It’s fair to say that the only thing Beijing remembers at this time each year is how to renew its commitment to selective amnesia. And the only reason I choose to remind them each year that airbrushing history in their own image is a battle they ultimately can’t win, is because the level of open discourse on the events of May/june 1989 is an effective barometer of the Chinese government’s maturity. In this respect the occupants of Zhongnanhai have thus far displayed about as much grown up behaviour as a stroppy infant on an aggressive course of amphetamines.
Extrapolate this behaviour to the contexts of a global economic powerhouse, a regional expansionist bully, and a domestic driver of nationalistic, anti-foreign sentiment, and one doesn’t require the vision of Arthur C. Clarke to see that the world is not going to be a better place without a serious attitude overhaul in Beijing.
I’m going to say it again: it really is a question of maturity.
As ever, that tiny outpost of free Chinese expression we call Hong Kong will shine the beacon of truth in the eyes of their overbearing big brother to the North, once again demonstrating that to remember the events of June 4th 1989 does not mean a meltdown in social order. Quite the opposite, in fact.
So, dearest occupants of Zhongnanhai, let’s try these baby steps:
1. Stop being assholes of the the highest order and allow those who lost loved ones 23 years ago some closure.
2. Make a symbolic gesture in recognition of the sacrifices made that night. Try this.
3. Ween yourself off the embarrassing narrative that describes the Chinese leadership as heroes for crushing a west-backed rebellion intent on stalling China’s progress, and instead acknowledge that without the Tiananmen protests of ’89 your nation’s rise would not have been so remarkable.
4. To achieve #3 you’re going to have to make your nation a stronger, fairer, more intellectually accommodating place. The good news is, this will cost you nothing. All you need do is get the word out that your citizens have access to all the facts surrounding the events leading up to 6/4, and that they are free to discuss openly the causes and ramifications of said events.
Simple. And mature.