With 2008 now drifting off into history, most Americans are looking forward to the new Administration (including many of its would-be critics; defending George W. Bush can be exhausting work), and the usual challenges that come with any new year. Most of the rest of the planet will likely do the same - albeit with somewhat less interest in the new President.
In the halls of Zhongnanhai, however, 2009 promises to be a tumultuous year of crisis and crackdowns - and that would have been true even without the economic slowdown that has sent foreign investors running for the exits (Wall Street Journal), for this year can best be described as the "Anniversary Year" - the year several milestones in tyrannical history of the Chinese Communist Party are due for remembrance.
In just over two months, things begin with the fiftieth anniversary of the anti-Communist Tibet uprising of 1959. True, some of the pressure building for this year was let loose by last year's brouhaha (which is in no small part why I believe the cadres were determined to instigate something last March), but there is plenty of resentment left in reserve. Add to it the Dalia Lama's determination to link his cause to the greater movement for democracy in China, and the first anniversary could set a very troubling tone for the CCP.
Just over a month later, as April nears its exit and spring really kicks into gear, we'll have a new decade marker - the tenth anniversary of the Falun Gong protest of 1999. That quite but determined demand for religious freedom - followed three months later by the CCP's decision to ban the entire practice - will shine a bright light on Communist persecution for at least three months, and bring even greater attention to the practitioners' plight.
However, before we get to the July ban and the official ten-year demarcation for the Falun Gong War, we'll hit the mother of all anniversaries (pun partially intended) - the twentieth anniversary of the Tiananmen massacre.
Actually, if the Communists are lucky, Tiananmen will only come up in June. More likely, May 2009 will have a long crescendo of memorials to the Tiananmen spring, and the million-plus who made their way to the square to show their disapproval of the corrupt tyranny (if the cadres are really unlucky, the May 1989 protests outside Beijing - which according to some accounts brought out more than 100 million people - will finally be given their due). It will build to the observance of the bloody crackdown itself.
This is the one day the cadres have dreaded, which is why I am still certain they will do anything to shift attention away from it, including giving the silent green light to an Iranian nuclear test just before June begins (lest anyone think I'm being alarmist, let's not forget that Iran's Hamas proxies are now killing Israelis with CCP-made missiles - Epoch Times).
July, as mentioned earlier, will have the Falun Gong War anniversary, but the surprising calendar landmine will come the following month - or, to be precise, on August 8, 2009. This will be the one-year anniversary of the Olympic Opening Ceremonies, a time to remember what the Communists hoped to get out of the Games (more international prestige, more support at home, etc.), and what actually came after them (the economic slowdown, domestic anger at the over-the-top spending on Olympic renovations and land seizures, international questions about corruption in Communist sport programs, etc.). More ominously for the cadres, it will also be the first time for the Chinese people to look back and count the cost of the whole farce.
Before August is out, we will also see the sixtieth anniversary of the occupation of East Turkestan, which in the present global environment is sure to get some attention. While most of it will follow the CCP line in some way, shape, or form, odds are at least a few more journalists (and many more readers) will have their eyes opened to the real situation there.
Compared to that kind of spring and summer, the early fall will be a welcome relief. September 19 will mark five years for Hu Jintao as Chairman of the Central Military Commission (and thus, ruler of the country - more on that later). October 1 will be the sixtieth anniversary of the founding of the "People's Republic of China," which may actually go quite will for the cadres until someone reminds the world just how may Chinese died to satiate the mad whims of the founder.
The final two anniversaries (both in November) will - in different ways - go straight to the heart of the issue: the nature of the CCP regime. The 9th will be the twentieth anniversary of the Berlin Wall's demise. While most of the discussion will center around how Europe is today, I'm sure there will also be plenty of ink spilled and bandwith used about the one Communist behemoth that hasn't fallen yet.
The other November anniversary will be felt much more inside the CCP's realm: the fifth anniversary of the Hanyuan County massacre. It will be a sharp reminder to all who remember it of Hu Jintao's willingness to rely on bullets and blood to maintain "stability."
All in all, the cadres can expect an interesting year. Given the tragic inability of the free world's leaders to understand the stakes of Cold War II, it will likely be a year the regime survives, but it will also add more fuel to the fires of resentment felt by the CCP's greatest victims: the Chinese people. Thus 2009 will bring freedom that much closer to China.
How much closer would that be? As always, only time can tell.