Tiananmen Square Student Protests Remembered (June 3rd—June 4th 1989

Tiananmen Square Student Protests Remembered (June 3rd—June 4th 1989

I remember it well: June 3rd—4th, 1989.

I saw its televised progression care of a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation nightly newscast and remember asking (myself) for it not to lead to the dismantling of the Chinese State.

In my heart: how are a billion human beings going to collectively recover from a failed Chinese nationalist experiment. A nationalist experiment which gave a unified form to a people, state, and geographical landmass enabling them to feed and shelter themselves through their own efforts and protect China from its history of foreign invasions  and foreign occupations at the hands of Japan and various western powers, from France, and the United Kingdom to Germany.

I supported the Government clamp down on the grounds China, to meet the minimum standards of civilized life in the 20th century, needed a strong central authority to keep 1 billion human beings and nation together. This position, at the time (I was a student at McMaster University: Graduate Political Science), was not popular among my University peers for whom government repression was a universal bad and a universal denial of basic human rights since it suppressed citizen protests.

My response: the western liberal model of human economic political and social development is historically unique to the West and cannot be reproduced in nations without the same history of liberal individualism, private property and secular political institutions. China during the Tiananmen Square student protests was living proof my speculations had titanium solidity.

Authoritarianism would also, I speculated, be the inevitable form of even a liberal capitalist government should such rule China at that time since getting such a large nation unified for economic development made this objectively necessary.

To my friends my words were proof I was lacking a key neurological sub-atomic molecule necessary for the existence and reproduction of civilized human life. I was made to walk alone as punishment for transgressing the liberal ideological orthodoxy of the University community. I was a pariah.

I temporarily “lost” the friendship of my Chinese friend from Singapore for whom the Communist Party crackdown of the student protest movement was proof of the utter irrationality and inhuman barbarism of communism.

For my Singaporean friend, for China to progress from the darkness of communism to the enlightenment of liberal capitalism it should be free of communist authoritarian tyranny and in someway transform itself into–in the words of Margaret Thatcher– “a nation of shopkeepers.” I disagreed.

Many years later my Singaporean friend came to a similar conclusion, after returning home: China was simply too complex for the kind of small business capitalism he had envisaged for its economic development.

The challenge for the Chinese government as China evolves is whether to continue with authoritarian rule; has it served its historical purpose of organizing the Chinese people and China’s resources into one efficient productive organism? Time alone will tell, or would it? Is authoritarianism a temporary solution to getting China started on the ladder of economic development or is China permanently marked in a posture of Communist authoritarian political authority? Is the Communist Party itself part of a future China? Can there be a non-authoritarian Communist Party in China’s future?

The Communist party solved the early challenge to its authority by the students at Tiananmen Square by crushing their rebellion, that was the devil that could be seen, what cannot be seen and cannot be prepared for are those challenges born of the very progress it has mastered and continues to pursue, now there are challenge guns bullets tanks and soldiers cannot solve.

Word count: 611

Charles Simon-Aaron

June 2, 2014








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