By Imtiyaz Razak –
A quarter century ago today, [June 4, 1989], China had experienced one of large anti-regime protests since 1978. It is commonly known as the June Fourth Incident or ’89 Democracy Movement. Students from Beijing University [where I earned my Masters degree in International Politics in 1996] and students from some universities in Beijing joined the popular demonstrations in Beijing.
There are socio-economic origin behind the rebellions, protests and mobilization. Rebellion or revolutions do not occur in the absence of social and economic problems. Studies on political mobilizations in China suggest interesting reasons behind the students-led popular movement. Chinese history is full of revolutions and rebellions since 17th century. Some rebellions succeeded and some failed. One of the successful rebellions against the regime is the Chinese communist party led revolution aiming at overthrowing the regime led by Chinese nationalists, commonly known as KMT.
Since the communists led by Mao Zedong capture of power in 1949, there was another rebellion against the regime. This rebellion led by Mao Zedong against the communist party.This is commonly known as cultural revolution. Though Mao mobilized and lead the rebellion, it didn’t succeed its major goals, but proved Chinese spirt of protests. The death of Mao Zedong brought what is described as capitalists roaders to power. Deng Xioping, close associate of Mao Zedng and an ardent pro-market comrade during Mao’s period, as expected, came to power.
Deng was very pragmatic and would believe in practical line of thinking that It doesn’t matter if a cat is black or white, so long as it catches mice. His reform policies turned China eventually into one of the leading economic powers in 90’s. But capitalist economic reforms have their own distinct disadvantages. Few of them are inequality, corruption and unemployment.
Deng’ s major aim was to make everybody rich, and it is no wrong to be rich. It is beautiful idea and Deng did his best to make every chinese happy. But Deng confronted very similar challenges what Mao had to face from the party. There was tension between the party and Deng Xiaoping. The latter was not happy about the implementation of reform by the former. Deng knew that masses would rise up if the reform would fail the country.
But Chinese scholars who study Deng Xioping suggest that Deng actually lost the battle with those who implemented China’s reform. As expected students rose against the party demanding the overthrow of the regime. At the time of students protests, former soviet union Mikhail S. Gorbachev arrived in Beijing on May 15, 1989 “to seal the reconciliation of the two largest Communist nations when both are struggling through profound economic and political changes.”
Students used the opportunity to build more leverages on the regime, They also had very close contacts with Washington. But the regime did not listen to students. Students’ only aim was to overthrow of the regime. But the regime was not interested in giving up power to liberal-leaning and western backed student protesters. Negotiations had failed between the state and protesters, because both parties were not ready to compromise their positions. And students begun to occupy the streets of Beijing. The regime in Beijing showed what other regimes would do when there was threat to it’s own existence. That is to say, the China’s ruling regime showed no mercy, but crushed the what is considered by outsiders as peaceful protests. “The troops were brought to the streets of Beijing with assault rifles and tanks “inflicted casualties on unarmed civilians trying to block the military’s advance towards Tiananmen Square in the heart of Beijing, which student demonstrators had occupied for seven weeks.”
Last night [June 3, 2014] I had great opportunity to talk with a person who currently works in the US in one of the leading Phramas. She was then professor attached to Beijing University. When I asked about China’s current politics and economic progress, she was very pleased with the country’s progress. Though she is not happy about the CCP rule, she correctly thinks there are no other better forces in China to take China to better condition then it was 50 years ago. Many young people in China now want to be rich and not interested in ideology-driven politics. For good, the regime is doing well in defeating poverty and providing conditions for upward mobility.
What China’s 1989 incident suggests that state regardless of its liberal or authoritarian nature would crush the popular movement if there were credible threat. As a person who lived in China around 10 years and still keep regular contacts with Chinese in China and in the US, as well as teach Chinese politics and society, all I can say is that the regime in Beijing survive for a while unless and otherwise there’s big political miracle would occur with the help from the western powers. But Beijing is aware of the west and its activities in China. And China’s major goal at this point is make more people rich, which is of course very good. China is rising and it is rising beyond our conventional understanding.
The crux of the question in life is not whether we vote or not, but whether we get good bread and butter as well as social security. Though electoral democracy has some positive aspects, when people do not have food to eat, or people suffer with empty stomach, there’s no point to celebrate any forms of system. It seems Chinese government realizes this basic logic.
Our sympathies go to those who sacrificed their lives on June 4, 1989. May Almighty Allah forgive their sins and give them paradise to all.