The Magazine

The Unknown Massacre

Beijing is making a mistake by suppressing the truth about Tiananmen.

Jun 8, 2009, Vol. 14, No. 36 • By GORDON G. CHANG
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Like Kim, Mao Zedong and Deng were capable of great crimes against their people when they felt the need to defend their regime. Their successors are technocratic and bland and not especially bloodthirsty. Wen Jiabao, the current premier, is known as the "crying prime minister" and "Grandpa Wen." His repressive tactics have been more modern and subtle than Kim's--and not as effective. There are tens of thousands of protests each year in China and few in North Korea.

The Tiananmen anniversary will undoubtedly pass without official comment this year. As in the past, a few citizens will be quoted in Western media as saying the incident is old history, and they have "moved on." Yet Communist party leaders, judging from their reluctance to discuss the events of 20 years ago, have not. Because they cannot be candid, they cannot defend themselves in front of those who remember. And by repressing the memory of the Beijing Spring, they are lessening the fear that has kept the one-party state in power. For Chinese autocrats these days, there may be no right answer on Tiananmen.

Gordon G. Chang is the author of The Coming Collapse of China.