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The Most Important Lesson From the Tiananmen Square Massacre

Masacre de la Plaza de Tiananmen, El American

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This June 4th marks the 32nd anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre. Pavel Stroilov, a Russian historian who had access to privileged Soviet files during the Mikhail Gorbachev era and managed to carry much of them with him into exile in the West, cites the former USSR’s intelligence data death figures for that brutal event at over 3,000 people.

That horrific event in the world’s largest square (Tiananmen) was the culmination of an epic popular movement demanding freedom and democratic self-rule where massive nationwide demonstrations were carried out in more than four hundred Chinese cities, lasting over a seven-week period.

The big “inciter” of the understandable claims made by the Chinese people in 1989 was the notion that economic liberalization equated (or should equate) the amplification of political and civil societal spaces. That was the same logical premise made, after all, by politicians and the business community of the world’s democracies, especially the United States. President Richard Nixon’s “engagement” policy was rationalized as having realpolitik advantages and laying the seeds for the communist in Peking to choose another path. Capitalism was still believed by many to possess a democracy-inducing contagion quality. Thus, when Deng Xiaoping began his sermons about the need to reformulate the economic model to meet “socialist needs” before the Eleventh Congress of the Chinese Communist party in 1978, many in the West misjudged the tenacity of a Marxist-Leninist state. 

Masacre de la Plaza de Tiananmen, El American

The act of integrating market mechanisms into a state-directed mercantilist model, one that Deng cleverly labeled “socialism with Chinese characteristics,” was altogether within the permissible parameters of communism. It was none other than Vladimir Lenin himself that introduced the first communist hybrid variant of a state-directed public/private economic venture (state capitalism) called the New Economic Policy in 1921. Deng was simply following Lenin’s footsteps, but in a grander fashion. 

The legitimate quest for freedom by the captive Chinese society was an aspiration consistent with the hope that chummier relations with the West could elicit from the communist authorities in Beijing a more compromisingly settled approach, in the worst-case scenario. Additionally, history seemed to be at their side. The Chinese people were not ignorant of the fact that Soviet communism was crumbling.

The literal fall of the Berlin Wall was but only five months away. The problem was that most of the Chinese Marxists in power had make the calculated decision of addressing their economic model and the ensuing production relations, for purposes of regime survivability and not out of humanitarian concerns. On June 4th, the communists were determined to put an absolute end to all misunderstandings about what the “Chinese model” was all about. The Leninist state with its Marxist-Maoist official ideology was immutable and economic reformulations were mere instruments of power. 

Tiananmen Square Massacre, El American

The People’s Liberation Army mobilized more troops that day in Beijing then were amassed during previous territorial incidents along the Soviet, Indian, and Vietnamese borders. Instead of the customary regular infantry divisions, for the most part, elite battalions were used to execute the heinous carnage. Chinese communism’s most ferocious military structure was positioned to carry out the slaughter of over 3,000 unarmed, civilian countrymen. Most were young. 

The free world simply watched and ignored the horrendous crime against humanity committed in Tiananmen Square that day. The false belief that communism was coming to end with the ongoing events in the USSR and the Eastern bloc satellites, sidetracked the West’s morality. The stupidity of believing that communism died, instead of mutated, continues to imperil free societies everywhere. Most lamentably, the Chinese are still getting away with murder. Not just for the death of Chinese citizens, but the world’s as well. The “Made in China” pandemic export is being covered up by the usual suspects: the complicit West.   

Julio M Shiling, political scientist, writer, director of Patria de Martí and The Cuban American Voice, lecturer and media commentator. A native of Cuba, he currently lives in the United States. Twitter: @JulioMShiling // Julio es politólogo, escritor, director de Patria de Martí y The Cuban American Voice. Conferenciante y comentarista en los medios. Natural de Cuba, vive actualmente en EE UU.

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