analysis. The majority of Chinese appear to believe, for example, that public reaction here to the recent race riots by Tibetans and to unrest among other Chinese minorities proves the existence of a plan by the United States and its western allies to divide, dismember, weaken, and humiliate China. The admirably stiff upper lip and unwillingness to politicize the Olympics that President Bush has shown in the face of these events will, I hope, help to convince them that they are wrong. But I wouldn’t count on it. The level of patriotic indignation in China against posturing by American and European politicians over Tibet is already so high that a long-term clamp-down in Tibet seems inevitable, while public support in China for continued cooperation with the West can no longer be taken for granted.


There are currently 1 comments highlighted: 32009.

180 Responses to “Chas Freeman’s view of the dominant view on June 4th in China”

  1. perspectivehere Says:

    Good post. When the National Review and Weekly Standard are apoplectic over a government appointment, you know there’s gotta be something right about it. The Neoconservative faction in Washington is losing power, and that’s a very good thing. Obama may be able to save the American Republic yet from the Vulcans.

    References:

    On the Weekly Standard:
    http://rightweb.irc-online.org/profile/2891.html

    On the National Review:
    http://www.rightweb.irc-online.org/rw/4973.html

    On the “Vulcans”:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Vulcans
    http://www.amazon.com/Rise-Vulcans-History-Bushs-Cabinet/dp/0670032999

    On death of the Republic
    http://www.harpers.org/archive/2007/01/0081346

    On threat of factions to republic:
    http://www.constitution.org/fed/federa10.htm

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Federalist_No._10#The_question_of_faction

  2. Steve Says:

    DJ, I agree with you that he’s a good choice for the NIC. Of course, all the neoconservatives who got the USA into this mess hate his guts because his view don’t fit into their “dream world” scenarios. Presidents aren’t supposed to have a bunch of “yes” men around them and this guy sure doesn’t look like a “yes” man. He’s not running the State Department, he’s not the National Security Advisor, his job is to give the president the unvarnished truth the way he sees it. It’s nice to have a realist inside an American administration once again. The last one, Colin Powell, was lied to about Iraq and to this day hasn’t forgiven the Bush administration people for what they did, and with good reason.

    Thanks for writing this thread. I’m sure we’ll get a lot of good comments!

  3. DJ Says:

    Steve,

    Thanks. The funny thing is: I didn’t explicitly argue for Freeman in this post. Are you sure you are not mixing up Fallows’ excellent writeup with this post? 🙂 I actually deployed the exact same tactic as the Weekly Standard: I merely copied and pasted Freeman’s words so that they speak for themselves.

    Learning about Freeman and the way some of the attacks were directed at him reminds me of another adviser in Obama’s team, Lawrence Summers. I don’t have much to say about Summers’ role and performance as an official and adviser in the current and Clinton’s administration. But regarding the event that ultimately led to Summers’ exit at Harvard in 2005, I strongly remembered it as one of the sorriest chapter of established ideologies destroying anyone brave enough to offer differentiating propositions for research. For all the sensational reports and denouements of Summers’ alleged claim that women were innately less intelligent than men, I bet most of the talking heads never went through the actual script of Summers’ remarks to figure out what he truly said.

  4. S.K. Cheung Says:

    He’s definitely a breath of fresh air, and offers a brave and unique perspective.

    “Certainly, China continues to fall far short of our minimal expectations for human and civil rights in many respects but it has made very significant progress on many levels.” – in its entirety, that statement seems like an excellent assessment.

    “Where’s the foreign policy approach, as opposed to the military deterrent approach, to dealing with a rising (or re-rising) China? ” – nice to finally see an American who prefers diplomacy to war.

    “The Chinese, it must be said, are particularly bad at this kind of analysis. The majority of Chinese appear to believe, for example, that public reaction here to the recent race riots by Tibetans and to unrest among other Chinese minorities proves the existence of a plan by the United States and its western allies to divide, dismember, weaken, and humiliate China.” – he appears to aptly describe the majority of Chinese on this blog.

  5. Steve Says:

    @ DJ: Actually, you made me look good since I recommended the Atlantic to someone on another post last week; can’t remember which one though. I’ve always enjoyed that magazine.

    I think Summers’ downfall was a classic case of his being “political incorrect” at a liberal university. It’s not what he actually said, but if what he said gave even the slightest appearance of being politically incorrect when quoted out of context that got him canned at Harvard. He had been shaking up the “system” so the faculty was just looking for a way to get rid of him.

    @ SKC: And he didn’t even engage in Washingtonian doublespeak bureaucratic gibberish! I could understand everything he wrote, which was all in simple declarative sentences. No wonder he’s controversial; he actually takes positions without contradicting himself and sticks to those positions over time, and is consistent from one situation to another. He’s far to dangerous for the Washington CYA crowd. He actually seems to believe what he says. Will wonders never cease??

    Now I have to get back to work on my secret plan to divide, dismember, weaken, and humiliate China. 😉

  6. DJ Says:

    Steve,

    Re: And he didn’t even engage in Washingtonian doublespeak bureaucratic gibberish! I could understand everything he wrote, which was all in simple declarative sentences.

    That’s exactly my impression as well. I was searching for a word to describe Freeman’s logic and style in his writings and found it in one of Richard’s comment at Peking Duck: “cogent“.

  7. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Steve:
    I think this guy is fitting the mould of Obama’s appointments…someone who thinks outside the box. On the other hand, Obama’s had some trouble getting some of his nominees approved…so I guess the Beltway is a little behind in terms of progressive thinking.

    BTW, I’m sure this guy is not the only American who’d rather have diplomacy than war, but they’ve been a rare breed in the Oval Office the last 8 years.

    On a rather unrelated note, why is it that Democrat presidents feel the need to have Republicans in their cabinet, but the reverse doesn’t apply? THe last 2 Dems have done it, but Bush 43 and Bush 41 didn’t feel the bipartisan spirit.

    “Now I have to get back to work on my secret plan to divide, dismember, weaken, and humiliate China.” – I think your secret’s been compromised. People around here have been onto it for months.

  8. Oli Says:

    A great post DJ. He’s definitely a breath of fresh air after all that “either you’re with us or against us” crap from Dubya. I sincerely hope he gets the nod, but even then he’ll still have to overcome institutional resistance and vested interests within the NIC and the “military-industrial complex” (argh, somebody needs to come up with a better phraseology to replace this cliche) to have his views translate into concrete shifts in policies. All I can say is he’s going to need all the luck he can get before Obama’s term expires.

    As for his views about June 4th, boy did it bring back bittersweet memories of the Summer of ’89. It led directly to my breakup with my first girlfriend because our political differences. 🙁

  9. Raj Says:

    I like the lack of jargon as well in Freeman’s comments. To be fair to the Bush administration it ended up being reasonably pro-China, at least in regards to its Taiwan policy. I’ve read that Beijing has always regarded the Bush family as a friend. I wonder whether Freeman was just trying to slag off the previous administration or if he thought that their engagement did nothing to bring China around to a position the US could live with.

    Personally I think that he is right that one can’t expect the Chinese government to not have restored order in 1989. What I think was wrong was the way it went about it, with soldiers supposedly shooting people as they fled and the Square had already been cleared. It wouldn’t be much skin off the current leaders to say that the final stages were mishandled by their predecessors. I’m sure a lot of Chinese would support that view and allow the country to deal with the issue properly. Sometimes it seems as if they believe it’s a zero-sum game – they have to admit to everything in a way that would threaten their position, or deny everything and sweep it under the carpet. That’s just silly.

  10. Oli Says:

    @Raj

    Going from your last paragraph your understanding and misunderstanding of China, its government, nevermind the history of the event or the nature of any governments boggles the mind. As for your tendency to gloss over what you’ve supposedly read, I suggest you go back and re-read the excerpts to answer your own criticisms. You may even appear less of an imbecile than you already are from all your other one-dimensional postings.

    Frankly, your comments are precisely the archtypal of the sort of “conventional wisdom ” about China that Chas Freeman deride above.

    I’ve often wondered whether you’ve read anything at all about what you elect to comment on. I mean don’t get me wrong you are free to comment as you like, but seriously if I have to read one more inane, moronic, thoughless drivel coming out of that orifice of yours, I might just take up admin’s request for me to help oversee and edit the postings on this site (Must resist.. the darkside…)

    Oh sweet lament! What would I give for wisdom to be conventional.

  11. Stinky Tofu Says:

    No surprise to hear that DJ supports Freeman’s views regarding the CCP’s handling of 6/4. Broadly speaking, I support J. Fallow’s suggestion that it is important to have guys like Freeman around.

    The idea that there were only two choices in 1989 – i.e, 1) send in the troops and kill hundreds of civilians, or 2) allow the “chaos” to continue until it undermined China’s potential for reform and development – is patently assinine. A false choice. More creative minds might have provided a number of other, better solutions – solutions that might have avoided both bloodshed AND dangerous political instability. Sadly, creative minds were in short supply in Beijing in 1989.

    I am willing to concede that reasonable people may disagree about certain aspects of the CCP’s handling of 6/4. But to those of you who believe that the government acted responsibly, please explain to me why the subject is still taboo in China? Why are the events of 6/4 not discussed in high school and university textbooks? In all my years in China (I live in the U.S. now), I never once read an article or editorial in a newspaper or popular magazine about 6/4. Nothing on television either. In short, if it is reasonable to believe that the CCP acted in China’s best interest, why not make the argument? Why not simply explain this to the Chinese people? Why all the silence? (Anyone who hasn’t watched the Frontline documentary ‘Tank Man,’ might be interested to see the scene in which 5 or 6 Beida students respond with confused silence when asked to identify a photo of the Tank Man. One of the students actually suggests that the photo is a work of art (艺术品). Several of the others have no idea. Just one student is able to guess, but even he is not sure.)

    If the decision to use military force was the right call, what does the CCP have to fear? Why not allow the public to discuss it?

    The Frontline documentary is available online at http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/tankman/.

  12. Steve Says:

    @ Oli #10: Oli, I’ve always respected your views and enjoy your posts. Could you enlighten me more about Tiananmen? I’ve said a few times that China wasn’t even slightly ready for democracy back then and I can also see the comparison with the “Bonus Army” situation in Washington during the depression to some extent, but it seemed to me that the square could have been cleared without all the killing. It’s not like it was filled with ex-soldiers and weapons.

    However, I wasn’t there and there might be bloggers here that were. If there have been discussions about Tiananmen on this blog, they were before my time. What do you think the options were for the government at the time and do you feel they went about clearing the square in the correct manner? My view has always been similar to Stinky Tofu’s based on what I’ve read and seen.

  13. yo Says:

    @Steve
    Sorry, I couldn’t find the link, but around 6/4 last year, fool’s mountain had pieces regarding the crackdown that came from 1st hand experiences. If you haven’t already and if you can find it, I would check it out.

    @admin
    perhaps you can provide a link to those posts?

  14. DJ Says:

    Oli,

    While I don’t always agree with Raj, I fail to see what it is in the last paragraph of his comment #9 that deserved your harsh rebuke in comment #10. Is your problem with his description of “soldiers supposedly shooting people as they fled and the Square had already been cleared“? On that subject, my understanding, same as described by Freeman, is that killings generally occurred on the way towards the TAM square but not in it.

  15. Visitor Says:

    @ Oli #10: “…if I have to read one more inane, moronic, thoughless drivel coming out of that orifice of yours, I might just take up admin’s request for me to help oversee and edit the postings on this site…”

    Harsh.

    I am an infrequent visitor to this blog, so I don’t know the history of exchanges that have taken place — or maybe you are joking — but are you suggesting that you might be granted (and feel justified in exercising) the right to edit/delete posts from people you personally feel don’t know enough about the topic?

    Not knowing the fuller context of your comment, it comes off as quite inappropriate — and besides that, it strikes me as somehow terribly ironic, in a thread discussing a topic which largely can NOT be debated frankly and openly within China.

    I would humbly ask the admin to rescind his/her request for your help…!

  16. Old Tales Retold Says:

    I agree that it’s good to have frank-speaking people advising the president on national security. And I particularly appreciate another thing about Freeman that’s not touched on in this post but has generated more anger on the right (and from certain Democrats) than his views on China: his criticisms of Israel.

    That said, the problem with political realists in general is that they can only offer policy prescriptions from the perspective of a state’s responsibilities (protect the state’s people, pursue military and economic advantage, etc) or, more broadly, from the perspective of the international system (achieve a balance of power). They don’t have much meaningful to say about state-society relations. Or about the responsibilities of citizens.

    Arguably, the political evolution of a country comes through pressure from below or external shocks (as in the case of Taiwan or South Africa’s transitions to democracy when they suddenly found themselves isolated in the world for very different reasons)—not random decisions made unbidden by a country’s leadership. It may be that it is natural for a government to suppress massive protests in its capital. But it is also natural for citizens to protest in large numbers and they ought to.

    The “Bonus Army” was enormously important in making plain the needs of war vets and as a cry for social justice. I can see the “logic” of suppressing both it and the Tiananmen protests (really, anyone can see the logic if they give it a half second)—but as a citizen I’d be failing in my duties if I not only gave a stamp of “logic” but also of “approval” to this bloodshed.

    I’m glad Obama’s got realists in the mix. More of them would have been nice in the previous administration. But they need to be balanced out or their ideas, with their cold clarity, have a way of simplifying a situation to a dangerous point.

  17. Raj Says:

    Re # 10

    Oli, I think DJ and Visitor have said much of what I was thinking in response to your rather strange comment.

    if I have to read one more inane, moronic, thoughless drivel coming out of that orifice of yours

    Pot calling the kettle black?

  18. JD Says:

    How can there be a proper understanding of the Tiananmen Square Massacre when China won’t permit a rational evaluation and discussion of the events?

    Everyone knows, it’s not even safe to discuss the “Tiananmen Square Massacre” which is why 6/4 is a frequently misused shorthand. Misinformation prevails in an attempt to obscure the past.

    So, come on. No rational discussion without truth and reconciliation. That’s no where close to happening.

  19. huazai Says:

    Oil’s comment at #10 came across rather offensive to me.

  20. Steve Says:

    I came across this video from 2007 in which Chas Freeman, along with three other foreign policy experts, discuss the China/Taiwan situation during the Chen administration:

  21. JD Says:

    What about a “truth and reconciliation” commission for the Tiananmen Square Massacre. Isn’t it time for China to come to grips with its recent past?

    With leaders warning of instability, the best path to ensure stability is to lift the shroud over this tragic and avoidable event.

  22. DJ Says:

    yo,

    You can find those June 4th posts from last year at the 2nd and 3rd pages of the June 2008 archives link.

  23. Oli Says:

    @ Visitor 15

    It is with deference to the ethos of this site that I didn’t abuse admin’s trust and proceed to delete raj’s comment along with all his others in the other threads out of hand, however tempting it was. Hence the “me resisting the darkside comment”? Ironic that you didn’t get that?

    The guy (raj) doesn’t read or if he does, doesn’t bother to cogitate what he’s just read. It’s as though his eyes are somehow either not connected or only loosely so to his brain’s “higher functions”, if there are any. It’s fine to have kids constantly asking “but why mommy, why?”, but to get that from an adult (supposedly) who espouses to be interested in China yet incessantly spewing so much half-a**ed “understanding” about China, etc? Frankly, I would rather talk to a bimbo than a fool who dosen’t know that he’s a fool, the former at least will likely be easier on the eyes and may even come with the possibility of some post drinks entertainment if I show her enough respect.

    Harsh? Yup.

    DJ is nice. Steve is nice. Allen is nice. Admin is very nice. But I am most definitely not nice, especially when it comes to juvenile idiocy masquerade as pseudo-knowing. While what I do try is to be is fair, I refuse to suffer fools, gladly or otherwise. Arrogant? Yup, mea culpa and many a raspberries and figs giving too.

    @Steve, DJ et al.

    In the summer of 89, I was a teenager with a girlfriend who was older than I was (I was one of those irritating kids who was old beyond his age). She wanted to join the student demonstrators, who were her age, but I urged her not to because I had an inkling of what was going to happen. We had a fight, we broke up, she joined the demonstrators, she survived and we’ve never talked since. That’s it.

    With the benefit of bittersweet hindsight, my feelings are that within the context of the changes China was undergoing then, it was inevitable the students demonstrated at the time and it was equally inevitable the Chinese government had no choice other than to crack down harshly. Today, in discussions with acquaintances who were from the same generation as the students then, many, but not all regretted their naivete over the greater picture at the time.

    Many outside China today simply failed to appreciate the forces at work within the Chinese society at the time. It was approx. 10 years after reforms began and this was way before the West’s love affair with Gorbachev’s Glasnost and Perestroika.

    Pressure created by Deng’s reforms resulted in very blatant inequality in wealth, power and status. Initial hardline opposition to the reforms were co-opted by many of them becoming one of the very first beneficiaries of the economic liberalization, which in turn caused wider social resentment, particularly among those who still held fast onto Communist ideals. The “red-eye” illness became very common and everybody was chasing foreign exchange tokens. Social ills and inequalities that were non-existent before the reforms came back with a vengence in a society that grew unaccustomed to it.

    The government back then was struggling to reconcile the need for reforms, to manage it, to assuage internal party opposition, whilst at the same time accelerate and disperse the benefits of the reforms as far, as wide and as fast as possible. Post war West Germany’s Wirtschaftswunder took thirty years to achieve, now imagine try doing that with 1.2 billion people in a country greater in size and diversity than the whole of Europe put together, nevermind a West Germany that is barely the size of one of China’s provinces. All I can say is good luck with that.

    In the summer of 89 Gorbachev was in town, Glasnost was in the air and the students were euphoric for they felt empowered for the first time. This euphoria was infectious and it percolated to the wider public in Beijing and elsewhere, particularly among those who has not yet benefited from the reforms and were resentful of those who did. This included workers, the intellectuals and the local security forces, but crucially not the farmers who were in fact amongst the first to benefit.

    Near the end, rumours has it that the local security forces, including local garrison troops refused the initial order to suppress the demonstrators. It was speculated that experienced crack troops whose loyalties to the party were unquestioned were then brought in from the Sino-Soviet north-eastern borders to replace the initial units. Hence their lethal firepower instead of shield and batons and their rumoured trading of gunfire with some local PLA garrison units and other security forces as they went into TAM.

    As for why it is not discussed:

    Firstly, because of political expediency it will continue to be so as long as those who gave the orders are still alive.

    Secondly, it is simply a matter of political and administrative convention that leaders are never held accountable for a decision lawfully made whilst in office and that the decision is within their constitutional remit to make. Therefore consider this: what are the probabilities that Dubya and poodle Blair will be convicted domestically for their war in Iraq? Or Thatcher and Jerry Adams for N. Ireland? I for one will say with some confidence that the probabilities are pretty much zilch.

    Thirdly, well, there are a bunch of other legal and socio-political, reasons, but it’s the weekend and I’m too lazy at the moment and anyone with half a brain can think or research it for themselves….

  24. JD Says:

    This is not off topic. Though of course some would prefer to see it forgotten. That’s selfish.

    20th Anniversary is a perfect time for China to demonstrate it’s modernity. The defining moment of the post-reform period remains the Tiananmen Square Massacre. It’s time for that to change.

    The defining moment should be a reconciliation with that tragic event and a brighter future.

  25. Oli Says:

    @Raj

    Raspberries and figs matey.

    @ huazai

    Awwwww! Did I hurt your pretty feelings too? My poor pet. There, there, I apologize. feeling better now? Now run along dearest…

    :p

  26. S.K. Cheung Says:

    50th anniversary of Tibetan “incident” = no foreign journalists + no tourists for about a month + a new “holiday”

    20th anniversary of 6/4 = ???

    Ok, I’m guessing there won’t be a holiday. Or a day of mourning. Can’t really commemorate something that never happened 🙂

    To Oli #10:
    did someone relieve themselves in your cereal this morning? If you have a problem with what Raj said, point out the specifics and give some reasons. Besides, who died and made you the judge and jury of the “quality” of comments?

  27. Raj Says:

    Oli, 23

    The admin doesn’t delete comments from commentators that are abusive towards others, so why would you be justified to delete my comment? The answer is that you wouldn’t be – it would be an act of petulance.

    If you want to refute something I’ve said, then as SKC said draw attention to what it is that I’ve said that is incorrect. Otherwise one can only assume there is no substance to your objection.

  28. wdmc Says:

    @Old Tales Retold

    “The “Bonus Army” was enormously important in making plain the needs of war vets and as a cry for social justice. I can see the “logic” of suppressing both it and the Tiananmen protests (really, anyone can see the logic if they give it a half second)—but as a citizen I’d be failing in my duties if I not only gave a stamp of “logic” but also of “approval” to this bloodshed. ”

    Of course I am not an expert on this, but I think you should relax a bit on this ‘logic’ of suppression that you tends to draw from Freeman’s realistic approach. There is no such ‘logic’. Freeman doesn’t say there is such a logic underlying his approach and I think he would say the exact thing. I think it is something like raison d’etat that is present in his writings. It is not a ‘logic’ as such to suppress people and annul freedom and rights, but an affirmation of the existence of a necessity to do something at some moment to restore political order. Someone has to do it and it would be a ‘dirty hand’ for sure, and it would be against law to say the least. But without it, at that right time and moment, things would get worse and could be disastrous.

    It’s interesting to note that, just among the twenty or so comments above, the ‘image’ that Freeman gives is vastly different. Some would take him as a more diplomatically oriented guy. And others apparantly ties him more with the militaristic person, with legitimate reason I think, considering his ‘realistic’ view. But in this respect I find this paragraph of Freeman even more interesting and illuminating:

    “It is certiain that we will do so if we allow our idées fixes and ideological preconceptions to guide our reasoning about China rather than deriving our conclusions from first-hand and empirically validatable data. I do not disagree that we need to keep a wary eye on China, that much could yet go wrong on the Taiwan issue, and that broad Sino-American hostility is a possibility …… But I fundamentally disagree that China is inherently inimical to our interests, unmanageable by skillfull diplomacy, or ineluctably aimed at mirror-imaging our own hegemonic and scofflaw behavior internationally. In any event, to conclude that this is so, it seems to me, begs the key policy question: what do we do about it? In the militaristic mood of contemporary Washington, there is little patience for anything other than coercive approaches to international problem solving. But there are lots of alternative methods, with a better track record of success, than that. Where’s the foreign policy approach, as opposed to the military deterrent approach, to dealing with a rising (or re-rising) China? ”

    My point is: The so-called realists, while giving an impression of rough power-talking, ofen adopts a far more moderate view of politics than the ‘idealists’, who are more willing to sign up to the ‘normative’ values. I think the difference is not pro or against these normative values, for these realists like Freeman are far from reactionists. It is rather that often the ‘realists’ tend to take a far more relative view on these values and see that they are never coherent within themselves. And in consequence, they do what they can, namely the ‘political’ staff and let the values speak for themselves. So they appear at once ‘militaristic’ (as military confrontation is extention of politics) and less oppressing, and, I think, also more humane. For this reason, I myself also line with the realists/conservatist.

  29. JD Says:

    No one can be a realist, idealist, or militarist without the facts. Time for truth and reconciliation. Is there really so much more to hide?

  30. Old Tales Retold Says:

    @ Oli,

    Thanks for the personal story. I agree that it’s pretty rare for a leader to be held accountable decisions like the one to clear the square with armed troops (troops who appear to have had little preparation for their mission, “crack troops” or no).

    The best precedents I can think of are recent moves to try officials responsible for the Mexico City massacre of students in 1968. So, thirty years late…. There’s also the 2005 OAS investigation into the 1981 El Mozote massacre in El Salvador (twenty-five years late). There were investigations of the Kent State killings in the U.S. more or less right after the event, but that was on a much smaller scale and didn’t implicate the national leadership in the same way, so there weren’t the same barriers.

  31. Oli Says:

    @SKC

    Who made me judge and jury? Why, I did of course, isn’t that obvious? So hail to free speech!

    “If you have a problem with what Raj said, point out the specifics and give some reasons”- Yup, did it already, see my comment in the middle of #10 or I can re-iterate it for you below:

    “Frankly, your (Raj) comments are precisely the archtypal of the sort of “conventional wisdom ” about China that Chas Freeman deride above.”

    – now SKC you are no fool in my book so you can extrapolate the rest.

    As for whether someone did a poo poo in my cereal this morning, Nope! Am merely in a pugilistic mood having had enough of fools such as Raj on issues such as TAM. As with many of my generational peers, my personal feelings over TAM are more complicated than the one-dimensional approach of many of those outside of China tended to take on the matter. And I am tired of the inane dronings pretending to be intelligent, from people who either were not there, not in anyway connected to it or weren’t even born yet, like many a paid Western commentators on US “news” programme.

  32. Old Tales Retold Says:

    @ wdmc,

    Good points. I may have gone a little too tough there. I certainly don’t think realists are mean-spirited militarists. It is fine, of course, for strategists, whether “realist” or “liberal” or, for that matter, “idealist,” to hold different values as relative.

    My worry with realists is that they not only take a very state-centered view and (with the exception of those who discuss “internal hedging”) discount the imperative of a state growing and maturing, but because their philosophy has such clarity, they can dominate conversations to the point where only their calculus matters.

    There’s nothing wrong with focusing on the state as an actor. But if that is the only view that is heard—and it can be when it is the least messy one—then state’s are just hollow husks, without anything pushing them along and with a little too much license.

    Maybe I’m repeating myself, in which case apologies!

  33. Oli Says:

    @Raj 27

    See my comments to SKC @ 31

    And for crying out loud learn some comprehension for a change and extrapolate your thought process will ya and this is not the first time I’ve said this to you. Requiring everything to be spelled out is extremely dreary, akin to talking to a five years old. I sincerely hope you are not a kid for then I would have simply been pissing against the wind.

    Or as the Hongkies would say, one does not need to draw the internal organs to let people know that you are simply drawing a person.

    Otherwise, even more raspberries and figs unto thee.

  34. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Oli #23:
    “Secondly, it is simply a matter of political and administrative convention that leaders are never held accountable for a decision lawfully made whilst in office and that the decision is within their constitutional remit to make.” – agreed. But by itself, this is no reason to not even talk about it. In fact, your “firstly” and “thirdly” are the only reasons why it can’t be, or isn’t, openly discussed. And even then, I’d say “thirdly” without the legal perspective. And to me, those aren’t compelling reasons. For that, I agree with JD #29 (and #24).

    To Oli #31:
    the latter 2/3 of #23 is what I would normally expect from you. And your personal experiences are appreciated (well, by me at least). Where I would beg to differ is that one doesn’t have to have been there, or to have been alive when an event occurred, to have a valid, purposeful, or reasonable opinion about said event. Similarly, not everyone who was there, or was alive at the time, would have something useful to say, based solely on such.

  35. bianxiangbianqiao Says:

    DJ JD#21

    (BXBQ, I am sure you weren’t addressing me here. DJ 🙂)

    “What about a “truth and reconciliation” commission for the Tiananmen Square Massacre. Isn’t it time for China to come to grips with its recent past?

    With leaders warning of instability, the best path to ensure stability is to lift the shroud over this tragic and avoidable event.”

    My answer is no, not now. There is no appetite for this topic in the general population, except a handful of good-for-nothing “scholars” on the fringe of the Chinese society. Now is not the time to open this wound for two reasons.

    1. The topic is divisive and would distract resources from the useful and constructive work being carried out in the Chinese society at both individual and collective levels.

    2. No useful lesson will come out of a retrospective inspection of the ugly wound. The incident was a tragedy through and through, whichever way you look at it. This is why most sane and normal people in China do not want to look at it now. I was on the square from the second day of the hunger strike until about 7:00 pm on June 3rd. My part was limited to passing water to the students on hunger strike, directing traffic for the ambulances in front of the History Museum (the police had long departed), and hanging out with my classmates in a hazy and helpless mood. I did not participate in the hunger strike. I do not consider myself an active participant in the POLITICAL movement. The only political action I took over that period was participating in the march of April 27, a response to the April 26 Editorial of the People’s Daily. Subsequently watching my school mates leaving campus for the May 4th march, I started to develop a very weird feeling about the movement, one that I could not articulate at that time. Looking back, I think I got a guts’ feeling that the movement was useless, dysfunctional, self-defeating, and probably manipulated by forces invisible to me. I was very immature and not very smart. It did not take a genius to see tragedy unfolding as the mass movement took a life of its own, escaping the control of all individuals and institutions, including its participants. It became a monster that nobody could reign in.

    Since June 1989, I have maintained close contact with my dorm mates and classmates who were on the square over that period. Having been there together formed a strong bond among us. However, the topic of that incident has never been brought up among us in the numerous conversations over the last 15 years, not even once as far as I can remember. We have moved on. This incident is history, and we need to take a historical perspective, instead of a political or popular cultural approach to it.

  36. TonyP4 Says:

    I agree with bianxiangbianqiao #35 100%. It drove China at least one year back. Students were too silly that they could fight CCP. Most Chinese students could stay in US after the incident. It is good for them to pursue better lives but bad for China for the brain drain.

    It may cost Deng a Nobel prize.

  37. bianxiangbianqiao Says:

    DJ,
    Sorry about the mix up of names. I was indeed surprised that you would hold such views.

  38. Oli Says:

    SKC

    Whether its time to talk about it or not is a matter of personal political opinion and judgement and the powers that be in China in their o’ever so infinte wisdom and sagacity deemed the society not yet ready to discuss the issue (I’m being tongue in cheek here in case certain individuals are too dense to get it). However, you’ll be surprised at the amount of soul searching over TAM that are done within the government itself.

    As for why not publicly? Its because the social forces that I raised to be prevalent in 1989 that brought about TAM then are still very much prevalent in today’s even more open China of 1.3 billions, if not more so in the current economic climate. And this is unlikely to change so long as there are less fortunate people who continue to expect the government to solve all their misfortune and so long as the society is not yet capable to socio-politically or economically become a civil society, in its political definition. And my personal opinion is that China as a whole is not yet ready and you can chalk it up as based on my personal experience and observation.

    One may argue that China will never become a civil society if it does not have political freedom. However, before this descend into a chicken or egg argument, the debate within China is not whether to allow the formation of civil society and the concomitant political freedom or not, but about how much, how fast, how widely and simply how to do it. Its not about getting to the other side, but about how to walk the tightrope without falling off.

    Consequently, the progression is such that economic freedom comes before personal freedom and personal freedom before political freedom. Without economic freedom, personal freedom is hollow. Without economic and personal freedom, political freedom is neither feasible or sustainable. Hence, Freeman’s astute observation that China today has become more tolerant of dissent and that individual Chinese today enjoy far more personal and economic freedom than before. Today the Gong An are just as likely to invite dissidents for “tea” as to put them under house arrests.

    As for the creation of a civil society, personally I see the growth and official tolerance of apolitical NGOs as encouraging and in the right direction, as well as the fact that many of the workers who complained of unpaid wages have become more savvy and discerning. More often than not they direct their ire against the absconding employers rather than blaming the free market system as a whole, though of course they still get pissed at perceived local government inactions, however slowly the bureaucratic/judicial wheels grind. Am I being unnecessarily optimistic? Perhaps, but I think its with reasons.

    As for the Western news commentators, I’ve zilch problem with them commenting. My issue is with their comments being gross over-simplification in the vein of dictatorial communism vs. freedom-loving all American pie democracy. Its not very nuanced or very intelligent.

    Now I’m just waiting for somebody to call me a wu mao dan…

  39. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Oli:
    welcome back. Much prefer your usual self than the UFC version on display earlier. 🙂

    I see your point, and from your perspective, I think your ideas are completely internally consistent. I imagine that is all I, or anyone else, could ask for.

    “the debate within China is not whether to allow the formation of civil society and the concomitant political freedom or not, but about how much, how fast, how widely and simply how to do it.”
    “Without economic freedom, personal freedom is hollow. Without economic and personal freedom, political freedom is neither feasible or sustainable.”

    To me, those two statements crystallize the essence of what most have been talking about on this blog in the time I’ve been around. Gosh, if you had said that last May, you would have saved me a lot of time. I certainly don’t pretend to have the answers to your questions.

    One unknown to me is how the CCP is suited to shepherd the changes that you would suggest, and I would hope, to be inevitable. Socio-economic disparity, for instance, is certainly not unique to China, as Wahaha, for example, is keen to point out. In the CCP’s progression away from the “iron rice bowl”, what has she done, and what else should she do, to fortify the social safety net? And is that a philosophical sea-change of which the CCP is capable?

    I think the crappy employer is, and will continue to be, a big problem in China. It may have something to do with the blue collar/white collar value system that seems inherent in Chinese, to which BXBQ alluded in another thread. But if economic freedom(or at least economic survival) for most Chinese is to be achieved, IMO, either employers need to be compelled to value labour irrespective of collar-colour, or the government needs to step in to assist those who’ve truly fallen through the cracks. And preferably both.

    And if and when economic prosperity filters down to the masses, does the CCP have the requisite flexibility to facilitate the subsequent freedoms that economic freedom should engender? For a party used to governing in a one-party state, I must say I don’t share your optimism in this regard. However, I’d agree that, since there’s only one horse in the race right now, seems smart to have your money on that horse.

    I think Freeman’s is a balanced view. And while I agree with the portion you quoted of his sentence, I would be loathe to lose sight of this part as well: “China continues to fall far short of our minimal expectations for human and civil rights in many respects”. China has achieved a lot in the last 30 years; but there’s still tons to be done. Admittedly, the US and Canada have had about 150-200 year head start. Here’s hoping that China can close that gap, and doesn’t stay that far behind for too long.

  40. Sophie Says:

    I agreed with Oli and BXBQ, I don’t think China is ready to talk about TAM yet. Although there is much information on this subject available abroad, I don’t really feel comfortable to look at them. It’s a complicated feeling: on one side, I think the government had to control the situation; on the other side, it’s indeed a tragedy.

    At the time, I was at the last year of my high school and busy in preparing the national university entry exam. I was too young to understand the whole movement. What happened during that period remains fragmented memory to me but i was not ready to dig into it. Here, I simply say what I know:

    I lived in a high building next to a cross road leading to ChangAn Avenue (Guan Yuan Bridge). On that night, I remember seeing from the window that many people stopped the troop, talked to soldiers, and eventually those soldiers all got off trucks and left. Nothing violent happened. However, the next morning I was surprised to find out those trucks (2-3?) had been burned down and destroyed.

    I went to ChangAn Avenue to have a look the next day. There were many people there, talking to each other trying to understand what happened the night before. There were military trucks burned and destroyed lying on the way to TAM, but nothing in TAM Square. The air was strange and tense. People were in shock. Nobody can tell what was really going on. All kinds of sayings, rumours or facts, it’s hard to tell.

    Our preparation for the big national exam was interrupted. There were rumours that the national exam would be cancelled and we would be sent to countryside to work in farm, instead of entering university… we were quite worried. Fortunately, it’s just rumour. Everything went back to normal soon after.

    I know two cases of people getting hurt or dead. One is an immigrant worker who got shot on arm when joining the crowd to stop the troop on the ChangAn Avenue. The other is a relative of someone my parents knew who were shot dead. According to what I heard, he lived in a highrise building right beside Chang’an Avenue at Muxudi and was just leaning over his window to watch the incident on the street while brushing his teeth. The soldiers were shooting towards sky to disperse the crowd and cost his life.

    I didn’t hear anyone died in my university. Located in the university area in the west part of Beijing, we were close to other top universities (thinking students often run around to attend weekend balls at different campus). If there were thousands students dead as suggested by some sources, each university should have lost at least hundred students. It’s hard to hide the loss at this size. I remotely remember someone said their university lost one or two students.

    Somewhere I read, if I remember correctly, according to the Taiwan singer Hou Dejian, there was no killing at TAM since he was the last one left.

  41. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Sophie:
    it’s always informative to hear first-person accounts of this event. It may not be the whole story, but it provides a unique perspective, and if enough such perspectives are available, perhaps a bigger picture will begin to emerge.

    “I don’t think China is ready to talk about TAM yet.” – I wonder about that. Certainly, the CCP may be in no mood to have that conversation. But you, Oli, and BXBQ have, all in this one thread on this one blog. So at least some CHinese who are free to do so seem ready and willing to have that conversation. Makes me wonder how many within China would feel the same way, if given the opportunity.

  42. little Alex Says:

    @Oli
    After reading everyone’s comments, I’m beginning to think that you just have something against Raj. Other people have said many things that are similar to his statement, yet you never display the same level of disdain for them as you have Raj…

    As to discussions of the June 4th incident being too divisive, that’s going to be the government’s eternal excuse, isn’t it? The government used the same reason to squash further discussion about Sanlu, the tofu schools, etc. And now even talk about the Cultural Revolution has more or less disappeared. And the reason why no one except fringe academics talk about the June 4th incident… How do you know that’s because the people themselves didn’t want to? With all the governmental disapproval and the ignorance from the younger generations, who knows?

  43. little Alex Says:

    Continuing from above (posted too soon and took too long to edit)…
    Depends on what people mean by ready, too. Able to talk about it without causing a similar incident to happen? I suspect so. Able to have a calm, rational discussion about the whole thing? The few people here who have talked about it here certainly seem calm and rational about it.

    @Sophie
    There was a pretty interesting comment (#29 by Don Tai) over at the Peking Duck on the possible reason why there was little loss of life amongst Beijing students.

  44. BMY Says:

    @Little Alex #42,

    You asked” How do you know that’s because the people themselves didn’t want to?”

    I am not speaking for Oli and I don’t know him. But you can count me as one of the people “who didn’t want to talk about”.

    When I arrived home from Beijing on 6/11 1989, my Dad didn’t ask me anything as he knew his son’s mind was full of anger. The talk about would only draw more anger and conflict in the family. He never asked and I never talked in the family what I saw on the night of 6/3 in MuXuDi.

    Many years later, my political minded father in law once asked me what I did in the spring of 1989 as a college student in Beijing, I tried to talk through what I saw on the night of 6/3 and in the morning of 6/4 but we didn’t finish the conversation as neither of us wanted to continue. Of course, this is only in private level.

    Publicly,you can’t just talk about 6/4 without sending some people was in charge(or still in charge) to justice and without creating political or even social turmoil in today’s China. Didn’t you see the talk about another massacre which happened in another Chinese society decades ago created hatred and divide between people . The society as a whole didn’t benefit much about the “talk about” but few politician did.

    I am not saying we should never talk about just time is not ready now.

  45. BMY Says:

    @Oli #23,

    I agree that the army 38 Infantry was called in from NE to Beijing not to just suppress demonstrators. The same army unit was called in by Mao and LinBiao before “彭罗陆杨发革命集团” got rounded up.

    But I still beleive there was other way to clear up students without machine guns and tanks while the army can still be watching and threatening the oposition in ZhongNanHai. Deng and Yang had almost absolute political and military power and the level of violence against civilians was totally unnecessary.

  46. BMY Says:

    @BXBQ #35

    You might have handed water and milk to me and made me survive.

    向边想边瞧同学致以革命的敬礼!:)

  47. Stinky Tofu Says:

    “I don’t think China’s ready to talk about TAM yet.” Total BS.

    For that matter, China’s not ready to talk about the purges of the early ’50s, the Anti-Rightist Movement of ’57, the Great Leap Forward, the Great Famine of the early ’60s, the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (’66 to ’76), China’s invasion of Vietnam in ’79, the “Culture Fever” (文化热) of the 1980s, or the anti-African demonstrations of the late 1980s. Neither is China ready to speak openly and honestly about Mao Zedong or Zhou Enlai (the list of bad actors is much longer). For a country that expresses such pride in its history – and that likes nothing better than to lecture the West and Japan for their past mistakes – China demonstrates a disappointing unwillingness to consider the ugliness of its own recent history.

    The Chinese people have been cowed by the CCP long enough, don’t you think? It’s well past time to consider an ugly fact — The last 30 years would not have been so impressive if the 30 years before that had not been such a profound disaster.

    It’s long since time to begin talking about 6/4. And everything else, for that matter.

  48. Stinky Tofu Says:

    One last question to those who don’t think that it’s time for China to discuss 6/4. And to those who agree with BXBQ that “[The Chinese] have moved on. This incident is history, and we need to take a historical perspective, instead of a political or popular cultural approach to it.” There are those in China who would like to talk about 6/4 (e.g., scholars, public intellectuals, the so-called “Tiananmen Mothers,” and even a few politicians). What measures are you prepared to accept from the CCP to prevent these people from speaking out? Do you believe that people who insist on pressing the issue should be threatened, imprisoned, or killed? What should happen to the editor of a newspaper who decides to publish an editorial asking that the issue of 6/4 be revisited? How should we treat a Chinese graduate student here in the U.S. who publishes a paper critical of the CCP’s handling of 6/4 and/or organizes an academic conference in which papers are delivered criticizing the CCP?

    Extend the question to include the Great Leap Forward, the Cultural Revolution, and Mao. Should open discussion of these topics be allowed?

    The irony in BXBQ’s statement doesn’t escape me. While the Chinese have apparently moved on from 6/4, they have not moved on from remembering the looting of the Summer Palace, the Nanjing Massacre, or the various other crimes that foreign nations are believed to have perpetrated on them. Rather, the Chinese people have only “moved on” from crimes that the CCP has perpetrated on them.

  49. BMY Says:

    @Sticky Tofu,

    Please don’t forget there was a military coup and some of the top political leaders got arrested and all the blame officially was put on them before the Anti-Rightest,GLF and CR were open discussed.

  50. BMY Says:

    @48

    Do you believe openly discuss CCP’s crimes with CCP and have a revolution to over throw CCP is the best way Chinese people should do?

    I believe to vent the anger and to find a solution is often different thing.

  51. little Alex Says:

    @BMY
    Not wanting to talk about one’s personal account of a historical event because it was traumatic is one thing, saying that no one else should have discussions about it even as a part of history or in an academic setting is quite another. For example, many veterans of WWII don’t talk about their own experiences during the war at all, but none of them said it shouldn’t be reported or discussed publicly (in fact, we couldn’t stop talking about it).

    As to sending people in charge to justice… I don’t believe it would be an inevitable consequence of open discussion of the incident. Americans on the left talk about how Dubya had more or less committed war crimes, yet no one truly believes that he’d be brought to trial. We kept talking about how the Japanese should at least apologize for the atrocities they’ve committed during WWII and that the government should take a harder stance against the Japanese, yet we all know it’s not gonna happen. People are amazing at accepting that somethings are simply not gonna happen.

    I keep hearing from the moderates that it’s not a matter of if, but when, and that when should be later, much later. It’s the same answer whenever we start talking about democracy, elections, etc. There will always be one kind of social turmoil or another; the harmonious society that the government is fantasizing about doesn’t exist. Take Hong Kong for example, the July 1st march in 2003 had 500,000 people, the subsequent ones had fewer and fewer people because the pressure had been let off by the protests and the discussions. If the government had suppressed the discussion and the protests, the situation might have been more like the riots during 1987-68.

    As to post 50, you’re presenting a false dichotomy. Even if we have mass protests, etc., that doesn’t mean the government would necessarily be overthrown. And the kids back during ’89 weren’t asking for that either, they were just protesting against the widespread corruption (which unfortunately still exists).

  52. Old Tales Retold Says:

    @ Sophie #40,

    It’s always been my understanding that the majority of people killed were not students at all but ordinary Beijing residents (like some of the ones you described) and that they were killed on the roads leading to the square rather than on the square itself. The total number of people lost is now commonly thought—someone please correct me if I am wrong—to be under 1,000, something like 700 or 800 people.

    @ Sophie, BMY, little Alex et al,

    Some of you make good points about the sort of raw emotion that the event brings up. I wonder if, like a diplomatic meeting, we maybe ought to be thinking about *how* a national conversation would be structured as much as when such a conversation could start. I don’t mean to say discussion must be prohibited until some distant, proper time and that academics should continue to be gagged—quiet stuff can be as unsettling and poisonous for a nation as what is spoken—but when the government does, inevitably, approach the issue, how should *they* do it? Simply change their position on it and let the media and public catch up? Begin with cautious media feelers? Rehabilitate individuals like they have recently with Hu Yaobang?

    In democracy discussions, we hear why China would be better off with more accountability but then we say that change overnight would be disastrous. The “how” of it—begin with direct votes for township chiefs? give People’s Congresses at different levels more control over budgets? expand primaries? enliven the smaller “democratic parties”?—is too often neglected and we get overly stark choices as a result. The same might be said for opening up discussions of recent history. Again, I don’t mean that there’s any sense in prolonging this period of pretending the massacre didn’t happen, but what is a path the government could reasonably take at this time?

  53. Raj Says:

    Oli 33

    Requiring everything to be spelled out is extremely dreary, akin to talking to a five years old.

    If a person has made an incorrect statement or another takes issue with what they have said, it is customary to say what was “wrong”. Even five-year olds are corrected. In a discussion such as this it is for the benefit of not just the person who made the comment, but those who were reading it.

    To merely say “you’re wrong – you’re wrong” is what immature people do because they are either bullies who don’t want to discuss the subject matter with them but just put the other down, or they simply don’t like the other/their general views and take issue with the person and not the message.

  54. Raj Says:

    I won’t disagree with a lot of what Oli says @ 38. There is an argument that at least some economic development needs to occur before wide-ranging political changes are made. The only point I would make in regard to that is that there has already been a lot of development. If China is to be super cautious on this point then it might put off change indefinitely.

    Although another series of protests such as were seen in 1989 are not just around the corner, if they did occur (regardless of the format) they might seriously challenge stability in China. The protests and riots that occur every year in China are a symptom of the lack of accountability in the Chinese political system. Although the participants are not asking for democracy, what they want, e.g. the ability to get rid of corrupt officials, the feeling they have a say in local affairs, can’t realistically be obtained with an autocratic, one-party state (at least run by humans instead of robots).

    As has been said many times here, although change cannot happen overnight, in the long-term it can help make China more stable rather than require some undefinited utopian criteria to be reached. Indeed because much political change will require many years to bring in it is important to start sooner rather than later.

    Of course that is different from addressing the Tiananmen matter. If people believe that China isn’t “ready” to discuss the matter freely, or for the next Chinese administration to admit civilians were killed needlessly by the army, what would the consequences be if either happened? I know people who talk about it – people are talking about it here. The censors can only cover-up so much. If people want to discussion 1989, they will. I don’t think there’s any such massive desire to do so across the country, even if many people would like to clear up outstanding matters. I don’t see a credible threat to China’s happiness there, certainly after the economy has recovered from its current downturn.

    Sophie, you say that you’re not comfortable to read detailed material on the event, yet many Chinese do read either at school or in their space time about foreign aggression towards China – such as the Nanjing Massacre, general Sino-Japanese war, Opium Wars, etc. Is it that you personally don’t like to read about these sorts of things, or that you have a problem with reading about misery caused by the Chinese State to Chinese people?

    little Alex, I agree that it’s not good enough to say “China is not ready to discuss this” if the consequence is to lock up (whether at home or in prison) people who want to talk about it because it affected them personally. That’s punishing someone for being a victim and flies in the face of all notions of justice. It does make me suspect that the government doesn’t want to talk about the matter because it isn’t sorry, not because it fears for China if it doesn’t persecute these people.

    little Alex is also right to point out that protests don’t mean the overthrow of a government or political system, even in large numbers. Peaceful protest is a part of many successful countries’ lives. It can be used as a way to release frustration and calmly show officials that people care about an issue. However, trying to suppress people’s annoyance can make things worse with those feelings exploding unpredicatably.

  55. FOARP Says:

    “There is an argument that at least some economic development needs to occur before wide-ranging political changes are made.”

    . . . . and, as always, one has to ask why, if the CCP really is waiting for economic development to reach a higher level before introducing genuine democratic reforms, it has steadfastly opposed all such reforms in Hong Kong and Macao, two of the richest areas in East Asia, both before and after re-unification.

    The take away from this is that the CCP has no intention of giving up even an iota of power unless it has to – this should not surprise us, few governments are happy about relinquishing power they see as theirs by right. Each generation produces a new set of party members who will loudly promise their love of democracy, before explaining how ” . . . as much as they would love to introduce democratic reforms, those evil foreigners are such a threat to our country, and you know this democracy thing is a rich man’s game anyway, and don’t you love China? Then why are you supporting traitors!? Look, just shut the hell up otherwise we’ll kill the lot of you!”. I’m sure some of you will doubt this, but how can you describe the characterisation of pro-human rights campaigners as ‘criminals’ in any other way? Change will not come without the communists being got rid of – either internally as in the Soviet Union, or externally as in Romania.

  56. TonyP4 Says:

    Some mothers are still looking for their missing children for years, so there have to be some one killed at TAM. How many countries kill their students over social issues? China should learn, but should move on. On the other side, a stable society is good for China, no matter how CCP achieves it. Contradiction?

    There are more important social issues for China to tackle. Commenting on the past history (and possibly arousing unrest) is not one of them and everyone including students of this generation understand. In general, the citizens are working hard to make money to improve their lives. Practicality takes over idealism at present time.

  57. little Alex Says:

    @TonyP4
    I don’t disagree that a truly stable society is good for China, but why should CCP be the only one who gets a say? In other words, shouldn’t it be the society’s decision on how to achieve stability? Isn’t that what democracy is about? With CCP’s past records, I don’t trust it to be able to achieve a truly stable society. I suspect its efforts would be like its current ones, a false and enforced “harmony” that isn’t harmonious at all.

    And commenting on history, or at least whether the people should be allowed to comment on history is symbolic of the much bigger problem, that the leaders of the country don’t have to answer to the people (I don’t deny that people at the very top thinks that they should have to, but that’s quite different from whether they have to in reality).

    I mean, how does Sanlu or the tofu school happen? Because there’s no open discussion, because there is suppression of the press, because the officials knew they won’t be held accountable. Oh, some people were killed and some were punished, but are they the people at the top who’re most responsible? Who knows.

    So the effort to push for more open discussion of history, for more freedom of the press, etc. is actually part of the effort to improve people’s lives.

  58. Steve Says:

    @ wdmc, OTR & SKC: This thread has divided into two topics, both very interesting. This post concerns the Chas Freeman comments.

    We all seem to agree that based on his previous statements, Freeman is a realist not prone to hard and fast ideological leanings. Another realist that comes to mind is Henry Kissinger. Kissinger wasn’t concerned about morals; his concern was how to further the interests of the United States. If partnering with China to put pressure on the USSR was in America’s best interest, he didn’t care about the previous 20 year history. He looked for opportunities wherever they presented themselves.

    So good things happened (USA rapprochement with China) and bad things happened (the bombing of Cambodia). That’s why we have to be careful with realists. For instance, a realist would use “the bomb” if it was in his country’s best interest and not have moral concerns about the lives taken, since everything is calculated on a cost/benefit scale. Many in the world would like to bring Henry Kissinger up on war crimes charges due to his “realistic” policies. Perhaps if Kissinger had been an advisor rather than policymaker, his influence would have been more positive overall.

    Colin Powell was another realist with a greater moral perspective. For me, his “in the field” experience rather than Rice’s academic past and the neoconservative’s theoretical speculations was the reason he was able to predict future consequences so accurately while she and they were not.

    In an advisory role such as Freeman’s, realistic viewpoints can be very helpful. Especially in China, a more objective view without the cumbersome detritus of the past would certainly be beneficial in avoiding ideological misunderstandings between countries.

  59. Steve Says:

    Thanks to everyone who has shared their experiences back in 1989. History is in many respects all about the details rather than the headlines. All those individual memories can help build a truer picture of what really took place at that time.

    I can understand finding difficulty talking about those days with fellow protesters and even family members. I found the same happened for American Vietnam War vets. They never discussed the war with their family or fellow soldiers, but for some reason I had several of them talk to me about their experiences about ten years after they came home. After hearing their stories, I could understand why they preferred to keep it to themselves. This is a common feature of all who survive tramatic events. WWII vets were the same; virtually never talked about the war (per little Alex #51).

    I also saw similaries with the makeup of protesters in TAM and the makeup of the hippie movement in San Francisco back in 1965-1967. Both started out with locals but by the time they were national or world news, the locals had been replaced by people from other places who were less peaceful, more violent, less controlled, but the press still portrayed them as locals. Per what I’ve read here, that seemed to be what happened during the TAM demonstrations.

    But that didn’t keep historians from writing books about those times, putting together the bits and pieces of information that allowed them to write as accurate an account as they could research. The further an event recedes into the past, the more difficult it is to put together a factual account from eyewitnesses. So looking back at TAM, we’re faced with two opposing arguments: Do we open up and discuss what happened, or continue to bury it until a future time when the participants have all died and the nation can face what occurred?

    Reading the “keep it buried” arguments reminded me of something that I couldn’t quite put my finger on, and then it came to me. Japan has been making that same argument for over 60 years. They say, “it’s over, so why bring it up again?” and “it wasn’t as bad as reported” and “discussing it could bring instability to the country and hurt the national pride”. China hears these arguments and goes ballistic, since they feel history is denied, textbooks are changed so the present generation is not educated on events in the past.

    But I’m hearing the same arguments from China concerning TAM. How can you criticize someone for using the same argument you use for a difference event? If it’s not in the news, historians cannot write about or discuss it, it’s never mentioned in textbooks, etc., how does that differ from what you condemn in your neighbor?

    I’d think what is good for the goose is good for the gander. Can someone reconcile my dilemma?

  60. FOARP Says:

    ” There is no appetite for this topic in the general population, except a handful of good-for-nothing “scholars” on the fringe of the Chinese society”

    I agree that so-called ‘scholars’ who neither live in China nor have its best interests at heart, yet loudly proclaim their ‘patriotism’ (an odd kind of ‘patriotism’ which is only ever expressed in hatred of foreigners) should think twice before they open their mouths and ask themselves “do I really want people to think of me as a fascist?”

  61. TonyP4 Says:

    @Little Alex #56.

    Guilty as charged! I’m trying to say we need to set priority on all issues. TAM seems to be a non-issue now and at least for a while, so just let the sleeping dog lie. I believe CCP, students… all learn their hard lessons from TAM, and it will not happen again at least in our life time I sincerely hope for. It is not pretty or romantic at every level. We’ll talk about it again in some anniversary date so history will not be forgotten. At the mean time, concentrate on how to deal with recession, unemployment, mass reverse migration to village, ghost towns in S. China that were built for profit…

  62. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Raj #54:
    “The only point I would make in regard to that is that there has already been a lot of development.” – agreed. At what point in a country’s economic development is it the right time to proliferate personal and political freedoms? And is that “time” to be determined like an alarm clock? Not ready…still not ready….boom! Bells blaring, we’re good to go…hope no one hits snooze. People have suggested per capita GDP as the “alarm clock”. Perhaps that one feasible metric; of course, that may also be an excuse to simply do tomorrow what you might be able to do today. But similarly, people complained about Charter 08 that it was idealism that CHinese weren’t ready for today. For me, it comes back to human nature. Are Chinese likely not to be ready, then suddenly wake up one day raring to go? It seems that “readiness” is a state that is in flux, and something that one can and should work towards on a continual basis. And if Chinese today are more ready than they were 30 years ago, how much more ready must they become before they’ll be allowed to give it a go? (I say allowed, because in the current set-up, nothing happens till Big Brother gives the green light, which I think is silly onto itself, but that’s for another time).

    To Little Alex #43, Steve #59, etc:
    If I may once again tap into my inner Charles Liu, perhaps the Chinese can do what the Americans did about a painful and traumatic national event. Set up their version of a Warren Commission, write a report, classify the details for another 50 years. Then give a specific release date by which time all the principals should be long dead. Then Chinese people will know when they’ll be given back a piece of their history. Of course, in the meantime, Americans have talked about it openly, visited the grassy knoll, seen the movie (literally). I guess there’s no overcoming the Chinese lack of readiness for that part.

    But here’s something else I don’t get. 2 bronze busts which harken back to a time of supposed national humiliation, is now prized and highly sought after. But a seminal crossroads moment in modern Chinese development is Krytonite of which they can’t even speak in public.

  63. miaka9383 Says:

    @Steve #59

    I also saw similarities between the Hippies movement (specifically the Kent State Shootings) and TAM.
    I was not in American nor born at the time, but throughout the years of my American Public Education, U.S History always conveniently ends at post WWII and the textbooks touch very briefly on this historical event.
    If our own government cannot address this historical event, how can we be critical of the CCP?
    Nixon was very unapologetic about the death of these Kent State students, and callously criticized the Anti-War protests. If our own U.S government cannot express guilt for the death of these students, how can we expect the CCP to do the same?
    From a historical point of view, we as Americans are hypocrites when it comes to this issue.

    P.S Two bloggers from the Land of Entrapment is indeed an interesting fact.

  64. FOARP Says:

    @Miaka – Except the US government has addressed this issue, ad nauseam, and it still receives significant attention in the media, on television, in historical writings etc.

    This is a specious argument, I might as well ask why I never learned about the Bloody Sunday shootings in school – could it possibly be because it was not a significant enough event to warrant such attention? Especially compared to something like the Amritsar massacre (which was covered)?

    The problem is not that TAM is not covered in public school education, the problem it that discussion of it is banned. Full stop.

  65. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Miaka:
    I agree with FOARP on this one. If Americans wanted to find out about Kent State, they can, and the US government is not standing in the way. But can Chinese find out about TAM? Not if the CCP can help it. I think there’s a big difference.

    I’m not sure people are talking about having the CCP express guilt about TAM. I think people are talking about having the CCP talk about the TAM, or at least to allow others within China to do so. Again, I think that’s a big difference.

  66. little Alex Says:

    @miaka9383
    If what you’ve said is true, then my only conclusion is that you’ve had crap teachers. I went to public schools as well, and I remember at least two times that my teachers tried to teach modern history/current events.

    The first time was during middle school, when my social studies teacher showed us the music video of Billy Joel’s song “We didn’t start the fire”, put us into groups, and gave us a week to create a music video of similar nature. The second was in my senior year, when my American history teacher put us into groups, had each group pick a decade and do a presentation on the decade.

    Actually, now that I think about it, you’re right, I wasn’t taught history. The teachers made us go and educate ourselves. So really, if you don’t mind my asking, when you said “throughout the years of your American Public Education”, when and where were those years?

    As to whether the U.S. government was hypocritical, I believe FOARP and SKC have already addressed the issue. I do also want to point out that since transfers of power happen quite often in a democracy, the mistakes of one administration really shouldn’t be blamed on the “government” until it has truly become history (e.g., slavery, mistreatment of Native Americans).

    Even then, it really depends on the head of state. For example, can you ever imagine Obama apologizing for slavery like Clinton had? The idea would be beyond absurd (not that Clinton’s apology wasn’t bizarre enough).

  67. Steve Says:

    @ miaka #63: Kent State had nothing to do with hippies, those were anti-war protests. 1967’s Summer of Love (which actually occurred in 1966 and was over by 1967) in San Francisco was a hippie thing. These days, many get the two mixed up. Right after Kent State, Crosby Stills Nash & Young wrote a song called “Ohio”, specifically about the Kent State shootings that got major radio airplay. The Kent State story was all over the news, on TV for weeks, in every newspaper, magazine etc.

    The Kent State shootings were a big deal at the time but remember, four people tragically died but not hundreds or thousands. The significance of Kent State was as an anti-war protest and mood indicator of the unpopularity of the Vietnam War in the United States. I’ve gotta disagree with you on this one.

    TAM was a far greater event than Kent State. The most significant area of the capitol of the most populated country on earth was occupied for weeks. The local police and army refused to move against the protesters. The government had to call in troops from outside the capitol to crush the demonstrations. Tanks were rolling through the streets of Beijing. The event itself was pretty amazing from an historical point of view.

    The aftereffects of TAM were even more important. Deng needed to rally public support and so launched the Shenzhen experiment, which turned out incredibly successful and its aftermath pulled millions from poverty. China tightened her political grip but loosened her economic one. A new and far more affluent society that developed far greater contact with the outside world has ensued. The transformation has been mindblowing!

    Much of this could be said to have originated as a byproduct of TAM. How can you NOT study and discuss this? Rarely in a country’s history is there such a seminal (in a sense you could argue “revolutionary”) event that triggers so many other important changes.

  68. miaka9383 Says:

    @Little Alex
    Modern U.S history for us New Mexicans ends in WWII or a little bit after. Yes the teachers I had was crappy.
    Our teachers did not “made us” to go learn it ourselves. If that is the case, why would I be addressing this question? And my years of “american public education” is irrelevant in this case and none of your business.

    @S.K., FOARP
    I have noticed increasing amount of Chinese netizens talking about their experiences on Taiwanese forums. And if someone criticizes CCP, especially a Taiwanese or an overseas Chinese, they would use the Kent State example to end the argument. That is why I ask.. As an American, am I not being hypocritical when criticizing the CCP regarding TAM?
    I just have this impression that people are talking about it, just not the media or the government.

  69. yo Says:

    @skc #41
    I think you make a good point, there are a lot of people who discuss this event, among fellow Chinese at least.

    However, I agree with Oli in that if the people who were in charge that day are still in power, any gov’t sanctioned discussion won’t happen anytime soon, and it’s funny seeing people make ridiculous arguments like “if you have nothing to hide, you should talk, blah blah” as if childless baiting can work. They won’t discuss it, no one is in any position to make them discuss it, deal with it.

    This is a shame because the more i read about the tragedy, the more i find out it’s far from the evil commies killing innocent freedom loving students picture. Perhaps a work around later down the road is a “truth commission”, similar to the 911 commission that just lays outs everything, BUT doesn’t point the finger at any official, but of course, this is perhaps too sensitive as well.

  70. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Miaka:
    “As an American, am I not being hypocritical when criticizing the CCP regarding TAM?” – if you said American MP’s were perfectly within their rights to shoot students at Kent State, but the PLA was wrong for doing the same thing at TAM, then you’d be in the ballpark of hypocritical. But if you said the Americans were wrong in that instance, and the PLA was similarly wrong in theirs, I think that’s entirely consistent. Besides, just because Chinese netizens want to end an argument on an uncomfortable subject doesn’t mean they get to; you’re free to pursue it, and if they want to throw in the towel, that’s their gig. If these netizens sought to end all discussion on things about the CCP that make them uncomfortable, there probably won’t be much left to talk about.

  71. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Yo:
    can’t speak for others. My objection isn’t that the CCP has something to hide or not. And they’re not going to discuss it, and that’s fine. I came to terms with that a long time ago. But that doesn’t mean they’re morally right to take that position. And it most certainly doesn’t absolve them of criticism, at least coming from quarters that allow that sort of behaviour.

    In fact, if the threshold for criticizing the CCP is some realistic expectation of said criticism moving the CCP to change their policies tomorrow, I suggest we may as well all pack up our bags and go home now. Thankfully, I live in a country that allows this sort of thing. And I think you should become accustomed to more of the same, coming from people in countries who are a bit more enlightened in this regard. What’s regrettable, of course, is that the people who have the most chips in the game can’t avail themselves to the conversation. And for that, we again have your CCP to thank.

  72. colin Says:

    @Oli 23

    Great post. Sheds some light on what was happening. That bit about your girlfriend is touching. My only memory of that incident was when I was little, home during summer vacation, the local TV channels interrupted normal programming with live news about China. Mostly live night shots from Beijing hotel rooms of correspondents. What we are shown and understand from the western perspective is so limited.

    I agree that Raj’s comments are mental garbage. As offensive as actual curses. SKCheung too.

  73. little Alex Says:

    @colin
    If all the clips that you’ve seen are shot from hotel rooms, then I suggest you go on youtube and look up clips from Hong Kong news programs. ‘Cause their photos and vids are definitely shot on the ground and with phone interviews of people at the scene.

    Stop pretending that the event has only been reported from the Western point of view, because there are plenty of footage from Hong Kong media.

    As to Raj’s comments, I have yet to hear anyone actually say what’s so offensive about them. All he said was that civilians were shot and killed in Beijing by the PLA that night. Are you saying that it’s not true?

  74. colin Says:

    @little Alex

    “Stop pretending that the event has only been reported from the Western point of view, because there are plenty of footage from Hong Kong media.”

    I’m not saying there aren’t other points of view. I’m saying the western point of view is limited, and growing up, that’s all I had access to. I will look up those HK vids on youtube now that I know about them.

    Regarding Raj, here is my recent damning of one of his comments:

    http://blog.foolsmountain.com/2009/03/05/state-of-global-economy/#comment-31807

  75. Raj Says:

    colin, thanks for your responses to my comments – I needed a good laugh.

    ++++

    Steve @ 58

    Kissinger wasn’t concerned about morals; his concern was how to further the interests of the United States. If partnering with China to put pressure on the USSR was in America’s best interest, he didn’t care about the previous 20 year history. He looked for opportunities wherever they presented themselves.

    I’ve heard criticism of Kissinger for (amongst other things) his business interests and how he is heavily biased in what he says about foreign policy. Did he acquire those interests after he was Secretary of State, or before/during his term in office?

  76. FOARP Says:

    @Colin – As far as I can see, Raj didn’t say anything that was offensive, neither did SKC. Unless you can point out what they said that was offensive, why don’t you keep your ‘mental garbage’ to yourself?

  77. colin Says:

    @steve

    “I’d think what is good for the goose is good for the gander. Can someone reconcile my dilemma?”

    Let me give an analogy. I’m not defending their silence on TAM, just giving a rationale.

    TAM: You run your family with a tight grip. Your son decides to act up and question your authority. You put the smackdown on him. Maybe it’s harsh, some might even call it abuse, but you don’t think so. It’s your business, not their’s. You’re doing what you think is best for the whole family for the future. You’re gonna run your family your way.It’s none of anyone else’s business.

    Japan in WW2: A bunch of hooligans trespassed into your home, raped your daughter, wife and mom, and tortured and killed you and your son. Obviously, you would want the world to know what happened. I think we agree that the police and news agencies should know.

  78. colin Says:

    @FOARP

    I find incomprehensible thoughts and garbage writing offensive. As I’ve said in a previous comment, they are just as offensive as curses to me, and I’m gonna call them out when I see them.

    Seriously, did you find any value in Raj’s post I highlighted? How long did it take understand his comment, if there was anything to understand at all? It’s a waste of time.

  79. yo Says:

    SKC
    my remark was in general. I understand the moral perspective, however, imo, a better approach is to also consider the realities on the ground and work in that framework.

    For example, I don’t know about any one else, but I do not believe it’s the appropriate time to investigate the bush administration and their dealings with Torture. Would I like to know, of course, however now is not the time given the bi-partisanship that obama wants to promote and the state of the economy.

    But on a good note, I do feel that with the internet, Chinese people are engaging in the dialog and I am confident six four will be reconciled by the gov’t in 10 years. Of course, that’s really a cheat because China can go through drastic changes in months 🙂

  80. Allen Says:

    There has been a little too much trash talking smack in this thread in my opinion.

    It’s ok to disagree passionately with each other. That’s part of the draw in coming here to discuss with fellow bloggers.

    It’s also ok to ignore another if you feel their arguments are too shallow to respond to.

    But to call each other names … that’s not only uncalled for, but can put a damp on vigorous debate … to the detriment of us all on this website.

    So unless you truly know each other well … and are jokingly mocking / teasing each other (as SKC and I or Steve and I have playfully gotten into in the past), I think we should try to be cordial with each other (even if overly so) …

    I think over the long term – that would make our time here much better spent than trying to personally insult each other.

  81. FOARP Says:

    @Colin – What you’re essentially saying is that it’s good to behave like someone who believes himself above the law except when it suits him.

  82. Allen Says:

    @FOARP #81,

    I’m not sure to which comment of colin you are referring to when you expressed that he merely believed he is above the law…

    But I want to raise a potentially interesting question of what law is.

    Even in Western concepts, there are various roles for the law. In the U.S., for example, there is Constitutional Law (including the Bill of Rights) – the purpose of which is to constrain government powers. There is administrative law – which allows for the promulgation of rules and regulations by non-elected officials to regulate and administer societal activities. There is common law – law created by judges in applying law to specific disputes. And then there are legislative laws created by elected officials in accordance with their mandate to set policies.

    In China, the traditional of law can be divided into three categories. One involve emperor’s edicts for the common people. This is most like legislative law. There is also a body of law developed by judges over time based on norms, customs, as well as various emperor’s edicts. This is common law. Another involve special emperor’s edicts for regulating and administrating government officials. This is sort of like Constitutional law – and sort of not. It is like Constitutional law in that its primary targets involve government actors – not regular citizens. But it is not like the Constitutional law in that it is not meant to hamper the sovereign (i.e. through the form of individual rights over the policy edicts of the gov’t).

    Anyways, when you simply claim that in China certain entities are above the law and what not … I think that often can become an oversimplification.

    One of the biggest difference we need to understand about law in China is what the purpose of law is – and whether law is the proper vehicle to place existential limits on the sovereign.

  83. colin Says:

    @FOARP 81

    “What you’re essentially saying is that it’s good to behave like someone who believes himself above the law except when it suits him.”

    No, that is not my point at all. My point, and this is really what I’m driving at in most of my posts, is that nothing is black and white. Everything is some shade of gray, and needs to be considered in relative terms with other issues, not absolute terms. A strong head of family’s heavy handed discipline of family members can be seen in many ways. Some might see it as abuse if it is too forceful. Others will see it as that head rightfully imposing his will for the benefit of all.

    You’re response exactly mirrors the way the west rebukes china on issues such as human rights or TAM. They try to force a black or white answer that paints China in a lose/lose proposition. Either China has no shred of regard for human rights, or China is lying (cause we really know what’s happening in China, wink). “China is always wrong, the west is always right, china needs to change”. Those within china see things differently. Sure they want more rights, more freedoms. But having come out of some harsh periods, they are content with they current situation and a chance a progress. They know that there will be sacrifices, but they’ve made a deal (or many deals) with the rulers to get them there. Whether they do, and whether their current path is a wise choice, history will tell. But one certainly can’t appreciate their world view coming form the black and white absolute activist world view of the west.

    So, lest other think that I’m commie-sinophile, I know that there’s plenty of dirty sh*t happening in china. But my over-arching point is that the west takes an unfair view of the issues it pushes against china, in fact, many of these issues are framed in such a way to ensure that china CAN NOT win. My point is that the chinese take a completely different worldview on these same issues, something not easily understood by westerners (even alien to westerners, i’d say), and that these issues need a relative frame of reference to begin to understand and rationalize them. But in the west, all we see are these simplified black and white superficial engagements that don’t have china’s well being genuinely at their core.

    As I said before, many of these issues, human rights/taiwan/tibet/chinese working conditions/etc, are just lip service used as points of leverage to put china in a weakened position for diplomacy. I mention in another thread, if 2+ million Rwandans were killed in africa without much interest by the west, do you think the west really cares for the tibetans or tam students who simply can’t protest?

    And tying up this comment with the article, Freeman seems to be a person who at least has the open-minded logical framework to begin to appreciate and interact with china in such a way rationalizes where china is coming from. And from here can come true progress.

  84. little Alex Says:

    @68
    After reading my own comments again, I realized that my tone might have been a bit off. I apologize if I have offended. I was asking about the place and the time because, well, the time is somewhat relevant to the discussion. It wouldn’t be that unreasonable for history class to have stopped after WWII if you’ve gone to school during, say, the 1950s.

    @77
    That’s, quite frankly, a completely inaccurate analogy.

    a) The government is not its people’s parents. Civil servants are called civil *servants* for a reason. They answer to us, not us to them. That “the government is our parent” attitude is why there’s almost no accountability in the Chinese government right now.

    b) Even if we go along with your analogy for the moment, I think we can safely say that it’s gone way beyond a tight grip. The way that the CCP has treated some of its people is downright child abuse.

    c) What the kids were doing those few months wasn’t questioning the government’s authority, but to protest against the widespread corruption, which has also led to deaths and suffering.

    d) People were killed that night. It’s still a crime for a “father” to kill his “child” in most societies these days, even if the kid was “acting up”, which I don’t believe the kids at TAM were.

    So if we are to give a truly accurate analogy of the situation, it’d be more like this: a father of a large family is, say, not feeding his daughter and is also beating her daily, and a son began to protest openly. The father, instead of listening to reason, killed his son and accused everyone who thought that killing someone, even one’s own child, is wrong, of interfering with his family affairs.

  85. FOARP Says:

    @Colin – Senseless killing of unarmed civilians (which is what, by all accounts, happened in TAM, despite stone throwing in some areas) is against the law in China – except when the government does it. The government does not even feel it has to explain or investigate how it happened, it is a closed topic. A black and white picture is not a lose/lose prospect, it is only lose/lose if people insist on doing the wrong thing for their own gain. This is not “China is always wrong” this is “senselessly killing unarmed people is always wrong”. You seem to presume that nobody here who is critical of the CCP knows anything of China, whereas they may very well have spent more time there than you have in the last ten years.

  86. William Huang Says:

    @ perspectivehere #1

    Good point.

    Years ago, there was a debate (Fire Line) on PBS proigram about whether US should grant China MFN (Most Favored Nation) status. The debate teams consisted of Bill Buckley Jr., Trent Lott, and Henry Kissinger (for) on one side and Asa Hutchinson, Gary Bauer, and Arianna Huffington (against) on the other side. Michael Kinsley was the moderator.

    It is interest to note that Bill Buckley Jr., the founding father of American Conservatism defended for China’s human rights improvement. In response to charge that China’s human rights progress was not enough, he compared history of US its own on how does it take to free the slaves and allow women to vote.

  87. colin Says:

    @little Alex 84

    “That’s, quite frankly, a completely inaccurate analogy.”

    This response perfectly captures exactly the inability to see and rationalize why they they did what they did. If it was so horrible, why didn’t the masses tear down the CCP? Everybody has a breaking point. The chinese did not even come close to that. In fact, many of the students saw the consequences and decided not to join. This is part of the “deal”.

    I think I made my analogy too easy to attack. My intention is that the severity off Japan’s invasion vs TAM is akin to an (almost) universally accepted crime vs an arguably justified or unjustified domestic family incident. China’s external image was tarnished externally, but what significance did it have internally?

    Again, I’m not saying TAM was right or wrong. I’m saying there must be proper appreciation of the world view of the other side, which the west typically does not expend to china. For intentional reasons, I might add. If TAM was as horrible as as you claim in your world view, and if your world view is universal, why didn’t every individual chinese do what you would have done? Get a pitch fork and march on beijing.(and no, the chinese are not brainwashed-at least not most. If anything, they are rational.).

    The continued damning of china over TAM is a symptom of the extreme incompatibilities between the two worldviews that will never be bridged – because there is no fundamental understanding. (I may add a point that the powers that be who hold the reigns of diplomacy in the west knows this and knows how to properly wield this tool for other agendas).

    @FOARP 85

    “Senseless killing of unarmed civilians (which is what, by all accounts, happened in TAM, despite stone throwing in some areas) is against the law in China”

    Again, no appreciation of the whys and whats involved. While many CCP members are corrupt at the highest levels, do you not think they still each have a fundamental sense of improving and progressing china forward? They are rational. Maybe they overreacted, – or UNDERREACTED as Freeman says, but your attribution of “Senseless killing” to the CCP has no value in progressing the issue. Surely, the CCP saw some sense in it, cause they did it. You comment complete ignores this side of the equation, and thus, can never push towards a better understanding and resolution of the issue.

  88. FOARP Says:

    “Surely, the CCP saw some sense in it, cause they did it. You comment complete ignores this side of the equation, and thus, can never push towards a better understanding and resolution of the issue.”

    I do not ignore the side of the equation whereby corrupt dictators murder their opponents so as to remain in power – and this is what you are talking about. The protesters were not terminally ill patients lying in some ward awaiting euthanasia from a kind CCP doctor, they were killed because they threatened the rule of a corrupt dictatorship – no ifs, no buts.

  89. colin Says:

    @88

    “I do not ignore the side of the equation whereby corrupt dictators murder their opponents so as to remain in power – and this is what you are talking about. The protesters were not terminally ill patients lying in some ward awaiting euthanasia from a kind CCP doctor, they were killed because they threatened the rule of a corrupt dictatorship – no ifs, no buts.”

    Again, shows exactly my point how much of the west sees it as purely black and white, and no progress will ever by made by those who say nothing but condemnation.

    I’ve read more of Freeman, and he seems to be a realist who can understand the other side. So maybe progress can be made.

  90. little Alex Says:

    @87
    “This response perfectly captures exactly the inability to see and rationalize why they they did what they did.”

    I think you’ve mistaken disagreement and condemnation for inability. I understood why they thought they needed to do it; I just find it unforgivable nonetheless. Just like I understood perfectly why, say, the top management in the milk industry thought they needed to add melanie to the milk; that doesn’t mean I don’t find what they did abhorrent.

    “If it was so horrible, why didn’t the masses tear down the CCP?”

    You’ve got to be kidding me. Didn’t the CCP just demonstrated at that time what it’d do if the masses did in fact try to tear it down?

  91. colin Says:

    “top management in the milk industry thought they needed to add melanie to the milk; that doesn’t mean I don’t find what they did abhorrent”

    I don’t think this is an apt analogy. The victims of the melanie were true innocents-babies. The TAM protestors were not. They knew what they were doing. There were other students who knew as well, and saw the consequences and stayed away. The protestors wanted to push the envelope as far as they could. They pushed it too far and got smacked.

    “You’ve got to be kidding me. Didn’t the CCP just demonstrated at that time what it’d do if the masses did in fact try to tear it down?”

    My general point is that everyone has a breaking point. Make things bad enough and anyone will rise up. TAM clearly was not even close to this threshold. 6/4 doesn’t figure that much into the lives of the average folk in china. They’re more concerned with living day to day.

  92. neutrino Says:

    @Sophie 40 and SKC 41

    “I don’t think China is ready to talk about TAM yet.” – I wonder about that. Certainly, the CCP may be in no mood to have that conversation. But you, Oli, and BXBQ have, all in this one thread on this one blog. So at least some CHinese who are free to do so seem ready and willing to have that conversation. Makes me wonder how many within China would feel the same way, if given the opportunity.
    _________________________________________________________________________

    I think SKC has a strong point here.
    Well, personally I think it’s certain members of the CCP leadership who are paranoid, and the rest are either uncertain or uninterested. As for the rest of the population, people are more than ready, just as SKC pointed out. To suggest the majority of the Chinese population who are interested are not ready to talk about TAM is condescending, IMHO. I think what China needs to do is to continue to foster a civil society, NGOs and strengthen institutions that can prevent disastrous fallout in the unlikely scenario that could follow the revaluation of the 1989 movement.
    I’ve met Chinese people (I myself had to go through one year mandatory military training as a result of the 1989 movement) from many social ranks, and we never would suggest among ourselves that China is not ready to talk about what has happened. Curiously, enough of us would feel the need to tell non-Chinese that “we” are not ready, as if sky would fall if that happens. Come on, the only one who would get hurt is a few senior leaders — and that might not even necessarily happen — after all, I think people would accept and honest reevaluation and some sincere apology, and move on. History is never pretty, but avoiding/hiding it is uglier. The day we do that, is the day we Chinese people achieved a true Great Leap Forward.

  93. little Alex Says:

    @91
    “The TAM protestors were not. They knew what they were doing. There were other students who knew as well, and saw the consequences and stayed away.”

    Um, some of the student leaders might know what the consequences were, but there’s no way of even finding out whether all of the protesters knew the consequences. In fact, I’d assume not, as many were students from other areas and general laborers. It was, by all accounts, a pretty chaotic environment.

    “The protestors wanted to push the envelope as far as they could. They pushed it too far and got smacked.”

    And your point might be a lot more arguable if all the government did was use tranquilizer/riot guns or throw the students into jail, etc. But again, they sic the army, with its machine guns and tanks, on unarmed civilians. And that’s just wrong, no matter how you spin it. And don’t forget, even the Beijing PLA troops refused to follow the government’s orders. So obviously even they thought the government was being too harsh.

    “My general point is that everyone has a breaking point. Make things bad enough and anyone will rise up. TAM clearly was not even close to this threshold. 6/4 doesn’t figure that much into the lives of the average folk in china. They’re more concerned with living day to day.”

    And I’d say that you’re being disingenuous. The TAM protest itself was the demonstration that things did get that bad. There were protests in other parts of the country as well, and students were coming from all over the country to Beijing. People were indeed, like you said, marching to Beijing. And everyone, including the average folk, were in support of the students back then.

  94. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Colin #83:
    “human rights/taiwan/tibet/chinese working conditions/etc, are just lip service used as points of leverage to put china in a weakened position for diplomacy.” – you seem to appreciate Mr. Freeman’s POV. So you might want to reconcile your statement with the last paragraph that DJ posted, quoting Freeman: “The Chinese, it must be said, are particularly bad at this kind of analysis. The majority of Chinese appear to believe, for example, that public reaction here to the recent race riots by Tibetans and to unrest among other Chinese minorities proves the existence of a plan by the United States and its western allies to divide, dismember, weaken, and humiliate China.” You seem to be doing what many Chinese do; but don’t fret, for you’re clearly not alone.

    As for your strong head of household analogy to the TAM incident, yes, the head of household can dole out discipline, but when he crosses the line, society steps in. So if the Daddy-knows-best CCP crossed the line at TAM, who can/should step in at that point? You seem to suggest that, if Chinese society felt the CCP had crossed the line, Chinese society would have stepped in. That’s a nice rosy and romantic vision. But if you were CHinese society, and you just saw what the PLA did to the protesters at TAM, do you think you would be lining up for your turn?

    As for incomprehensible thoughts, that would seem to encompass most in your sphere.

    You seem to have difficulty grasping the difference between someone not understanding your point, and simply disagreeing with you. Don’t flatter yourself. Your arguments (the odd time you’ve come up with one) are not so complex as to defy understanding. Bear in mind that someone can completely and thoroughly understand what you’re saying, and completely, thoroughly, and utterly disagree with every last bit of it. If you need an example, I will happily serve as exhibit A.

  95. Oli Says:

    @Raj

    Actually, I’ve at least on three occasions pointed out why I think you a fool, once to SKC and twice to you personally. To ask a fourth time (groan! smack forehead!) simply proves to me that you are even more of a fool than I previously thought. Consequently, it is no use for you to keep on asking “tell me, tell, me” when you don’t even bother to read or more importantly to “think” about why I thought your comments and “thought process” are that of an ignoramus.

    @ Little Alex et al

    Little Alex, whatever could possibly give you the impression that I don’t like raj!? Can’t you see that I’m actually just bubbling over with looove for all mankind? Sarcastic flippancy aside, I actually don’t know raj well enough for me to even bother to dislike him. He’s a fool simply because his comments and his thinking therein reveal him for the fool that he is to me.

    A semi-intelligent person would read Freeman’s analysis, think about it, then consider how it gels with popular “conception/misconception” and his own perception and understanding of China and the events surrounding TAM, or any other issues for that matter. A fool is the person who reads it, then assign some ulterior motives/reasons to the analysis without basis in order to dismiss it simply because it fails to conform to his own Weltanshaung, irrespective of subsequent testimonies from people who witnessed the events.

  96. Oli Says:

    @BMY #45 et al

    You raised the issue that perhaps something else could have been done to resolve TAM. My simple question to you then is what?

    I tried to dissuade my girlfriend from joining the students because I saw that the options for a peaceful resolution were dwindling by the day. The Beijing police tried to talk to the students, it didn’t work, the teachers and the parents of the students tried, it didn’t work, Zhao Ziyang and Wen Jiabao tried to talk the students, it didn’t work. Ultimately, do you think the older party members who fought, bled and survived the War with Japan, then went on to fight the Civil War and survived the CR are going to allow a bunch of snot-nosed kids to blackmail and dictate to them national policies? Not a chance even if hell freezes over.

    Frankly, and in this I agreed with Freeman, retrospectively I am surprised that it took over a month before the final clampdown took place. Retrospectively, the choices appear to be between the final act of 6/4 or running street battles in China’s cities between rival PLA units and between city dwellers and farmers, culminating in another civil war.

    Unlike many of my peers, I’m only more able to talk about it because when I saw what was happening I remembered my ancestors’ words when they witnessed the end of their Qing empire, the civil war and the CR, which made me cynical and suspicious of the whole demonstration. My ancestors’ words were basically in the vein of “a pox on both their houses”. They then left Beijing with their family of almost a hundred people, including family servants who adopted our surname, for one of the furthermost corner of China just before the last days of the Empire.

  97. Oli Says:

    On History

    Many here raised the issue of whether China ought to discuss TAM or not and accused China of hypocrisy vis-à-vis Japan’s own treatment of history.

    On the issue of discussing TAM, what many in the West simply don’t understand is that this is often a matter of cultural differences in the way China or even Japan deal with uncomfortable historical issues and the reasons are manifold. Firstly, people in Asia do not accept the benefit of going on public television shows with Jesse or Raphael in their names to publicly laid bare their pain as a form of public entertainment.

    What we do is to first internalise, digest and come to terms with the issues ourselves however long it takes and any amount of pushing and urging from the West are really counterproductive and may even provoke a backlash. To the East, the West opts for the impatient quick fixes, while the East is looking for a more permanent consensual resolution or simply just to look to time to heal all wounds. Whether it’s “healthy” or not is relative to each reader’s Eastern or Western Weltanshaung.

    Another reason why many are unwilling to discuss it is because many regarded ourselves as having played a part in TAM/CR and therefore we all view ourselves as having been partly responsible for the outcome and therefore we all bare the burden. Call it survivors’ guilt if you will.

    However, this in no way means that the Chinese people never discuss it privately among ourselves, it simply means that we are unwilling to discuss it with “outsiders”, in the same vein that we see no advantage in publicising it. Unlike in Japan, this has less to do with shame, but rather more often to do with “ownership” in that we were participants, we hold ourselves responsible and accountable. And therefore many neither need nor want sanctimonious ill-informed outsiders, however “well intentioned”, telling us what we should or should not do. So butt out. This is not a value judgement of which approach is better or worse, but simply how many Chinese people feel.

    This brings us to Japan’s treatment of its wartime history. From China’s perspective, Japan’s treatment of its indigenous Ainu people is entirely a matter between the Japanese people, its government and the Ainus, it has nothing to do with China unless Japan wishes to criticise China on its treatment of its minorities.

    However, should Japan seek to alter the history of its wars with China or any other countries then China or these other countries have every right to object for that history is not Japan’s alone to alter. The moment Japan invaded China through Korea; Japan has lost all exclusivity to its wartime history for it has now become a shared memory.

    To allow Japan to universally alter its wartime history is not only akin to allowing Japan to cowardly absolve itself of its responsibilities, but we then also participate in the denigration of the memories of the victims. From Nanjing to Pearl Harbour, from the railroads of Burma to the memories of enslaved European and Asian comfort women and beyond, we would have made the victims suffer twice over.

    China and many Asian countries can accept Japan not wanting to discuss its wartime history, but it simply and rightly will not allow Japan to alter that shared history either.

  98. Raj Says:

    Yes, Oli, I’m sure you think you’ve pointed out why I’m a “fool”. However, all you did was complain that I didn’t understand about China blaa-blaa-blaa, that my comments represented “conventional wisdom”, etc. That’s not an explanation, it’s a baseless rant.

    Now would you like to deny some of the things I’ve said openly, rather than avoid committing yourself to saying something specific that you can be pinned down on? Like, for example, that people were shot after the Square was cleared? If you don’t then it’s quite clear you want to attack me and not what I said – otherwise you would say “Raj, you’re such a fool for saying x,y,z”.

    I actually don’t know raj well enough for me to even bother to dislike him.

    Like that would stop anyone here disliking another person!

    A fool is the person who reads it, then assign some ulterior motives/reasons to the analysis without basis in order to dismiss it simply because it fails to conform to his own Weltanshaung, irrespective of subsequent testimonies from people who witnessed the events.

    Quite possibly, yet I’m not sure who here has assigned an ulterior motive to anything Freeman said. Perhaps you’d like to quote the individual that did that here? Of course, I’m sure you don’t mean me because there’s nothing in my comment related to what Freeman said (#9) that suggests I believe there are any “ulterior motives/reasons” behind his analysis.

    Ultimately, do you think the older party members who fought, bled and survived the War with Japan, then went on to fight the Civil War and survived the CR are going to allow a bunch of snot-nosed kids to blackmail and dictate to them national policies? Not a chance even if hell freezes over.

    Are you talking about a few old men who probably had trouble remembering what day of the week it was, or the wider generation? I doubt that older Chinese would have caused widespread trouble because of anti-corruption demands – they would have sympathised because they themselves would have taken similar action had they been young. The older politicians would have kicked up a fuss inside the party, but I doubt they could have started some sort of Civil War. That’s why they went to Deng because he was the only one who could help them.

    Frankly, and in this I agreed with Freeman, retrospectively I am surprised that it took over a month before the final clampdown took place.

    Which period is this? Are you talking about the time before or after Zhao was removed from office? Beforehand, is it so surprising that there was disagreement inside the Politburo about what to do? It was after he left that martial law was declared. Although the crackdown didn’t occur immediately, it was no more than two weeks after the declaration of martial law.

    I don’t know the specifics of troops details, but I remember reading somewhere that hardened troops had to be brought up to deal with the matter because the local regiments weren’t co-operating. This may explain in part the delay between the declaration of ml and the troops going in.

    To the East, the West opts for the impatient quick fixes, while the East is looking for a more permanent consensual resolution or simply just to look to time to heal all wounds.

    How would such a resolution occur in regards to the Tiananmen protests? It sounds very interesting.

    However, whether it can happen or not, it won’t take place until the government takes the leash off. Chinese people won’t make a decision that they are ready to discuss it, the politicians will decide when China is ready to have a full, open discussion.

    In contrast, the “Western” approach of using truth-and-reconciliation committees/public inquiries is anything but an impatient quick fix. It is grasping the nettle by the hand and getting down to look into the issues. That doesn’t mean such investigations are perfect, but they can be very productive.

    On the matter of letting time heal wounds, why is that approach never used when it is in relation to foreign aggression towards China? The Opium Wars, Sino-Japanese war, lots of matters involving foreigners are discussed openly.

    And therefore many neither need nor want sanctimonious ill-informed outsiders, however “well intentioned”, telling us what we should or should not do. So butt out. This is not a value judgement of which approach is better or worse, but simply how many Chinese people feel.

    That may be the case, but it is also true that us foreigners have a right to say that with a matter that is not a purely academic one, where people are treated badly today because they do want to discuss the matter, China should act differently.

    China and many Asian countries can accept Japan not wanting to discuss its wartime history, but it simply and rightly will not allow Japan to alter that shared history either.

    I would have to disagree with the first part of that statement. I have read endless complaints from Chinese people that Japan does not discuss its wartime history enough, not just how it discusses/refers to it.

  99. Wahaha Says:

    I have read endless complaints from Chinese people that Japan does not discuss its wartime history enough…

    Raj, keep spewing your BS,

    Chinese people complain Japan refused to accept their commiting crimes in WWII, Chinese never ask Japanese to talk about invading China on their dinner tables.

    Oil is 100% right about you.

    and I was right about you too, you have Indian blood in your vein.

  100. Oli Says:

    Seriously, Raj, listen to yourself!.

    Its now obvious that you are so busy spewing your spigot that you don’t even listen to yourself talk, much less anybody else! My apologies, but I’m sooo laughing my head off here, for you my friend are a truly unique specimen of a person caught in a world created by his own circular logic and conviction! Enjoy and be happy!

    I rest my case with you, LOL!

    🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

  101. Raj Says:

    Oli, I’m so glad that you’ve made it clear you can’t respond to my posts without resorting to schoolyard tactics. I was concerned that you might come up with a detailed rebuttal that would shame me, but you’ve just repeated your unsubstantiated complaint that I somehow don’t get the picture.

    Thanks again. 😉

  102. little Alex Says:

    @52
    “The “how” of it—begin with direct votes for township chiefs?”

    I hear that they are already doing that in some villages. Don’t know how corruption free they are, but well.

  103. little Alex Says:

    @62
    “Set up their version of a Warren Commission, write a report, classify the details for another 50 years. Then give a specific release date by which time all the principals should be long dead.”

    Depends on who’s writing that history, no? We all know what the emperor does when a new dynasty begins.

  104. little Alex Says:

    @Wahaha
    “I was right about you too, you have Indian blood in your vein.”

    I find Raj’s comparison of TAM to the Japanese war crimes inaccurate as well, but this shows you to be no less a fool than he is, if he indeed is one.

  105. Oli Says:

    @Wahaha

    Actually, Wahaha its quite irrelevant whether raj is Indian or not. What matters is what he says.

    In fact, one my best friend is Indian. He introduced me to the delights of mango lassi, gulab jamuns, dosa and milky spiced masala chai with cardamon and cloves and Indian movies such as Mother India and Ashoka or great Indian stories such as the Ramayana and Mahabharata, all of which I would highly recommend. Although to many Chinese palates the spices could be an acquired taste because of the unfamiliar useage.

    Consequently, do not judge people by who or what they are, instead listen and see what they say or do.

  106. little Alex Says:

    @96
    “You raised the issue that perhaps something else could have been done to resolve TAM. My simple question to you then is what?”

    Oh, I don’t know, what other countries usually use on situations like these. The riot police, for example, water hoses, or even just tranquilizer guns or plastic bullets, instead of tanks and real bullets, if you have to use the army. There are ways to minimize the damage and still forcibly remove the protesters.

    “Ultimately, do you think the older party members who fought, bled and survived the War with Japan, then went on to fight the Civil War and survived the CR are going to allow a bunch of snot-nosed kids to blackmail and dictate to them national policies? Not a chance even if hell freezes over.”

    Come on, we both know that by the end of it, it wasn’t just the students but a lot of various other groups as well. And yeah, some teachers and workers tried to get the protesters to leave, many more joined the protest. And weren’t “snot-nosed kids” the ones who started the May Fourth Movement? The only reason those students were praised but these were condemned is because history was written by the victors.

    Part of the protesters’ demand was for the government to take back their accusation that the protesters were evil plotters who wanted civil unrest, but the hardliners would rather kill a bunch of unarmed civilians than lose face. As to national policy, I don’t know about more freedom and democracy — though I’m sure there are quite a number of party members who agreed with the protesters in principle, just not their methods — but I wasn’t aware that corruption has become a national policy. It might as well be, the way things are, but I digress.

  107. Oli Says:

    @Little Alex

    My, you either have quite an imagination or have seen waaay too many movies. I wonder if you ever had military training or ever seen/used a tranquilizer dart or gun. Do you know why no riot police of any nation has ever delpoyed tranquilizers against mass demonstration and therefore do not keep them in their arsenal? Do you even know what goes into the training and preparation before the use of a tranquilizer gun? Its ideal mode and circumstance of deployment?

    As far as I know the Beijing Police then did not have plastic bullets or water cannon, pepper spray or gas cannisters. The Beijing Police then only had guns, bamboo shields and batons and were already unwilling to move against the students for never before were there any spontaneous anti-government student demonstration since the inception of the PRC. The last mass anti-government student government as you said was the May-Fourth and are you seriously comparing the two? How far exactly do you want to stretch that comaprison before you loose all credibility?

  108. perspectivehere Says:

    @SKC #4

    You’ve pointed out Freeman’s quote:

    “The Chinese, it must be said, are particularly bad at this kind of analysis. The majority of Chinese appear to believe, for example, that public reaction here to the recent race riots by Tibetans and to unrest among other Chinese minorities proves the existence of a plan by the United States and its western allies to divide, dismember, weaken, and humiliate China.”

    And then you appeared to ridicule those who believe “the existence of a plan by the United States and its western allies to divide, dismember, weaken, and humiliate China”.

    But you don’t stop to consider Freeman’s previous sentence that precedes this quote:

    “Whatever the reason for it, the absence of a unifying concept has left us and everybody else to figure out for ourselves what the United States is actually trying to do with or to China.”

    The “absence of a unifying concept” Freeman is talking about is the fact that the U.S. policy makers cannot agree among themselves whether to treat China as an enemy or not. And so it adopts very schizophrenic, “hot and cold” behavior towards China that leaves Chinese (and Americans and people around the world) wondering why the U.S. can be so crazy.

    There is a very strong faction in American government and politics (which is commonly identified as “neocons” but there are other names for them – Charles Liu in another post referred to them as the “Blue Team”) which would like nothing better than to “divide, dismember, weaken, and humiliate China”. They regard China as the enemy. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blue_team

    See “The “War Party’s” China Hands, the Blue Team”
    http://www.againstbombing.org/chinahands.htm

    Here is a quote:

    “One prominent China scholar whose views are embraced by the Blue
    Team is Arthur Waldron, a historian at the University of Pennsylvania.
    While many Sinologists favor constructive relations with China’s leadership, Waldron bluntly asserts that American interests would be better served if China’s communist leaders were displaced. “I worry that if China continues on its current trend, which is repressing at home and building up . . .armaments, that becomes very dangerous. I agree with people who think regime change is key to a really stable peace,” he said.”

    There is also another strong faction in the U.S. that regards China as a useful business opportunity – they can make money with China, and they believe that as China’s economic and cultural ties with the U.S. strengthen, that China will evolve into a reliable member of the global community, that will bring prosperity to its own citizens and to those of the U.S. (and other nations).

    “Tibet envoy: Friends of Tibet in Congress pressed for the appointment of a U.S. ambassador to Tibet, even though the United States considers the region part of China. To avoid passage of the bill, the administration named a special envoy.”

    Most U.S. corporates (see the membership of the U.S. China Business Council) fall into this group. See http://www.uschina.org/member_companies.html
    The “business of America is business” as they say. As a group, these represent the majority of Americans as far as the productive sector of the U.S. economy is concerned. And so I believe they hold the stronger hand. But it is a yin-yang tug and pull between these two powerful factions that will drive American policy.

    The view I have stated here is not a “partisan” or “conspiratorial” view.
    This “schizophrenia” is well-known as the “congagement” policy which was advocated by a Rand Corporation (a relatively well-respected think tank) study in 1999.

    See “Sweet and Sour: Recipe for a new China Policy” by Zalmay M. Khalilzad (who served in the [first] Bush administration as assistant deputy undersecretary of defense for policy planning.)
    http://www.rand.org/publications/randreview/issues/rr.winter.00/sweet.html

    ****BEGIN QUOTE******

    “The central question in the current debate is whether the United States should abandon or modify its strategy of engagement. The Clinton administration believes that engagement has moderated Chinese behavior on international security issues, increased opportunities for trade and investment, and improved the situation in China itself. Congressional leaders, in contrast, have argued that Chinese efforts to acquire sensitive U.S. military technology, the absence of satisfactory progress on Beijing’s human rights record, the continued Chinese sale of missiles and nuclear-weapons-related technology to other states, and the increased number of Chinese missiles deployed across the Taiwan Strait demonstrate that the engagement strategy has failed.

    Some on Capitol Hill believe that China is destined to become a major threat to the United States. Thus, they say, the goal of U.S. strategy in Asia should be to constrain the growth of Chinese power, both economic and military, and to oppose Chinese policies within its own region. In effect, these observers imply that we must move from engagement to containment.

    But neither engagement nor containment is adequate for dealing with China, a growing power whose future remains highly uncertain. Engagement rests on the hope that economic, political, and military connections will either transform China into a cooperative democracy or, at minimum, produce convergence on some key interests. This is a supposition. In the meantime, it is a fact that U.S. engagement is helping China develop economically and militarily. Thus, should China become hostile, our current mode of engagement will merely have made China into a potentially more threatening adversary. But shifting to containment is equally troublesome. Such a strategy presupposes that China will ultimately become hostile, giving short shrift to the possibility that Sino-U.S. relations could evolve in a more cooperative direction. Containment could become a self-fulfilling prophecy, setting the stage for a confrontation where none existed.

    Neither engagement nor containment balances the two key U.S. objectives, which should be to encourage China to become more democratic and cooperative while at the same time protecting U.S. interests in case China becomes more hostile. The next administration should transcend both containment and engagement and should embrace neither. Instead, it should adopt a new, blended strategy, which could be called “congagement.”

    ****END QUOTE******

    I grew up with lots of people who speak about the right and duty of the U.S. to “nuke China” just as easily as candidates like John McCain talk about “bomb Iran”.

    Personally, I think the neocons are oftentimes paranoid idiots who may well be leading America to ruin while enriching themselves and their buddies in the military industrial complex, but that’s my problem as an American voter to deal with. (Oh I almost forgot to mention anyone who is killed, disappeared or tortured as a result of their policies, but that’s just “collateral damage” to serve the greater good as “protector of the free world” and we as Americans have the almost divine right not to worry too much about that – we are “God’s country” after all).

    Then again I could be wrong — most people don’t believe in tearing down the wall between one’s own house and a neighbor’s house because they are friends — “good fences make good neighbors” – so I think many Americans (even if they don’t agree with the Blue Team’s most wild claims) don’t mind if they pursue their agenda to a certain degree, as long as they don’t go too far – like a Bay of Pigs operation or pushing to created a causus belli.

    The Blue Team agenda drives a lot of the alarmist rhetoric we find in the media towards China.

    I think many Chinese are reacting as a normal person would when they see and hear some of the stuff that comes out of the Blue Team towards China. When they see America, they see a kind of split-personality cowboy/salesman with a big gun in one hand and a McDonalds sign in another. What should they make of that? Is it not unreasonable to expect that they might look (and fear) the big gun as they go into the McDonalds to eat?

    I think some of the anger and frustration on the Chinese side that you see on this blog arises from a denial of many Americans (and even Canadians, surprisingly enough) of the significance of the big gun. “What big gun? Why should you be afraid of that? I won’t use it unless you do something wrong, so why should you be afraid?”

  109. FOARP Says:

    @Oli –

    “The Beijing Police then only had guns, bamboo shields and batons and were already unwilling to move against the students for never before were there any spontaneous anti-government student demonstration since the inception of the PRC.”

    Look up the Tiananmen protest after the death of Zhou Enlai – students, ordinary citizens both gathered in Tiananmen, the government used the army (not police) to clear the square. Tear gas/rubber bullets/etc. were used in Tibet in 1989, so they would have been available in Beijing had the government wanted to use them – they had weeks to prepare. You’re right to point out that talk of tranquilising darts as a less fatal way of clearing the square is simply nonsense – think of the Russian security force’s use of ‘tranquilising gas’ in the Nord Ost theatre siege.

  110. Old Tales Retold Says:

    @ little Alex #102,

    My understanding is that there have been experiments with directly electing township officials, most notably in a township belonging to Chongqing, but that the experiments haven’t really led anywhere.

    The problem is that directly electing a township head is actually unconstitutional, inasmuch as the People’s Congress at the township level is given that task. So, with the exception of the Buyun election in Yunnan (which was not, apparently, a planned experiment with support from the center), all the votes so far have followed a funny path, whereby voters first choose a candidate and the People’s Congress then votes on the voters’ choice (a little like the electoral college in the U.S., come to think of it).

    Some have proposed doing away with townships altogether, as they seem to mostly soak up money and meddle in village affairs. I guess I’d be cool with that, provided there were real elections then at the county level. But then, I don’t know enough of the different arguments. What’s your perspective on all this?

  111. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Oli #97:
    nice post. I don’t agree with it entirely (does that surprise you?), not so much for what you have to say, but in this case, a quibble with the reasoning.

    If “cultural differences in the way China or even Japan deal with uncomfortable historical issues” is the justification for China not openly discussing TAM, then is there really a distinction between domestic and international “uncomfortable historical issues”?
    If not, then why is it unreasonable for Japan to avoid discussion of her WW2 atrocities internally? Japan doesn’t have exclusivity of history the world over. BUt maybe she should have exclusivity of history in Japan. She might be changing textbooks in Japan; but she’s not changing textbooks in China. She’s not changing your share of wartime history; she’s changing her share. And surely, she can do what she wants with her share, no? So if you apply that principle in order to give China a pass, then Japan gets one too.
    You might say: hey, that’s different. Japan is ALTERING history. But I would say that denying the occurrence of an event is also altering history.
    So to me, if you want to justify China not talking about TAM, then you should lay off the Japanese as well.

    Of course, the whole reason I’m going on about that is because I don’t think Japan should get off the hook. Her people need to know the errors of their ancestors, and what atrocities can result from the commission of such errors. To learn from them is the only way to avoid repeating them.
    And likewise, Chinese people need to learn from TAM. And as you suggest, they may conclude that the buildup to 6/4 made 6/4 inevitable. Or they may conclude something else (that’s where my vote would go…on the “something else”). And assuming that most would agree that 6/4 wasn’t a good outcome, learning the reasons why is a good way to prevent another one.

    “many neither need nor want sanctimonious ill-informed outsiders, however “well intentioned”, telling us what we should or should not do. So butt out.” – You may not need it. You may not want it. Personally, I have an evolved mechanism for dealing with things I neither need nor want. And I’m also a strong believer in worrying about something over which I have control, and not sweating the rest. Your point is a common one among some Chinese folk. And possibly owing to my personally philosophy, I have no idea why you guys have such problem with it. Cuz I don’t think the criticism is going to go away unless or until significant changes take shape.

  112. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To PerspectiveHere:
    “the absence of a unifying concept” to me means there’s no plan; if there’s no accepted plan, I can’t see why people would worry about a “plan to weaken, humiliate etc CHina”. You’re worrying about a plan that doesn’t exist. Now, you have referenced some “neocons” and extreme right-wingers who might like to hatch such a plan, and perhaps even to implement it. You also have acquaintances who want to “nuke China”. But really, are those mainstream priorities of Americans? You can’t take the views of some wingnuts as the foundation for legitimate concern. Who in their right minds would want to launch a nuclear attack on China when the same medicine will be coming back the other way?

    Yes, the US has a big gun. And it’s kinda busy right now (both militarily and economically). And CHina isn’t exactly shooting blanks either (militarily or economically). So if the US hasn’t given China a real reason to worry, and if China can hold her own in any event, then why the constant consternation and hand-wringing?

  113. Sophie Says:

    This article clarified some of the myths surrounding this historic event.

    (Quote)
    (according to Reuters correspondent Graham Earnshaw) “I was probably the only foreigner who saw the clearing of the square from the square itself.”

    Earnshaw confirms that most of the students had left peacefully much earlier and that the remaining few hundred were persuaded by the troops to do likewise.

    His account is confirmed by Xiaoping Li, a former China dissident, now resident in Canada, writing recently in Asia Sentinel and quoting Taiwan-born Hou Dejian who had been on a hunger strike on the square to show solidarity with the students: “Some people said 200 died in the square and others claimed that as many as 2,000 died. There were also stories of tanks running over students who were trying to leave. I have to say I did not see any of that. I was in the square until 6:30 in the morning.”

    for full article, go to
    http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/eo20080721gc.html

  114. little Alex Says:

    @113
    There are eyewitness accounts saying that tanks did run over students, etc. So it’s not just a myth that sprang out of nowhere.

    As to how accurate those accounts were, I don’t know, but I have been to the square and it is pretty huge. And I think it’s been said many times by now that most of the killings weren’t at the square itself, but while people are leaving. Could it be that the people who didn’t see anything were simply too far away?

  115. little Alex Says:

    @107
    No, I haven’t had any military training, nor do I plan to ever undergo military training. However, that isn’t the point, isn’t it? You pretended that the only solution was to use tanks and real bullets; I’m just saying that there are other viable options. Just because one of my suggestions wouldn’t have worked doesn’t mean the other suggestions wouldn’t have worked or that the people in charge couldn’t have come up with better solutions. They just didn’t even try. In fact, from the way you characterized them, they were probably trying to make an example of the protesters.

    “The last mass anti-government student government as you said was the May-Fourth and are you seriously comparing the two? How far exactly do you want to stretch that comaprison before you loose all credibility?”

    …”lose credibility”, not “loose”. A common mistake. You seem be quite dismissive of student protesters and other youngsters; I’m simply pointing out that in the modern era, students aren’t the good-for-nothing whiners that you seem to characterize them as, but that they can legitimately represent the people’s wishes, oftentimes more so than the government can, when it’s not a democracy. And again, not just students at TAM during those few weeks, and it’s unfair (not to mention inaccurate) to characterize them simply as anti-government, especially when it started as a mourning demonstration for one of the late party members.

  116. Charles Liu Says:

    Little Alex @ 114 – in Addition to Earnshaw, Jaw Mathews at Columbia Journal Review also wrote a TAM retrospective:

    “as far as can be determined from the available evidence, no one died that night in Tiananmen Square”

    SKC @ 112, “You’re worrying about a plan that doesn’t exist” – such plan did exist pre-9/11:

    “Bush administration neoconservatives who leap-frogged Washington’s foreign policy establishment to topple Saddam Hussein nearly pulled off a similar coup in U.S.-China relations—creating the potential of a nuclear war over Taiwan”

  117. Charles Liu Says:

    Sophie @ 113, here’s a youtube clip of the documentary “Tiananmen Square Protest” where Hou Dejian contradicted Chai Ling’s claim to HK media that 200-2000 students were killed:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=igsW5yQ6428

    (Movie clip time:5:57)
    HDJ: “Many people say that at Tiananmen square about 2,000 were shot or perhaps several hundred were shot. On the square were tanks that crushed people and students etc. I would like to stress that I did not witness this.

    I don’t know where the other people witness this. I was still there until 6:30, and I did not witness this. I kept thinking: Is it necessary for us to use lies to fight the lies of our enemy? Are the facts itself not strong enough? If we use lies to attack our enemies that use lies, that will only satisfy our moment of anger. But this is very dangerous, because when your lies are exposed, from then on, you will have no power against your enemy.”

  118. Raj Says:

    Sophie (113)

    Thank you for posting the article, though I I at least read that when it came out.

    I think the question of whether people were killed in the Square itself or during the actual clearance of it is a red-herring. The key matter is how the overall security operation was conducted. Whether or not the term “massacre” should be attributed to any part of it, that civilians were injured and killed means that it should be a subject that can be openly discussed and researched in China.

  119. Ted Says:

    @perspectivehere #108:

    “I think some of the anger and frustration on the Chinese side that you see on this blog arises from a denial of many Americans (and even Canadians, surprisingly enough) of the significance of the big gun. “What big gun? Why should you be afraid of that? I won’t use it unless you do something wrong, so why should you be afraid?””

    LOL. that reminded me of Rumsfeld’s Asia tour a while back when he asked China something along the lines of “Why all this new military spending? Let’s not upset the balance here… it’s a good balance… no need to worry…”

    … here it is “Since no nation threatens China, one must wonder: Why this growing investment? Why these continuing large and expanding arms purchases?”

  120. pug_ster Says:

    http://thecable.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2009/03/10/freeman_speaks_out_on_his_exit

    Looks like Chas Freeman is going to withdraw his consideration to be the chair of the National Intelligence Council. Looks like this so called ‘think tank’ will still be run by a bunch of conservatives.

  121. Steve Says:

    @ pug_ster: I also read the news this morning but your link was a much more thorough account. His nomination was one of the few subjects virtually all of us on the blog have agreed on, so it is indeed unfortunate. Since President Obama isn’t a conservative, I would still expect the NIC to change its complexion to a more nuanced view in his administration. I believe, or at least I fervently wish that the days of the neocons are over.

  122. Raj Says:

    In Freeman’s statement, I don’t think he helped himself by blaming the “Israel lobby” for the controversy around his nomination. I don’t know the guy well, but even some quick cursory reading indicated that he has long complained about such an organisation/group of organisations and the “trouble” that they cause.

    When someone is accused of paranoia/feeding paranoia, it’s not a good idea if they point to the alleged boggeyman.

    I noted his comments about libellous statements and e-mail chains. He doesn’t need to go into e-mail chains, there are plenty of open articles about him. Is he going to sue?

  123. Ted Says:

    @ Raj: Based on Freeman’s statement I don’t think he was worried about offending anyone. After reading some of the things that were said about him I thought his comments were well within bounds. James Fallows has a few posts in the Atlantic as well.

  124. Oli Says:

    @ SKC 111

    When I’m with my Japanese friends I’ve never raised the subject with them. The only time it came up was when one of them felt the need to tell me that not all Japanese agree with Koizumi’s visits to Yasukuni. My reply was that I understood and that from most Chinese perspectives it is especially so from a sitting head of government whose duty it is to represent the country and government. He agreed, we left it at that and it was never brought up again. To this day we remain friends.

    A Jewish American friend of mine for a time couldn’t resist needling one of my German friends over WWII to such an extent that my German friend would refuse to join us if he knew that our Jewish American friend was also going to be there. Things came to head at a do which neither could avoid and where my German friend exploded after another remark. He yelled at the Jewish American friend that his family were Germans from the Baltic States and that his grandparents were imprisoned and died in the camps for being socialists. He stormed off and we never saw him again.

    So I leave readers to draw their own conclusions.

    SKC, as for learning from TAM, your approach appears to predicate on the supposition that there is only one way to learn from historical events. Yet are you willing to grant that there are perhaps other ways which people deal with issues with which you may not necessarily be familiar with or cannot empathise with perhaps because it is outside your experience or cultural matrix?

    As for your last two paragraphs, all I can say is that you’ve demonstrated a remarkable degree of empathy, not to mention cultural awareness and sensitivity. From personal experience I would highly recommend that you try doing some volunteer work with psychologically traumatised patients such as war veterans or accident victims to further hone those skills you’ve demonstrated by your comments in the last two paragraphs.

    I also believe you need to re-read what I said and re-consider your line of reasoning re your supposed “quibble” to avoid coming across a pedant.

  125. Oli Says:

    @ Little Alex 115

    Actually I did not “pretend” anything. I suggest you go back and re-read exactly what it is that I’ve said, ditto about trying other solutions.

    Secondly, as for my opinion of the students at the TAM, I suggest you again go back and re-read what I wrote.

    Thirdly, I believe you got my “anti-government demonstration” reference wrong, I suggest you go back and read it again.

    Fourthly, I don’t know what you were doing at the time or whether you were even born yet or not. I was a witness despite my resistance to joining the students irrespective of my girlfriend’s urging. Yet as a bystander neither was I immune to the mood or the atmosphere of the time. I remember very well the whole gamut of emotions I went through, the initial sadness at Hu’s death, the simmering anger, my sympathy with the students, the oscillation between euphoria, the swirling rumours, the fear and the uncertainties.

    I remember the students marching as I stood on the side. I remember my girlfriend joining them after our argument. I remember seeing the wounded being taken to the hospitals and the homes of retired doctors and nurses. I remember other people with negligible medical training trying to staunch wounds. I remember seeing my girlfriend again. I remember after seeing that she was ok I left without a word.

    Consequently, although you may have certain anger issues that you’ll have to deal with yourself, I would count it as a personal favour if you do not misrepresent what I said simply because you fail to read or understand what exactly it is that I wrote or what you merely think is my opinion of the events. This is my final post to you on the matter.

  126. little Alex Says:

    @116
    So the argument is that people didn’t die at the square, but outside it. I don’t believe I ever disagreed with that. As to Chai Ling, I probably wouldn’t believe her if she says the sky is blue.

    @125
    a) “Actually I did not “pretend” anything. I suggest you go back and re-read exactly what it is that I’ve said, ditto about trying other solutions.”

    I did go back and re-read it. You said that everyone tried to talk to the students, but none of that worked, so the government would, in the end, insist on forcibly removing those protesters. I said that yes, but if the government had taken back what they said about the protesters being evil plotters, people might have left the square (or at least I mean to say so); and even if the use of force is necessary, there are ways to minimize the damage. You asked what ways. I gave a few suggestions. You then tried to insult me re: the tranquilizer thing (a suggestion that admittedly showed some gaps of knowledge that I have), then you said:

    “As far as I know the Beijing Police then did not have plastic bullets or water cannon, pepper spray or gas cannisters. The Beijing Police then only had guns, bamboo shields and batons and were already unwilling to move against the students”

    To which FOARP has already responded — a response that you ignored.

    b) “Thirdly, I believe you got my “anti-government demonstration” reference wrong, I suggest you go back and read it again.”

    …I believe these were your words: “for never before were there any spontaneous anti-government student demonstration since the inception of the PRC.” Pray tell, what were you referring to if not the 1989 TAM demonstrations?

    c) “Secondly, as for my opinion of the students at the TAM, I suggest you again go back and re-read what I wrote.”

    I saw “snot-nosed kids” and jumped on that too quickly (and I stayed up all night the night before and mixed up you and colin). It probably made me needlessly antagonistic during some aspects of this discussion. I do apologize, on both counts.

    I was nine, btw, in 1989, and living in Hong Kong. Like every other Chinese person living outside mainland China, I was glued to the TV screen for those few weeks and the only things I remembered were the shock, fear and heartache.

  127. Charles liu Says:

    Freeman just quit his nomination over Jewish lobby objection of his Saudi tie

  128. Oli Says:

    @ Little Alex 126

    (Very looong sigh!) Please, I beg of you, I cannot stand it, it’s too painful, please, revise your English reading and comprehension… then re-read what I wrote (many disappointed head shakes and another long sigh!).

  129. Charles Liu Says:

    Little Alex @ 126 “So the argument is that people didn’t die at the square, but outside it.”

    Please read the CJR TAM retrospective. Those outside TAM battling the troops were not students. Jay Mathews made it clear in his article:

    “Journalists have to be precise about where it happened and who were its victims, or readers and viewers will never be able to understand what it meant.”

    Outside the TAM was essentially a mini-civil war, described by Gregory Clark:

    “the so-called massacre was in fact a mini civil war as irate Beijing citizens sought to stop initially unarmed soldiers sent to remove students who had been demonstrating freely in the square for weeks. When the soldiers finally reached the square there was no massacre. There were in fact almost no students.”

    The Chinese government has released casualty figure of 241, and it appears to be consistent with our own NSA intelligence:

    “Reports of death from the military assult on Tiananmen Square range from 180 to 500”

  130. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Oli #124:
    “as for learning from TAM, your approach appears to predicate on the supposition that there is only one way to learn from historical events.” – actually, no. There are many ways to skin a cat. My point is simply that, before you start into whatever procedure you choose to employ, you first need a cat. There probably are many ways to learn from TAM. But I think the most difficult way would be to first pretend that TAM never happened. Since you like to suggest that others re-read your posts, perhaps you should giv’er a go yourself. If you did, you’d realize that all I said was “Chinese people need to learn from TAM”; I never suggested which way they go about doing it.

    Too bad about your German friend. Maybe he’ll acquire a thicker skin in due time. At least that’s my hope.

    I read your post; and I intended mine. But your point is well-taken. Next time I’ll call a spade a spade. And in that spirit, I think I will continue to call it as I see it, and leave the cultural-sensitivity training opportunities to those who might more effectively practice it upon completion.

  131. little Alex Says:

    @Oli 128
    No, I pretty much stand by what I said in 126. And really, constant belittlement of those you disagree with isn’t actually an argument or even a conversation. Every time someone raises a point that you can’t tear down, you either ignore it (if it’s someone you do respect) or accuse the other person of not reading your posts carefully enough and then ridicule him/her. But that’s no skin off my hide, since it’s pretty clear by now that you aren’t interested in dialogue, despite your repeated accusations that it’s the other side that’s refusing to listen/read and learn.

    @Charles Liu 129
    I think you’re arguing against something that I didn’t say. If I recall correctly, I was one of the people who’ve been repeating that it wasn’t just students at the protests, but many Beijing residents as well. And that my anger at the government stem from the fact that hundreds of *unarmed civilians* were killed, regardless if they were students.

  132. Ted Says:

    @Oli:

    “However, this in no way means that the Chinese people never discuss it privately among ourselves, it simply means that we are unwilling to discuss it with “outsiders”, in the same vein that we see no advantage in publicizing it.”

    Publicizing it and open discussion are two separate things, you seem to be blurring the lines between the two. Back home I have a copy of a Congressional Commission from around 1968 relating instances of civil unrest and domestic terrorism around the US and the reaction of local police and the National Guard. The Commission details account after account of excessive force by the government against civilians and in the end concluded that vast social reforms were needed. I think it all but ended the involvement of the National Guard in the resolution of civil disturbances. All these conclusion were drawn within a few months of the incidents.

    I know plenty of Chinese who would disagree with your suggestion that open discussion of this and other issues is somehow un-Chinese, I think a better description might be that this is how things currently work. Now maybe you want to argue that China hasn’t reached a level of stability that allows it to hold such open discourse but as it stands, the country’s economic clout is growing at a rate that exceeds its ability to promote domestic political reform. I think herein lie the seeds of conflict and a legitimate source of concern for people in other countries. Criticism of its institutions and actions should be expected and met with rational discourse not dismissive condescension.

    @Miaka9383: I’m from a conservative part of the country and like you my American History classes basically stopped around WWII. I think my teachers didn’t feel the need to get into all the hippie garbage and racial problems that plagued the big cities (tongue in cheek), or as Oli suggested, maybe they just weren’t ready delve into the part they played. I for one, am happy that at least parts of my country were dissecting the problems as they cropped up.

  133. perspectivehere Says:

    @pug_ster #120
    @Steve #121

    When I read about the criticisms being expressed towards Chas Freeman, my first thought was the purge of the “China Hands” from the U.S. State Department in the 1950’s. The U.S. State Department at the time employed many China experts – sinologists, linguists, historians, scholars and diplomats – people who understood China’s language, history, culture and political problems. However, when “China fell to the Communists” in 1949, the finger-pointing began and targeted these China experts, who were blamed for “losing China”. A notorious Republican U.S. Senator named Joseph McCarthy was one of the most vocal critics of these China Hands. “McCarthyism” is known in the U.S. as a period when witchhunts and blacklisting of communist sympathizers took place (it was a sort of an “Anti-Leftists” campaign). After the purge of the China Hands, the U.S. foreign policy took a very strong anti-China (anti-communist) direction.

    There is a fairly well-written summary of this affair at Wikipedia which is worth quoting in full: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/China_Hands

    ******BEGIN QUOTE******

    The China Hands during World War II were Foreign Service Officers of the United States Department of State, most of whom had experience in China, some of them going back to the 1920s. Since the general expectation was that the war would continue for perhaps another two years and that the invasion of Japan would be based in China, General Joseph Stilwell determined that American interest required liaison with the considerable military force of the communists. At his behest, Dixie Mission was sent to Yan’an in July 1944. Colonel David Barrett and John S. Service reported favorably on the strength and capabilities of the Chinese Communist Party compared with the Chinese Nationalists. This view was motivated not by sympathy with communism as a political or economic system, but with the view that Chinese communists were more popular and militarily effective than the Nationalists, who were wracked with corruption and incompetence. Communist leaders Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai welcomed the Americans, and Mao gave Service an extensive interview expressing his desire for good relations and his eagerness for American aid. Many China Hands argued that it would be in American national interest to work with the communists if, as many China experts correctly expected, they gained power. Theodore White, correspondent for Time magazine was among the many journalists who visited Yan’an and described the effectiveness of communist political mobilization. This view was opposed by the new U.S. Ambassador to China Patrick Hurley. Hurley, a Republican recruited by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to promote a bipartisan China policy, initially felt there was no more difference between the Chinese communists and Nationalists than between the Democrats and Republicans in his home state of Oklahoma, but wanted to form a coalition government led by Chiang Kai-shek. He accused David Barrett Foreign Service Officers such as Service, Davies, and John Emmerson of disloyalty had them removed from China.

    After the sudden surrender of Japan in 1945 and the onset of the Cold War, the Communists and the Nationalists locked in a Civil War. The China Hand view was propounded by Harvard professor John Fairbank in his The United States and China (1948) and in the bestselling book Thunder Out of China, published in 1946 by Theodore White and Annalee Jacobee. They hoped that American policy could encourage Chinese nationalism and lead to independence from Soviet communism. Patrick Hurley testified to Congress that the China Hands had subverted his mission and General Albert Wedemeyer blamed the State Department for failing to act. When the Chinese Communists declared victory in 1949, an immediate outcry asked “Who lost China?” John T. Flynn, Louis F. Budenz, Freda Utley were among the many who charged that China Hands had undermined Chiang Kai-shek, misled the American public and lost China either through naive ignorance of the true nature of Marxism or even allegiance to the Soviet Union. John Service, they pointed out, had admitted that before he went to Yan’an he had not read the basic texts of Marxism, and the other China Hands were no better informed. Senator Joe McCarthy expanded these accusations to include Owen Lattimore, who had served as personal adviser to Chiang at the beginning of the war. These charges were developed in a series of congressional hearings, including those into the Institute of Pacific Relations. Foreign Service Officers O. Edmund Clubb, John Paton Davies, Jr., John Emmerson, John S. Service, and John Carter Vincent were forced out of the Foreign Service, while journalists such as Edgar Snow and Theodore White could not continue their careers in magazine journalism.

    Not until the warming of relations between China and the United States in the 1970s did public opinion change towards the China Hands. Notable was the invitation to the surviving China Hands to testify to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations in 1971. The Chairman, Senator J. William Fulbright, remarked to John Paton Davies on how the China Hands who had “reported honestly about conditions were so persecuted because [they] were honest. This is a strange thing to occur in what is called a civilized country.” John Service, reflecting on the low level of understanding of China in the American public at the time, joked that the loss of China had been blamed on “three Johns”: John Service, John Fairbank, and “John” Kai-shek.”

    *******END QUOTE*******

    One can see parallels to the criticisms hurled at Chas Freeman, and the efforts made to keep him out of public service.

    William Fulbright (who established the Fulbright Program for international educational exchanges) got it right about how this persecution of honest men is a strange thing in a civilized country. If he were alive, he would likely say the same thing has happened to Chas Freeman.

    I had hoped that it might be different this time, but with Freeman’s withdrawal in the face of the blistering attacks, these hopes have not been realized. History repeats.

  134. Oli Says:

    @ Littel Alex

    Sigh…Boy are you sticky…OK for the nth times…

    Please go back and read wherever that sentence of mine was that began with “As far as I know….”

    Now do you know what a “qualifier” is?

    Now go and think about it.

    Fundamentally, until today I don’t know whether the Beijing Police back then had rubber bullets or in enough quantity+training etc. or not or whether even if they did have it, they would then have been more willing to move against the demonstrators or not. And neither do you or the other person can be absolutely 100% sure either. Absent of hard facts, they are nothing but specualtion and conjecture.

    From experience, all I would say is that suppressing mass demonstration with minimal force requires a very different form of doctrine, training, discipline, equipment and approach from that of fighting a war. Soldiers would not normally receive such specialised training unless they were expected to participate in peacekeeping duty within a relatively stable theatre of operation. And those soldiers who eventually went into TAM definitely did not have it and neither, I believe, did the Beijing Police or its paramilitary equivalent at the time.

    As for you latching onto my anti-government demonstration reference, I believe you’ve again, as usual, got my emphasis as well as my sentiment wrong when you ought to have read that the government was unprepared psychologically and assets-wise to deal with such a scale of demonstration and under those circumstances. Irrespective of what it started out as.

    Ditto your suggestion that the leadership could have retracted their accusations/rantings/ravings/whatever against the students and that the students may have then voluntarily dispersed. These are your personal speculation and conjecture. From my personal memory and recollection of the atmosphere at the time all I can say is that I highly doubt it, primarily because of the mood the students were in, whilst also becoming increasingly emboldened by the support they were getting beyond the student body. Personally, it was a train wreck waiting to happen that I saw coming, in slow motion and with front row seats.

    I usually do not bother to respond to tedious fallacies and I believe I’ve been more than patient with you despite my obvious exasperation, which you took as derision, so good luck and good “reading”. Now go back, read it again and think it over.

  135. Steve Says:

    @ perspectivehere #133: When I was in school, John K. Fairbank was the “bible” for Chinese political science courses. Since then, I’ve probably read everything he ever wrote about the subject, and he wrote a lot. There are usually “hands” in the State Department that understand the country to which they are assigned but when it interferes with the perceptions of the administration bigwigs, they are ignored.

    I had a conversation once with a British diplomat in Shanghai working for the consulate there. We were both into Pink Floyd in our youth so we hit it off and soon the talk turned to the US diplomats. This was back in 2002. He said the American foreign service people were very good, knew their subject and were well trained. Then I asked him about the Bush administration. He had kind words for Colin Powell…. and he had kind words for Colin Powell. He thought the rest were yahoos, but he said it in a very nice way. The diplomats on the ground knew what was happening but were ignored, just as what happened in 1949.

    I read two new perspectives on Chas Freeman’s withdrawal this morning. The first was from the Washington Post’s David Broder, who had good things to say about Freeman. The next article was from Slate’s Fred Kaplan, who wasn’t quite as generous but had a different take on the subject.

  136. Wahaha Says:

    Little Alex,

    Though your english is better than mine, you have trouble listening to what you dont want to hear. Otherwise you wouldve understood what Oil meant.

    Raj is an indian and a British, and most importantly a chinese hater. Isnt it well known that Indians envy what China has accomplished economically in last 30 years ?

    He doesnt want to hear anything good being said about China, he doesnt want anything good happening to chinese and China, therefore there is no point to argue with him, get it ?

    About 6/4, I was one of those students, I joined the demonstration in 1986 for democracy. Do you know there was protest in 1986 for democracy? I bet you dont. You, FOARP, SKC have no idea how we felt then, AND NOW. Oil explained to you very clearly why we dont want to talk about TAM with outsiders, at least for now. So read Oil’ s posts again, think yourselves as someone whose family lived in poverty and suffered great in CR.

    WE WANTED SOMETHING (do you know what we wanted ?) and WE WERE ALSO AFRAID OF SOMETHING.

  137. Steve Says:

    @ Wahaha #136: Wahaha, I respect what you did in 1986 and want to hear more about your opinions, but there is no need to personally insult anyone in order to make your point. We don’t like to edit anyone’s remarks so please try to keep it civil.

  138. Wahaha Says:

    Steve

    Raj = Michael Fay

    and he considers himself as an artist.

    ______________________________________

    Little Alex,

    Just one more question :

    Do you know why the momentum for democracy after 6/4 faded so quickly ?

  139. Wahaha Says:

    Hey, Steve,

    here are some pictures of Tibet taken by an American tourists.

    The tent in picture # 9 is kind of tent I visited 20 years, and much better equiped than the one I visited.

    http://sinovision.net/index.php?module=news&act=details&col_id=273&news_id=75006&nocache=1&articlepage=1

  140. admin Says:

    @ Wahaha #136,

    Whatever nationalities our commentators have, as long as they are here for civil discussion, they are my guests. So please, be respectful to each other. I don’t think a disparaging remark, be it against a person, or a country, will strengthen your argument.

    Since you are a veteran in both 1986 and 1989 student movements, will you be willing to write up your personal experience and reflections as a post?

  141. Steve Says:

    @ Wahaha #139: Those are some nice pix! How was the tent you visited different from this one? Were you on a dirt floor or did you also have the wooden planks? In the first pic, is that a scythe on her belt? Is that wheat they are harvesting? I didn’t realize it could grow at such altitudes.

    I completely agree with admin and would very much enjoy reading about your experiences, not only about the student movements but also your time in Tibet, especially the personal contacts you made with the people living there. I’m sure I’ll be battering you with questions. 😉

  142. Raj Says:

    136

    Oil explained to you very clearly why we dont want to talk about TAM with outsiders, at least for now.

    Who is talking about forcing you to discuss 1989? Aren’t most of the objections that people are stopped from talking about it openly if they want to (or have to peddle the government line)?

    Raj is an indian and a British, and most importantly a chinese hater. Isnt it well known that Indians envy what China has accomplished economically in last 30 years ?

    If I was Indian but wanted to deny it, why would I use a handle that has anything to do with India? I’ve used this identity for a long time on many blogs but always said I’m Caucasian if asked.

    I wonder, is the problem that you “hate” Indians and therefore will assume for the smallest reason anyone who has a negative attitude towards Chinese politics is Indian?

  143. Wahaha Says:

    Raj,

    The only reason I talk about India is cuz of talking about political system.

    I said before, I dont follow textbook when I talk about political system, I follow facts, especially those poor countries with large population. That is why I am interested in how democracy has worked in India. I dont hate India nor do I like india, OK ?

    On the other hand, your talk about China is full of hatred. I can tell SKC hate CCP, I can tell FOARP hate authoritarian system, but I dont think they hate chinese people; but you ? you hate chinese people.

  144. Raj Says:

    I dont hate India nor do I like india, OK ?

    Yet you said that:

    “Indians envy what China has accomplished economically in last 30 years”

    That’s a rather sweeping statement and to link it to a reason why an Indian would hate China shows you have issues with Indian people. That’s why I put “marks” around the word hate – whether you hate, dislike, whatever Indians there’s something that makes you suspect them and pre-judge them.

    your talk about China is full of hatred
    you hate chinese people

    Ah yes, the classic fenqing logic system. I criticise the Chinese government frequently, ergo I hate China, ergo I hate Chinese people. Never mind the fact that I do not express hateful comments towards Chinese people.

    Of course, please feel free to link to my “hate” comments to prove me wrong. I’d be very entertained to see what it is that has got you so riled.

  145. neutrino Says:

    @ oli 97

    What we do is to first internalise, digest and come to terms with the issues ourselves …

    ________________________________________________________________________

    It seems a lot of people supports your claim. However, as a Chinese, I would take issues with it. There has been little internalization, digestion and coming to terms in the last two decades. The government pretends it did not happen, older generation do not discuss it, and younger generation seldom know what happened or are simply not interested. There are private discussions, but the effect of it on the society is minimal.

    I personally worked with one of the main student leader who was imprisoned for more than a decade. Using the comments of one of my colleague who is a taiwanese american and the boss of this ex student leader: If they students managed to gain power, China would have been sent into chaos and back for decades. I don’t want to get into too much detail here as I don’t want to reveal too much personal/private information. But in a nutshell, it’s the lack of appreciation of how democracy works (equaling it to direct election is a frequent, but naive assertion), the often frightening ultra-nationalistic views some of these leaders hold, and how intolerant they can be when it comes to different views (say gay rights, tibet, taiwan, just to name a few), that makes me sort of reluctantly accept that it was best that the movement failed. (How it was ended, of course, is tragic and should be debated) It makes you wonder how could some leaders of a democracy movement be so communists like …

    What I want to stipulate is that, discussing these issues within the Chinese society, openly, and with the outside world are beneficial for the nation. Addressing how the movement started and ended, whether there are similarities between now and then, how would have the movement fared in the end had it succeeded, etc., would serve the country a great deal of good.

    By not discussing it openly and publicly, like the last two decades, certainly is not and has not been fatal for the development of the nation. But that does not mean it would not have brought much good had we been honest and open about it. It’s about how you manage it.

    When Pallavi Aiyar was asked whether she wanted to be reborn as an indian or chinese, as described in her book (see below), she answered that she would rather be as chinese if born poor, as there are more dignities, and there are better chances moving up. However, if even marginally well off, she would rather be an Indian, as she would enjoy more (not exactly the same words) freedom of speech, political debates and intellectual stipulation. Sadly, I think she made a very valid point. Not discussing some of the events that are most important to a nation’s history, and simply making (successfully) most people only interested in making money, is not good for the nation’s intellectual health in the long run.

    @ Raj 144

    I dont hate India nor do I like india, OK ?

    Yet you said that:

    “Indians envy what China has accomplished economically in last 30 years”

    _________________________________________________________________________

    Similar statements were made in Pallavi Aiyar’s new book” Smoke and Mirrors: An Experience of China”, although maybe not exactly the word of “envy” was used? However, the fact (not necessarily my view) is that a lot of indians like to compare india and china, but chinese are mostly interested using the US as the measuring stick. In most cases when india came into the conversation, it’s used to make a point about how democracy has not worked well there and therefore china does not need that type of democracy. BTW, Aiyar’s book is a real gem. Get it from “Eastenbooks”, if you want to. It’s much cheaper there (linked from Aiyar’s website) if you don’t mind waiting for the shipment — well, that depends on where you live, of course.

  146. admin Says:

    Both Chinabeat and Danwei had interviewed Pallavi Aiyar last year.

    http://thechinabeat.blogspot.com/2008/07/smoke-and-mirrors-china-and-india.html
    http://www.danwei.org/books/an_indian_perspective_on_china.php

  147. Raj Says:

    neutrino, I’m sure that many Indians would like their country to grow/eliminate poverty faster much like China has. Whether that’s “envy” or not, I don’t know.

    However, I do know that whilst I would “envy” the impressive Olympic Games that China held, I don’t envy its pollution problem. This is why I find Wahaha’s attitude laughable. Just because Indians might want to replicate some of the things China has achieved economy-wise, I doubt they want to adopt Chinese civil rights. Thus I doubt they wouldn’t hate China simply because they’re poorer.

    Thanks for the book recommendation by the way, though to be honest I doubt I’ll get around to it – I still have books to read that I bought five years ago. 😀

  148. William Huang Says:

    @ Wahaha #139

    Nice pictures. I would appreciate if you can point out few more if you know. I am very interested in the latest pictures about Tibetan people’s daily life. Thanks.

  149. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Wahaha #136:
    “Oil explained to you very clearly why we dont want to talk about TAM with outsiders” – he may have given his version of why Chinese might not want to talk about it, yet he’s talked nonetheless. And you’re the fourth person off-hand I can name on this thread alone who may have experiences to share, or at least indicated as much. While I imagine not all Chinese are ready and willing to talk about it (in the same way that I’m sure 1.3b people won’t agree on everything all the time), I suspect some/many are. And while some Chinese attest that their brethren aren’t ready for the conversation, they themselves are happy to partake when they live in an environment that is conducive to same. So I don’t think it’s the inclination or the capacity that is lacking; I think it’s the ability to do so in an unfettered fashion, without fear of reprisals.

  150. Sophie Says:

    “If the students managed to gain power, China would have been sent into chaos and back for decades”
    That is the comments we often hear in China today when people talk about TAM, often expressed in the way ‘fortunately, ….otherwise China would have been sent into…’.

    “Certainly, the CCP may be in no mood to have that conversation. But you, Oli, and BXBQ have, all in this one thread on this one blog. So at least some Chinese who are free to do so seem ready and willing to have that conversation.”
    when coming to talk about one historical event, I think about giving it an objective review, evaluation and conclusion including at least short/middle term historical impact. Then, we can learn something from an event. An open discussion like this in the whole society, I am not sure what it will lead to…

    People outside China often don’t understand why Chinese government and Chinese people always consider social stability very very important. There is culture factor ( you can see this factor from the fact that the Chinese society had been pretty stable for two thousands years till recent history); there is also social mood: for people who live in china, they went through many years chaos, finally have been enjoying 20-30 years peaceful time, and now finally they have some certainty for future which allows them to have some HOPE, to make a personal plan, to have something to look forward to. It’s the feeling people outside China either can’t understand or don’t really care.

    “Do you know why the momentum for democracy after 6/4 faded so quickly ?”
    What’s your answer? When discussing TAM, people here often assume if we conclude this event, the blame will be definitely on the government. I am not so sure. It’s not black and white for me. It’s gray. The whole thing turned really ugly and out of control in the last days. Western media showed the pictures of dead students, but they didn’t show the pictures of burned dead solders’ body on the trucks, hung from the bridge. But, many Beijing residents saw these in person.

    What form people’s opinion on this event include not only what they saw at the time, but also what happened afterward. look at the interview of one student leader Chai Ling with a CNN (?) journalist; look at what the student leader turned democratic activists are doing abroad today; look at what happened to USSR and the East Europe…

    (I write in a rush. have to run now).

  151. little Alex Says:

    @Wahaha 136
    “Though your english is better than mine, you have trouble listening to what you dont want to hear. Otherwise you wouldve understood what Oil meant.”

    Then your ability to listen must be amazing, the way you’ve ignored everyone else asking you to please stop your attacks on Raj’s race/nationality.

    “About 6/4, I was one of those students, I joined the demonstration in 1986 for democracy. Do you know there was protest in 1986 for democracy? I bet you dont.”

    Tell us about it. I’m always glad to learn more about the progress of democracy, etc. in China.

    “You, FOARP, SKC have no idea how we felt then, AND NOW. Oil explained to you very clearly why we dont want to talk about TAM with outsiders, at least for now. So read Oil’ s posts again, think yourselves as someone whose family lived in poverty and suffered great in CR.”

    Growing up in Hong Kong is of course a very different experience from growing up in mainland China, but us Hong Kongers always get conveniently labeled “outsiders” whenever these sorts of discussions come up. At the same time, we always get accused of being not patriotic enough, not “Chinese” enough.

    I’d say that despite the barriers and differences between Hong Kong and mainland China at the time, the TAM incident was as much part of Hong Kong’s history as mainland China’s.

    And aren’t we arguing about different things? My point is that the government shouldn’t pretend it never happened, and should allow open discussion about it. “We don’t want to talk about it” is vastly different from “No one should talk about it”. The former involves choice, the latter the lack of one.

    @138
    “Do you know why the momentum for democracy after 6/4 faded so quickly ?”

    I think it’s because the people who did try got violently cracked down and everyone else decided they don’t want to die. I suspect you are going to to tell me different. Have you noticed that the frequency of large protests, etc. have risen in this decade (or seem to)? They might not be directly related to democracy, but it’s part of the process.

  152. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To little Alex:
    hey, didn’t realize you’re an hker (not to be confused with the original HongKonger on this blog). Not too many Cantonese speakers on this site, other than HKer and TOnyP4…at least among the ones who leave comments regularly. Are you still in HK now?

    BTW, completely agree with your last paragraph. To me, that one is worth re-reading several times before people respond.

  153. vmoore55 Says:

    Chas Freeman stole my thunder on Tiananmen Sq., I have nothing to add.

  154. BMY Says:

    @neutrino #145

    Well said even I am one of them who say it’s not the right time for public discussion in China.

    It’s no surprise what you describe the student leader of ” how intolerant they can be when it comes to different views ” . It’s too common from both anti/pro CCP, anti/pro democracy elements in China that lack of tolerance of different views which is one of the reasons bug me how a topic like 6/4 can be discussed.

  155. twining Says:

    When TAM happened, I lived in a small town thousands of miles away from Beijing and was only 12 years old. In my hometown, everything was normal back then as fas as what I can remember. Only things I knew about TAM were from TV. There were two scenes I can still remember vividly even now
    First is some TV footage about some BURNT bodies of PLA soldiers, like chunks of black burnt woods. This caused me nightmares over the next two, three years.
    Second is gunfire exchange between PLA soldiers and some mobs shooting AK47s from a tall building. As a young boy, I was very interested in military related stuff and this definitely caught my attention.

    In other words, the government had lost control.

    The mobs(dont know how many were students) definitely had attacked first, if no measure was taken soon, this would have escalated into a big chaos in China. This is also why I hate western media reports about TAM. Almost all of them are about democracy, dead students and the famous Tank man, there has never been even one word mentioning burning soldiers alive or gun battles.

  156. neutrino Says:

    @ BMY 153
    It’s too common from both anti/pro CCP, anti/pro democracy elements in China that lack of tolerance of different views which is one of the reasons bug me how a topic like 6/4 can be discussed.
    _________________________________________________________________________________

    I think you almost nailed it, but not quite. It’s precisely the lack of open discussions of these important topics that hindered everyone’s ability to accommodate different views simply because we are not used to it. But it does not have to be this way. Looking back at the not too distant history, i.e., the pre-communist era, you can find vibrant debates, thinking and rethinking about anything relevant to contemporary Chinese society and culture. Communists, themselves from all ranks of the society, found their path among such atmosphere. It’s true that a nation in turmoil also produces giants of thoughts, and great politicians. However, the peaceful time China has enjoyed in the last three decades does not dilute the fact that China is going through one of the most significant transition time in history. Such time warrants intellectual vitality. I once read some comments by an Indian author, and it goes like this: China has the roads, but we indians at least have the soul. He/she, I believe, mainly referred to the lack of religious beliefs among the Chinese. I don’t really think you need religion to have a soul, but I really hope that we would have more open discussion on the political, philosophical level. Right now, we are just becoming too much like the United States (not necessarily in a good way), albeit there’s not direct election and hanging chads.

    Personally, i do not care as much about direct election as independent judicial system and free press. However, if china were to find the real sustainable alternative to the western democracy, it requires much more than praying/hoping CCP alone will find it voluntarily. The unspoken pact between the CCP and the Chinese people by which the CCP can remain in power as long as it delivers, can be derailed by any number of unforeseeable factors. However, engaging the people, and especially the intellect elites, in the path, can dramatically decrease the risk. Just my two cents.

  157. gedawei Says:

    @neutrino #156

    The outpouring of comments here about China and TAM has been fascinating, but I really like your
    comments above, which are “last but not least” in my view. It seems that most (but not all) commentators here would agree that China should have an independent judicial system and free press. It’s hard to believe that people who take full advantage of the right to express themselves freely on this site would turn around and say “but Chinese people in China should not have that right!” Unfortunately, these people exist. They, like Oli, can come up with a myriad of “reasons” for why TAM should not be discussed in China, but I don’t buy any of them for a second. Freedom to “seek the truth from facts” is something old Deng himself advocated. Yet the Chinese people are clearly being denied that right about TAM and many other “taboo” topics (e.g., how about “the leading role of the Party” as a topic for free debate?).

    Grown-up human beings have the right to express their opinions, seek the truth, and receive justice in the judiciary system. Some day soon, there are going to be a few hundred million people in China who will know what it’s like to be grown up. My prediction: the CCP is going to let it happen, reluctantly, because it will have no other choice. And one of the main facilitators of that needed change will be the very tool we are all using right now – the Web, which even the CCP, with its tens of thousands of snoops, will never be able to control.

  158. William Huang Says:

    @ neutrino #156

    “Looking back at the not too distant history, i.e., the pre-communist era, you can find vibrant debates, thinking and rethinking about anything relevant to contemporary Chinese society and culture. Communists, themselves from all ranks of the society, found their path among such atmosphere.”

    Your version of pre-communist China is certainly very different from mine. CCP did not find their path by open discussion and free-speech but blood and guns. They gained the power through battles and popular support. They were revolutionaries as Mao famously said, “Revolution is not a dinner party…… “. Neither was much of democracy or free speech before the communist and if there was anything for free discussion, it was probably more so because the lack of control by the central government (Nationalist) or the chaos during these years. Democratic election in Taiwan where Nationalist government had controlled for decades has also been just a recent development less than 30 years ago.

    “The unspoken pact between the CCP and the Chinese people by which the CCP can remain in power as long as it delivers, can be derailed by any number of unforeseeable factors. However, engaging the people, and especially the intellect elites, in the path, can dramatically decrease the risk.”

    What we often overlooked is the leadership. For China to make a dramatic change in any direction, you’ll need a powerful leader or dictator if you will. Deng (Xiaoping) is a case in point. Without him, China’s free-market economy would not have been possible. It was a very risky political proposition at that time. We would have to wait for another 20 years for it to happen. It was Deng who had vision and pushed for the pushed for envelope. It was risky, complex and difficult but Deng did it masterfully with conviction and courage, and he knew that he had Chinese people’s support. He may have made some mistakes but his accomplishment way outweighed his blunders.

    Unfortunately , there is no such leader in today’s CCP hierarch not to mention dissidents. They are no visionaries but executioners (a smart bunch) to carry out the blue-prints Deng laid out 30 years ago. Whatever we can wish, as long as we don’t consider free-speech a top priority, there will be little demand for such leader. So here goes another open discussion of whether events creates hero or hero creates events. BTW, dictator can go both ways. To make an extreme example, Adolf Hitler was democratically elected in Weimar Republic.

    This year also marked 90th anniversary of May 4th student demonstration which has profound impact on Modern Chinese history. Unlike May Forth, June Fourth (TAM) has no historical significance and its impact on both the nation as a whole and todya’s popular psychological makeup is negligible.

  159. BMY Says:

    @twining #155

    This is first time I heard there was footage of ” gunfire exchange between PLA soldiers and some mobs shooting AK47s from a tall building. ” . It sounds more like the battle of Grozny.

    If there was one then it should have been replayed millions of time on the TV then and I was a 19 years old and was watching TV news almost everyday and just can’t remember there was such footage. Maybe I am really getting old. There was rumour of civil war had already started outside of Beijing city on the day of 6/3 and there was even poster out side the gate of People’s University saying that then. But they were all just rumours.

    Can anyone else remember there was such footage on TV?

    I am pretty sure the mob had used weapons like yoghurt bottles to attack fully armed soldiers and tanks first while they were on the way march to TAM . Is this your justification to shoot them down and ran them over?

  160. Sophie Says:

    Here is an interview with a 1989 demonstrator in China posted at Pekingduck. It was done in 2003 but is still displayed on the homepage.

    http://www.pekingduck.org/2003/12/interview-with-a-1989-demonstrator-in-china/

    The writer wrote:
    “This was definitely an eye-opening interview for me. Coming from my own background where the rights of the individual are sacred, I was intrigued to hear such a different point of view. As readers familiar with my writing know, I am not quite so easy on the CCP, and don’t feel all can be forgiven under the mantra, Change must take place slowly. But I have the highest respect for David, and find the story of his transformation and his great personal success to be impressive and inspiring.”

    Below is what the writer wrote in 2008 on the same topic. I also found the comments interesting.
    http://www.pekingduck.org/2008/06/june-4/

  161. little Alex Says:

    @Old Tales Retold 110
    I don’t know enough about the situation to truly comment on it. I just thought that maybe if I throw it out there, wiser heads than mine might be willing to contribute.

    @Oli 134
    When I commented on your response pattern, I wasn’t trying to draw you into another discussion. I think we’ve both explained our views clearly enough. I’m glad to learn more about the situation in terms of your personal experience, but I don’t think the present number of casualties is inevitable and no amount of discussion that will convince me otherwise. Again, people can understand your points perfectly and still disagree with you.

    @neutrino 145
    “It makes you wonder how could some leaders of a democracy movement be so communists like …”

    Well, they are a product of their upbringing (though I wouldn’t describe them as “communists like”, just that they showed a blatant disregard for lives other than their own).

    @SKC 151
    Right now I’m living in HK.

    @William 158
    Ah, Godwin’s Law strikes again. Although it’s technically true that Hitler was democratically elected, he certainly didn’t win the election fair and square, what with the fire at the Reichstag building and all those assassinations.

    “Unlike May Forth, June Fourth (TAM) has no historical significance and its impact on both the nation as a whole and todya’s popular psychological makeup is negligible.”

    I think June 4th had quite a bit of historical significance, both within and without China, though without open discussion, it’s difficult to gauge how much and how widespread it is.

    *****

    Interestingly enough, the headline for today’s Mingpao is about this very incident, with a short Q&A with Wang Dan, one of student leaders back then (and whom I respect a lot more than Chai Ling and Wu’er Kaixi).

  162. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To little Alex:
    “without open discussion, it’s difficult to gauge how much and how widespread it is.” – agreed once again.

    I guess HK really is special, and not only in the economic sense. You still have your own independent newspapers, and they’re still allowed to report on things that didn’t officially occur in China, or at least the principals that were involved with them. And you guys have had those democracy demonstrations. Is there still that “50 years without change” understanding with Beijing? I suppose you’d be on year 12 of that pact.

  163. twining Says:

    @BMY.
    I dont remember how many times that gunfire scene was aired, but to me that definitely happened. I can still remember the thrill of seeing that scene, a few soldiers ducking behind couple vehicles/walls, there seemed to be a commander right beside the camera man.
    As a matter of fact, PLA troops were first ordered to go to Beijing on May 20th, the so called Massacre happened between June 3rd and 4th. Between those times, the troops were apparently ordered not to shoot, despite being attacked. Mobs attacked the troops, killing the soldiers, destroying their trucks, taking AK47s and driving armed vehicles on the street. Wiki shows that Liu Xiaobo himself saw students holding guns taken from the troops and asked to destroy them, because he wanted this movement to be non-violent. To this day, I still believe the student leaders back then did intend to make this nonviolent, but in the later stage of the movement, the participants were no longer students only.
    In Tian’an Men Mother’s list of 186 shooting victims, almost half were not students, and most of them were shot around Chang’an Jie area, primarily Muxidi.

  164. William Huang Says:

    @ little Alex #161

    “Well, they are a product of their upbringing (though I wouldn’t describe them as “communists like”, just that they showed a blatant disregard for lives other than their own).”

    I hope you are not trying to imply that people who grown up in mainland China have no regards for human lives.

    “Ah, Godwin’s Law strikes again. Although it’s technically true that Hitler was democratically elected, he certainly didn’t win the election fair and square, what with the fire at the Reichstag building and all those assassinations.”

    Your version of history is incorrect. Hitler became Chancellor of Weimar Republic BEFORE the Reichstag fire and assignations not after. Hitler won fair and square and that’s the point.

  165. FOARP Says:

    @William Huang – but the enabling laws were only passed after that, and the elections were far from free and fair.

    @twining – I read a report written at the time (I think it was from the US embassy) that said that there had been instances of PLA soldiers firing on each other – was there any truth in it?

  166. William Huang Says:

    @ FORAP #165

    “but the enabling laws were only passed after that, and the elections were far from free and fair.”

    I am not sure what do you mean by “after that”. “That” here means Hitler came to power or the Reichstag fire?

  167. FOARP Says:

    After the fire, as surely it’s his wielding of dictatorial power that you object to.

  168. William Huang Says:

    @ FOARP #167

    I don’t understand your point as well as little Alex’s. You both used the events happened AFTER Hitler coming to power as the supporting evidence that he was not democratically elected. Does this make any sense to you? You guys got cause-and-effect relation upside down.

    All the events and progress which led to a complete dictatorship made by Hitler and Nazi party after he came to power only proves my point that you can turn a democracy into a dictatorship if people allow it and what you need is someone powerful enough to lead it.

  169. FOARP Says:

    @William Huang – I’m not saying that he wasn’t democratically elected (or, at least, I’m not only saying that he wasn’t democratically elected), I’m saying that he did not rule democratically, and that his dictatorship was not acheived by democratic means.

  170. William Huang Says:

    @ FOARP #169

    “William Huang – I’m not saying that he wasn’t democratically elected (or, at least, I’m not only saying that he wasn’t democratically elected), I’m saying that he did not rule democratically, and that his dictatorship was not acheived by democratic means.”

    Sadly, his dictatorship was achieved by democratic means at least according to the constitution of Weimar Republic. Otherwise, there was no need to pass the Enabling Laws. I agree with you that Hitler did not rule democratically and that’s why we call him a dictator.

  171. Steve Says:

    @ William and FOARP: You’re both correct but it seems like you’re going around in circles. William, what you said about Hitler being democratically elected and from that point forward, managing to usurp power (undemocratically, just as FOARP said) is absolutely true. But in my mind, Nazi Germany is not a good example to use because of several factors unique to Germany at that time.

    These were: hyperinflation (people carried around their money in wheelbarrows as prices inflated by the hour), crippling war debts, people literally starving, and a society that loved order yet had none of it. But the most critical component was the fear of Communism, which at the time didn’t have the reputation it has today. Once Hitler got big business and the army on his side (along with his putsch of Ernst Rohm in 1934), he was able to overthrow the democracy and establish a fascist dictatorship which at the time was considered a successful form of government under Mussolini in Italy.

    As you correctly stated, Hitler was an extreme example and I agree. A very unique set of circumstances came together at that time in history to allow such a transition. The chances of it happening today are extremely remote, but not impossible. If a depression is severe enough and people are starving and desperate, their natural inclination is to elect a strong leader who blames the problem on “foreign elements” and traitors within the country, then creates an authoritarian regime to bring “order to the masses”. It usually works for a time and then descends into chaos.

    There is one comment you made in #158 where I have a different viewpoint. As you said, once the revolution started there was precious little discussion about anything. Whatever Mao said, everyone did. But previous to the revolution there was plenty of open discussion and free speech, except the discussion and speech took place in cities like Paris and London. Other cadres were educated in the Soviet Union where they were able to formulate their ideas. Mao’s concept of revolution by the peasants rather than the industrial workers in the city was a radical idea at the time.

    I agree with Deng’s key role in bringing free market capitalism to China, but how much of that can we attribute to the TAM troubles? Tension had built up in China and his Shenzhen experiment came shortly after the incident at the square. So was it an action or a reaction? Had he tried to do it before but was stymied by others in the party, and finally had an excuse to initiate it? We’ll probably never know, but nonetheless it happened and the results were historic in the best sense.

    But what about today? Ahh… now we get into political structure. In the early days, strong leaders were needed to guide the country through a revolution, leaders like Mao, Zhou and Deng. The same thing happened in Russia. But after that initial generation is gone, what’s left are leaders who have to be political chameleons to survive the intermal politics of this style of government structure. After Hu, the last of the leaders hand picked by Deng will be gone and the party leadership will reward to an even greater extent the people who are best at political infighting, not necessarily the people who are best at leading the country. Who wins in Survivor? Not the natural leader but the clever, sneaky one. 😉

  172. FOARP Says:

    @Steve – You’re not saying that reality TV is a bad way of choosing our leaders are you?

  173. FOARP Says:

    @William Huang – Enabling legislation is essentially a change to a constitution as it grants powers beyond what those held under the constitution. It is for this reason that I despair of the way that, for example, New Labour has used such legislation to grant powers of detention without trial (even if ever so limited) and creation of legislation with reduced oversight. It is also the reason why I am wary of further European integration without proper debate. The example of the Bush government’s legislating to allow phone tapping without warrant, to obfuscate torture (and since were discussing Nazi Germany here, this is also instructive: http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/the_daily_dish/2009/03/compare-and-con.html ) also shows the danger of such legislation. It seems very likely that much of this legislation will not disappear with the Obama government.

  174. Allen Says:

    @FOARP, Steve,

    I take FOARP’s question in #172 with a serious tone.

    My critique of democracy the way it is practiced in the U.S. (maybe Europe, too) is that it is less democracy than a popularity contest played out in the form of T.V. ads, 10 second blurbs … and more blurbs rehearsed for T.V. debates.

    Of course, the critique of CCP is like Steve mentioned in #171, does CCP’s promotion process reward political agility or true leadership and/or governing competency?

    Anyways … just food for thoughts…

  175. FOARP Says:

    @Allen – My fear is that the people are no longer involved in the democratic process, instead that process has disappeared behind pop journalism in the same way a mural does in the average city – behind cheap flyers for strip clubs, get-rich-quick schemes, and posters seeking lost dogs.

  176. William Huang Says:

    @ Steve #171

    “But previous to the revolution there was plenty of open discussion and free speech, except the discussion and speech took place in cities like Paris and London.”

    I am not sure open-discussion and free-speech in Paris and London back then can be counted as the same thing as happened in China. If this is the criteria, you can say the same thing about today. There are plenty of open discussion and criticism (not mention independence) about China in Paris, London, and many other places. I am sure you are not trying to say China today has freedom of speech.

    Since the government before 1949 (Communist took over) and the one in Taiwan is indeed the same government (Nationalist), and if the same government allowed free speech as neutrino alluded to in his post (#156), won’t it be fair to say that if the similar event as TAM happened in Taiwan, this government will allow open-discussion, say on the 20th anniversary of the event?

    So, how about “2.28 Incident” (1947) happened in Taiwan under Nationalist government? There were estimated close to over 10,000 killed and it has left deep wounds in generations of local people’s heart even today. The question now is; was there an open-discussion on its 20th anniversary (1967) in Taiwan? You can bet your life it never happened. How about 30th anniversary (1977)? No, it never happen either (why?). It wasn’t until 40th anniversary. Therefore, if Oli says he wants to wait another 20 years to talk about TAM, I am sure it would have been okay with government in Taiwan. If this government was a shiny example of open-discussion and free-speech, will it be oaky that we wait for another 20 years to discuss TAM?

    My point here is neither support nor against the open-discussion on TAM but merely to point out that neutrino’s example was an invalid one.

    “I agree with Deng’s key role in bringing free market capitalism to China, but how much of that can we attribute to the TAM troubles? Tension had built up in China and his Shenzhen experiment came shortly after the incident at the square. So was it an action or a reaction?”

    The central issue surrounding TAM was about democracy and ultimately, the government’s power. It never was really about economic policy. Popular mood changed quickly after it was clear that Deng’s position was on the hard-line side. As a matter of fact, many people had hoped (and thought) Deng would take a major step towards democracy. I agree with you assessment that Deng probably took the opportunity to gain more power which weakened both conservative and pro-reform factions. It’s the centralist who gained power. However, at that time (1989) Deng had already accumulated enough political assets and considering his reputation for being bold and aggressive, economic development would have happened with and without TAM, maybe even faster (it had negative impact on foreign investment and trade).

    TAM was led by a group of very young and inexperienced students who had ideas and dreams. It’s all very inspirational and admirable. What lacked were the substances and specifics. On the other hand, they were not exceptions. Most Chinese didn’t know what to do either, I mean on specifics.

    @ FOARP #173

    I don’t disagree most what you said here. However, what you said here is exactly my point. It is the fact that YOU and MIILIONS of others who have the concerns and won’t just let it go that kept democracy alive not another way around. It is what’s on your mind not government’s that matters. It is true everywhere including China.

  177. Steve Says:

    @ William Huang #176: William, I might have misunderstood the point you were trying to make. I thought you were talking about pre-revolution days in general, but reading again your comment I see you were talking about freedom of speech in China itself, of which there was none. So I agree that neutrino’s argument is invalid since the KMT back then did not allow free speech. In fact, it reminded me of a story…

    Eleanor Roosevelt was shocked at Song Meiling’s answer when asked at a dinner at the White House how the Chinese government would handle a strike by coal miners. Song silently drew a sharp fingernail across her neck.

    ”She can talk beautifully about democracy,” Mrs. Roosevelt said later. ”But she does not know how to live democracy.”

  178. BMY Says:

    @twining #163,

    Please don’t put words in my mouth. I never dispute there were PLA soldiers got killed, army trucks and tanks got burned. I know these facts. I was just pointing out I couldn’t remember there was TV footage of gun fire from high building you brought up as it should have been replayed many many time and I should have remembered that as a young man then.

    And I never argued whom were the victims and where they were killed and not too sure why you are telling me that. The fact of that many of the victims were not students did not make their lives were less value than the lives of soldiers or students or anyone else’s and did not justify they could be killed.

    I won’t get into too much detail with you about those days.

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