Why Tiananmen no longer matters in China? By Robert Terpstra


Scores of articles, essays and op-ed features hark back to a time when most readers were going through their midlife crisis. So why do two justifiably news shattering events continue to make headlines and footnotes 20-30 years later?
Often when discussing China as the next global superpower, the fast approaching Olympics, Darfur, Myanmar or Tibet, the student uprising in 1989 in Tiananmen Square remains part of the author’s thesis for why, pour example, human rights are being trampled upon, Kyoto is being ignored or Taiwan’s recent landslide KMT victory occurred in nationwide polls.
The scope of this article does not allow the author to provide documented evidence that the events of Tiananmen Square, censored by state-run, Chinese officials, do not conclusively affect the events of the 21st century, but I’ll hazard a guess and perhaps propose viable hypotheses.
The events of Tiananmen Square, although steeped in controversy and vast in its important avenues, should no longer be cause celebre for neoconservatives trying to drive home a point in the space that could better be used for something sensible.
The crackdown at the heart of the country is no more worthy to be mentioned than the more recent and more potentially damaging Falun Dafa movement, the imprisonment and disappearance of journalists, the very exclusion of reporters from just about everywhere, but most important in Lhasa and the Tibet Autonomous Region. A strong case could also be made for the Japanese prisoners still held in a clandestine manner from scores of conflicts and battles over the years.
Nineteen-Eighty-Nine was a long time ago, even for history buffs. A bright-eyed student finishing their studies in university in Cairo, Beirut or Addis Ababa will probably know no more about Tiananmen Square than the fact there is a foggy view of a barely visible, balding Chairman Mao adorning its face. Little know about its events, fewer acknowledge the significance.
The very reason that 1989 is no longer important is that the Chinese government assumes that their citizens should have a short memory and they expect the rest of the world to forget its Achilles’ heel as well â€" the art of war, wait, that was Sun Tzu’s gift to the world. The art of propaganda is what Beijing does best. The reality is that the world is empathetic, forgives, but does not forget.
This takes us no closer to the reason why Tiananmen is brought up again and again in Foreign Affairs, The Economist, The Wall Street Journal and a vast array of reputable publications. The events surrounding that dark fortnight provide what this author refers to as an ‘easy way out’. ‘The Olympics in Beijing will be marred by distracting protests because of what originated during the course of events surrounding Tiananmen Square’ hypothetically may be one opined sentence. To that, this author responds that, yes, perhaps the authors do have a point, but surely an event occurring almost 20 years ago could not have planted a seed that justifies all these recent PR nightmares for the politburo in the Communist party.
Most clashes and disturbances from within the state are the cause of impulse reaction. Author Malcolm Gladwell studied this phenomenon and proved it in his book, Blink. He found that the most advantageous decisions were made in split-seconds, not well thought-out motives and certainly not the result of deep-seated hatred towards an Orwellian Big Brother. Waving a Tibetan flag during a speech on national television or lying in the path of the Olympic flame relay in protest is not rooted in the events of 1989. It is here, it is now.
Many will argue that another example at the forefront of news headlines is the antipathy that the Muslim world shows towards the West is deeply rooted, going back to 1979 and the 444-day Iranian hostage situation. The consensus is that when students stormed the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, their actions initiated the first negative interaction between the Judeo-Christian West and the Muslim world.
The difference between Sino behaviour and the feelings of hatred brewing inside Muslims is that the latter’s behaviour is, to be honest, justified, and has been widely documented despite the filter that the Western media initiates when reporting news.
In sum, the Chinese populace have multiple outlets, and these have been growing exponentially since 1989. Recent events may mirror Tiananmen, but are not the cause of its effect. Outbursts, a form of disorder, are bound to occur, but rather than focusing on the root of the problem, which is factually incorrect to begin with, perhaps advertising the truth and establishing reconciliation programs will go a long way to once again restoring order.
The road for China is rocky at best, but in contrast to the Muslim world, the race is long, and in the end it’s only with themselves.

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