Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Twenty Years Later

So here we are, at another June 4 that much of the rest of the world won’t notice. It is all the more painful here in the West in that this anniversary – the 20th is one of our more important ones. It will hurt to see those who so bravely gave their lives be so cruelly forgotten.

The irony here – and one we must remember – is that this year, more than any other except perhaps for 1989 itself, we can truly say that those who were murdered did not die in vain. For whatever the rest of the world thinks of the Tiananmen Square bloodbath, the Chinese Communist Party is more afraid of it than it has ever been.

It would seem odd that this would be so. After all, the cadres have spent the last two decades erasing the Tiananmen Spring from local history books, and have rather brilliantly co-opted the previously non-Communist elite into the regime. Likewise, they seem to have convinced much of the rest of the world to move on and embrace the “new” China of the 21st Century. However, below the surface, it’s abundantly clear that the pressures that led the people to take to the streets in 1989 have never really gone away. They just went underground, and thus have become the cadres’ obsession.

We remember the students of 1989, but the CCP also remembers the laborers, farmers, pensioners, and other ordinary Chinese who joined the demonstrations (yes, that’s plural – it’s believed that 1 in 10 Chinese citizens joined some demonstration in hundreds of cities and towns that year). The cadres knew how to handle the intellectuals: a dose of radical nationalism and a slew of licenses-to-steal (otherwise known as Party Cards) did much of the trick. Thus, Beijing appears the model of peace and tranquility – to locals and outsiders.

Go beyond Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, or Shenzhen, however, and it’s a different story. The anger, fear, and frustrations are still there, met not with kind words and incentives but party-sanctioned violence and corruption. In fact, the CCP pyramid scheme used to win over the intellectuals in the cities actually made the situation in the countryside worse – since it was peasants and laborers who were forced to pay for the CCP’s plans.

This is the real reason Tiananmen – even today – must remain buried in the past: too many people outside the cities remember what really happened, and have no interest in forgetting. We who live and work outside China rarely see this, in no small part because the cadres cannot afford to let us. Much like the hard-line Communists in Europe saw their regimes collapse when the outside world noticed the people’s anger, so, too, would the CCP if the foreign approval upon which it depends turned into wishing – and helping – the Chinese take their country back.

So, to prevent this, the cadres have to make sure June 4 passes by quietly – or, to be more accurate, that something else distracts our attention. For years, it hasn’t taken very much (a late Presidential primary, the proximity of the D-Day anniversary, etc.). This year, however, the anniversary so spooked the cadres that they apparently allowed (and perhaps even encouraged) their Korean colony to become a nuclear power – a rather large role of the dice that, if they’re not careful, could lead to more Americans and others catching on to the ruse.

That the CCP felt compelled to let Kim Jong-il frighten the entire free world, spin South Korea permanently away from the pro-Beijing “sunshine” of the last decade, and nearly inject an unexpected hawkishness into the Obama Administration is a sign of just how desperate the regime wanted the Tiananmen anniversary off the front pages. If they remain that scared of the 20-year-old crackdown, lovers of freedom cannot be completely discouraged.

Moreover, despite what the CCP would have us believe, the future is actually bright for anti-Communists. After two decades of prosperity-fueled corruption, the regime is facing a recession that could leave tens of millions of Party Members without the ill-gotten perks to which they think they are entitled. India and the United States have moved closer than at any time in 40 years, while CCP ally Pakistan is losing credibility in Washington faster than it’s losing territory to the Taliban. Japan and South Korea are now firmly in the anti-Communist camp, and even Taiwan, despite the Communist-friendly Nationalist government, seems to be returning to its anti-Communist roots.

All the while, the historical symbol of bloody repression hangs everywhere. Invisible but undeniable, it reminds tens of millions of Chinese that there was, once, a different path, and makes laughable every effort by the CCP to make it go away. With what the regime felt it had to do to keep the past away, we can truly see that it (the past) is still strong enough to guide the present and the future.Communism in China will fall; the only question remains: how much time, blood, and treasure must be lost before it does? That question can only be answered by those who helped accelerate the end of European Communism but, for now, have yet to do the same to Chinese Communism – namely, us.

Cross-posted to the right-wing liberal and Virginia Virtucon

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