Can We Take A Moment To Appreciate How Good This Picture Is?

Tiananmen in April 1989

It’s the lead pic from the New York Times’s story today about how China’s current leaders were molded by the events of 1989.

For four days, more than 400 of China’s brightest political minds gathered in smoke-clouded halls at a Beijing hotel, vigorously debating the nation’s future.

It was April 1989, and after a decade of economic transformation, China faced a clamor for political liberalization. Days later, protests erupted in Tiananmen Square, and the lives of those at the meeting took radically different turns. Several are now national leaders, including Li Keqiang, China’s prime minister. Others ended up in prison or exile, accused of supporting the demonstrations that shook the Communist Party and ended with soldiers sweeping through the city on June 4, shooting dead hundreds of unarmed protesters and bystanders.

The caption for the photograph, which was taken by AFP, reads: “Student protesters faced police officers in Tiananmen Square in April 1989 while grieving for Hu Yaobang, a former Communist Party leader and liberal whose death set off the protests.”

Elite in China Molded in Part by Tiananmen (NYT)

    19 Responses to “Can We Take A Moment To Appreciate How Good This Picture Is?”

    1. MrT

      No one gives a fuck in China or the rest of the world.
      Just the political media beating the drums hoping then can kick it off again.
      Dream on the West, you got a enough shitty problems on your own doorsteps don’t bother try diverting the attention of your own problems and big fat lies.

      • Mat Ryan

        Is it because “no one gives a fuck” that the Party makes efforts to block its memory or discussion?

        You shouldnt project my yellow friend. Just because you dont give a fuck don’t assume others dont

    2. Andong

      Dear Amanda,

      in many circles, the incident is all they talk about today. Checking Weibo also reveals how many people remember.

    3. prophetfraud

      Western media loves this event, and they still play up the overexaggerated outcomes from that day. Where the is Chai Ling? Oh wait, I know, probably in church. She’s since become a born again con artist (Christian). On top of that, she’s been sued a few times for shady business practices along with her husband, and even unsuccessfully tried to sue the filmmakers behind the documentary “The Gate of Heavenly Peace.” What would you rather have, a crackdown on student protests, or a company like Monsanto ruining the food of an entire nation with the blind support of its bullshit drone president?

      • jiminy christmas

        this is pretty much the only reaction i get from chinese coworkers or friends when i bring up the topic. instead of engaging, it’s met very defensively (ie “how can Americans ask about this when America did x y and z bad things?”) and then dismissed by insulting the character or motivations of one/some of the protesters. it’s scary and sad to see this important moment in chinese history being forgotten (or, worse yet, convoluted to the point where many believe that it was some sort of foreign-led conspiracy and not an important domestic movement), and the youth of today often seem to prefer the defensive China vs the West stance, just how the CCP hoped it would play out all along.

        • suckjesus

          It’s important, just not as important as you think it is, so you’re bothered by what you believe to be ignorance on the part of others. Chai Ling deserves to be called out. She was a rotten control freak who now hides under a Christian blanket.

          • jiminy christmas

            so if it’s important, then isn’t it important enough to discuss without immediately dismissing the topic as over-hyped foreigner tripe? it doesn’t need to be the topic of every conversation about china (which it certainly isn’t), but maybe when this time of year rolls around it’s worthy of more consideration than “western media thinks about this too much because they’re ignorant of the real situation in china”.

            if you perceive Chai Ling as some sort of fraud, then make that case, go ahead. just don’t make the mistake of thinking that that somehow invalidates the entire conversation. prophetfraud does exactly that in a series of logical jumps, from 1) “western media overemphasizes the event” to 2) “chai ling is bad”, and finally 3) “we can either have crackdowns on protests or all of that bullshit that goes on in America”. it was a bullshit comment, but maybe i’m the fool for taking the trollbait.

            • Jonathan Alpart

              Since it is June 4th and all it’s natural to have a lot of posts about it and talk about what happened, but again since it is June 4th it’s also just as good to mention how the event is overplayed, and, despite what you said, I would say that it is the topic of every conversation about China. Obviously that is hyperbole but I’m just reversing what you said, which was also hyperbolic.

              For those of us who live within China, time and experience have shown us that there are indeed other things happening than Tiananmen, but certainly for those “back home,” every thought and perception regarding China is colored with that event.

              Perhaps that is a good thing, because it was (sadly) a milestone in contemporary Chinese history and has had lasting effects until today. However, if the event is so important, then it is of even greater importance to talk about it frankly and openly, ESPECIALLY in honor of those who cannot.

              That means mentioning some of the protestors’ shady stories. That means raising the question of why Tiananmen is brought up again and again and again, while other nations with similar tragedies are pushed to the back burner. That means asking why something that happened 24 years ago is still treated as something you (westerners) still don’t know enough about.

              And, of course, it also means to talk about how horrible the event was, and how horrible it is that it cannot be talked about openly in China.

              But, sorry, to me, it doesn’t mean having yet another circlejerk about how the CCP sux, and being a sarcastic nimrod to those not invited to the party.

              I’ve made these points time and time again – not about Tiananmen, but other things – and then am accused of colluding with the party or simply being a moron. Such civilized behavior from people who claim to be on the side of free speech.

              Free speech: n., the freedom to agree with me with any combination of words.

              So far all I’ve seen of the so-called “discussions” today spanning these Tiananmen posts have been pretty disgraceful when you think about what all those people died for. Here’s a hint: it’s not so asshole, anonymous expats could label other asshole, anonymous expats as the “enemy.”

              Are there 50 centers in our midst? I’d like to believe they have better things to do (the biggest form of flattery for a paranoid loser is to think someone is after him), but perhaps. But if you can make that stretch of the imagination, I’d venture there are CIA operatives here, too.

              I’m done with BJC. The few people here that seem to be interested in honest discourse (Seahorse comes to mind) are drowned out by the extremist loudmouths. How ironic.

              I know I will not be missed, and I’m fine with that.

            • lo-fi

              How should we feel about this event? Is there a right way we should discuss it when speaking with others? Is there a book out there we can read to help us see the light? I don’t think 06/04 had anything to do with democracy or a lack of it. But that’s just my opinion.

            • jiminy christmas

              i don’t like still being involved in this thread, but i felt insulted by Alpart’s grandstand and will rest easier if i say my piece:

              1) points raised by Jonathan Alpart are not the same as points made by prophetfraud. i felt that prophetfraud was impeding any intelligent conversation on the topic, so i made a (non-hyperbolic) comparison – prophetfraud de-legitimized any comments from foreigners in a way that reminds me of the jumps in logic i’ve encountered in many other conversations i’ve had, mostly with mainland chinese (please note: i’m commenting on the content of the conversations i’ve had and not insulting the character of anyone involved – is that allowed?). Alpart, i don’t think you really deserve the high ground on calling for honest discourse, but whatever – we’re in agreement here anyway.

              2) this thread had been civilized, and there was nary an insult, exclamation point, curse word, nor mention of wumaos or their langley counterparts until Alpart made them. i tried to be careful to say that “in my conversations, i have often heard x y and z.” what’s hyperbolic there? i’m not sure what’s got you so cheesed off or what about this tame series of comments has so offended your sensibilities. i didn’t label anyone enemy, ccp stooge, etc. i simply didn’t. you in your comment called me (if i’m correct in feeling that your comment was directed at me) a nimrod, asshole, paranoid loser, and extremist loudmouth. just trying to share my own experiences on the topic. disagree if you want, but please don’t put words in my mouth.

              3) my only point with Chai Ling was that her faults are those of an individual and don’t mean that we can’t still talk about TAM as an important event. (and, again, i perceived that prophetfraud’s original comment implied that Chai Ling’s perceived failings meant that there was nothing more westerners could say on the topic at large.)

            • King Baeksu

              Jonathan, Tiananmen is not about you despite your efforts to make it so. Get over yourself, why don’t you?

              If you want respect from others, why not start with yourself and show some respect for those who gave their lives for what was, undoubtedly, a righteous cause. It’s all about them, after all.

              Some of the protesters may have been imperfect individuals, but what human being isn’t? Despite their flaws, they were heroic, brave and cared about more than just themselves. They cared about their country and its future, and risked their lives for it.

              I for one feel strong emotions whatever I look at pictures from that time, and read the personal stories of the participants. When I see that amazing picture of Tank Man, it reminds me of Neo at the end of “The Matrix,” stopping the bullets of Agent Smith with his bare hands. Truly incredible.

              The great courage and sacrifice of those Chinese patriots is really the only thing that needs to be remembered at this point. Everything else is just bullshit.

          • SeaHorse

            Because Chai LIng being a Christian totally overthrows what everyone else in the movement wanted to accomplish. I don’t care if a leader of the students got caught for cannabalizing babies, the way the government reacted still needs to be addressed. I don’t give a jackshit about Chai Ling. Lots of people were at Tiananmen, people I happen to think of as morally upstanding citizens who were concerned about the way things were going.

            Though I have my own fair of criticisms how the western press deals with it. They don’t really discuss the causes and problems, only the result. Only when China addresses what happened we can put this thing in the grave.

            • RhZ

              Thank you! Less so about the western media part, but this is not about Chai Ling or any other individual. This is about what the people asked of their government and how the government responded.

        • andrewfx51

          It’s because no-one teaches Aristotlean logic. Attacking with a tu quoque is using a logical fallacy.

      • P.

        Didn’t Chai Ling kick off her career with Bain — yes, *that* Bain — in the early-1990s? Not that it’s germane to the conversation, but it says a lot about her priorities after the smoke cleared.

        • Anthony Tao

          Geremie Barme, on Chai Ling:

          “I was in Beijing during the harrowing period of May 1989. I was friendly with Liu Xiaobo (whose work I had studied since 1985) and saw him during the movement and was familiar with his views and activities. I was also witness to the extremism of people like Chai Ling. One could observe that certain mindsets and patterns of behaviour, be they found in individuals in China or subsequently in those who became sojourners in the United States, remain little altered despite changed personal circumstances. The contrasts I witnessed in 1989, and about which I wrote thereafter, remain as stark today as they were twenty years ago.”

          Via The China Beat:


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