Monday June 5, 1989
It is, for all who watch and wonder about the Communist world, the ultimate obscenity. Worse even than Hungary or Czechoslovakia or Afghanistan for there the tanks and troops were alien invaders, rolling across borders in the fashion through time immemorial of big powers knocking little powers into line.
But in China it is the People's Army turned against the people: shooting them indiscriminately in Tiananmen Square, on the streets, on their doorsteps, crushing them beneath tanks. A bankrupt, desperate, geriatric government, an edifice of ideology and aspiration, flaking and toppling before our eyes. We have been confronted, this week-end, by one of the great punctuation marks of 20th-century history.
No-one in the largest nation in the world will ever forget the first week of June in Beijing. A surge of desire for greater freedoms - not democracy as we know it, but an opening of society, a spirit of glasnost - has posed ultimate questions to a group of old men and, ultimately, at whatever cost, they have moved to stamp it out.
There was a chance, only a handful of days ago, that a more liberal strain of thinking within the Chinese Communist Party could, by its success in the backroom struggle for power, have harnessed the yearning for glasnost. But the old men won.
Are the manifest death throes of the Communist monoliths manageable? Can they be predicted and relied on? Could Tiananmen Square come to Red Square and savagely end a period of burgeoning hope?
The point is a starkly simple one. We, sitting comfortably in the West, assume that a spark in the individual human condition - a spark called freedom - must, in the end, make a bonfire of the system that seeks to snuff it out. We assumed, from Nixon on, that China could gradually evolve, that the business culture, the Americans with cheque books, would inevitably bring some form of democracy in their wake. Tell that, this bloody, awful morning, to the marines.
How frail is the Soviet spark? The Soviet people - because glasnost came first - may have acquired a patina of sophistication that the students of Beijing lacked. The Soviet Union is seeking to devolve power, to provoke argument, to manage change. The pensioners of the Chinese establishment had, long since, run out of ideas.
They must not get away with it. In the eyes of the West, because of the spark. And in the eyes of those who watch from Moscow, too, because the nightmare of Deng is theirs as well. We all, at root, know the Chinese march towards liberty must be resumed.
[From Angry Chinese Blogger]