Tiananmen Square — 20 Years Later — Some Thoughts and Links

As I write this, it is already June 4 in China. All over China, people are remembering where they were on that fateful day 20 years ago when the fledgling democracy movement, a grassroots movement of peace and celebration, was brutally crushed in Tiananmen Square. Here are some stories, links, videos — and a few thoughts:



The Massacre

BBC News Report

The Story of Tank Man


Some Thoughts

There is a common misconception that democracy and capitalism go hand-in-hand, and in fact one is not possible without the other. China gives the lie to all that. China is one of the world’s largest markets, and is quickly on the road to a full-fledged capitalist society. Yet it is still totalitarian, repressive, and not the least interested in democracy, a free press, or free and fair elections.

We continue to believe that market-based engagement will produce political change. Twenty years after Tiananmen Square, we should acknowledge the truth — individuals, companies, and entire nations are more than happy to sell us their goods and take our money, and while doing so they see no connection at all with how they treat their neighbors, their employees, or their citizens. If we bring it up, they may nod and smile and say the right things, but they will not change. Why should they? They have our money without changing.

Should we link the two issues completely, and only have trade relations with nations whose human rights record we approve of? No. Without trade, we have no leverage outside of war. We need the relationship of the market as a vehicle, a carrier, for establishing trust and opening dialogue about other things, and we need the relationship of the market as well for leverage and negotiation.

What we must not do, though, is adopt the completely cynical view of some, and ignore human rights as long as we’re making lots of money, or talk about human rights only to say “but we really don’t mean it if it offends you and keeps you from trading with us.”

The United States can increase the marketplace, spread democracy, and stand for human rights. It can do all three, with the same partner … IF we are committed to all three. And comfortable with that commitment.

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