In some corners of former colonising countries, it has become a habit to resuscitate around this time some of the old fabrications concerning ‘June 4’, or the Tiananmen incident in 1989. I have written elsewhere that the notion of a ‘massacre’ in the square was a slick MI5 ‘black ops’ effort – based on mysteriously vanishing ‘eye-witnesses’ – to tarnish China and whip up pressure from the usual quarters. Of course, the underlying narrative is that the CPC is a secretive and paranoid bunch bent on world domination – a narrative all too easy to rebut, since the vast majority of Chinese people trust and support the CPC. In fact, as a very insightful and long article in the Global Times points out, in a recent survey polling young people with an average age of 27, the results show that ‘87.6 percent approve of Marxism, with the approval rate among the 2000s generation – 89.3 percent – being the highest among the participants, as the 1980s got 88 percent and the 1990s 87.8 percent’. In other words, Chinese youth today are increasingly confident of the leadreship role of the CPC.
Thirty years ago the situation was different for young people. So why did Deng Xiaoping decide the act? Sovereignty, stability, security and the core human right to socio-economic wellbeing were the underlying reasons why Deng Xiaoping and those around him made the correct decision to act in 1989. These reasons remain valid today.
However, here I would like to copy an insightful analysis by Domenico Losurdo. It appears in his book, Non-Violence: A History Beyond the Myth (pp. 191-94). In his typical style, he pulls apart ‘Western’ colonial materials to show that even these sources contradict what they are ostensibly trying to achieve.
In spring 1989, imposing demonstrations occurred in Beijing and other cities of China, which seemed set to suffer the fate of the Communist governments of Eastern Europe. After a fairly extended period of negotiations and attempts at compromise, the crisis ended with the proclamation of martial law and the intervention of tanks in Tiananmen Square. Some days later, on 9 June, Deng Xiaoping paid tribute to the “martyrs” of the police and army, to the “numerous” dead and “thousands” wounded, therewith alluding to bitter, large-scale clashes. On the other side, the West denounced a massacre of peaceful demonstrators. Which version is to be trusted?
In 2001, the so-called Tiananmen Papers were published and subsequently translated into the world’s principal languages. According to the (US) editors, the book reproduces secret reports and confidential minutes of the decision-making process that resulted in the repression of the protest movement. Here we have a paradox. We are dealing with papers whose authenticity is challenged by China’s leaders, who possibly find it difficult to admit the high-level leaking of confidential documents, which recount such a tormented decision-making process that it ended only thanks to the decisive intervention of the charismatic leader, Deng Xiaoping. By contrast, the publishers and editors swear to their authenticity. According to them, the documents they have published demonstrate the extreme brutality of a “regime” that did not hesitate to drown an absolutely peaceful, in a sense Gandhian, protest in blood. However, a reading of the book yields a very different picture of the tragedy that unfolded in Beijing. It is true that the leaders of the movement sometimes made professions of “non-violence.” However, the US editors of the Tiananmen Papers themselves underline that the troops summoned at the start of June to clear the square “encountered anger and some violence.” The names given to themselves by the most active groups speak for themselves: “Flying Tiger Group,” “Dare-to-Die Brigade,” “Army of Volunteers.” And in fact:
More than five hundred army trucks were torched at dozens of intersections . . . On Chang’an Boulevard an army truck’s engine was turned off and two hundred rioters stormed the cab and beat the driver to death . . . At the Cuiwei intersection a truck carrying six soldiers slowed down to avoid hitting people in a crowd. A group of rioters then threw rocks, Molotov cocktails, and flaming torches at the truck, which tipped to the left when nails that the rioters had scattered punctured a tire. The rioters then flung burning objects into the truck, exploding its gas tank. All six soldiers burned to death.
Not only was there repeated recourse to violence, but surprising weapons sometimes came into play:
A yellowish-green smoke suddenly arose from one end of the bridge. It came from a broken-down armored car that was now set out to block the street . . . The armored cars and tanks that had come to clear the roadblocks could do nothing but mass at the bridgehead. Suddenly a young man ran up, threw something into an armored car, and then scurried off. A few seconds later the same yellowish-green smoke was seen pouring from vehicles as soldiers scrambled out and squatted down in the street, grabbing their throats in agony. Someone said they had inhaled poison gas. But the enraged officers and soldiers managed to maintain their self-control.
Such acts of war, with repeated use of weapons banned by international conventions, coincided with initiatives that are even more thought provoking – for example, “counterfeit[ing] the masthead of [the] People’s Daily.” On the other side, we see the instructions issued by the leaders of the Chinese Communist Party and government to the military forces tasked with repression:
. . . even if the troops should be beaten, burned, or killed by the unenlightened masses, or if they should be attacked by lawless elements with clubs, bricks, or Molotov cocktails, they must maintain control and defend themselves with nonlethal methods. Clubs should be their major weapons of self-defense, and they are not to open fire on the masses. Violators will be punished.
If the picture painted by a book published in, and propagated by, the West is reliable, it was not the demonstrators who displayed caution and moderation, but the People’s Liberation Army, even if there must have been units which, in a difficult situation, failed to maintain the stipulated self-control.
In subsequent days, the armed character of the rebellion became more evident. A very senior leader of the Communist Party drew attention to a very alarming fact: “the rioters seized armored cars and set up machine guns on top of them, just to show off.” Would they confine themselves to a threatening display? Yet the instructions issued to the army were not substantially altered: “the Martial Law Command must make it quite clear to all units that they are to open fire only as a last resort.”
The very episode of the young demonstrator blocking a tank with his body, celebrated in the West as a symbol of non-violent heroism at grips with a blind, indiscriminate violence, was viewed very differently by China’s leaders, according to The Tiananmen Papers:
We’ve all seen that videotape of the young man blocking the tank. Our tank gave way time and time again, but he just stayed there, right in the way, and even crawled up on to the tank, and still the soldiers held their fire. That says it all! If our soldiers had fired, the repercussions would have been very different. Our soldiers carried out Party Central’s orders with precision. It’s amazing they could stay cool and patient in a spot like that!
The use of asphyxiating or poison gas by demonstrators, and especially the pirate edition of the People’s Daily, clearly indicate that the incidents in Tiananmen Square were not exclusively internal to China. We can infer what the West, and especially the United States, aimed at from another book, written by two proudly anti-Communist authors (Richard Bernstein and Ross H. Munro, The Coming Conflict with China, New York: Knopf, 1997). They report how at the time Winston Lord, former ambassador in Beijing and leading adviser to future President Clinton, tirelessly repeated that the fall of the Communist “regime” was “a matter of weeks or months” away. This forecast seemed all the more justified because at the summit of government and party stood Zhao Ziyang, who (stress the two US authors) is to be regarded as “probably the most pro-American senior Chinese leader in recent history.”
In retrospect, the events of Tiananmen Square in 1989 seem to be a dress rehearsal for the “color revolutions” that occurred in subsequent years.
NOTE: The so-called “colour revolutions” are of course out-sourced “regime change” by former colonisers who still try to shape the world in their image.