However high China’s skyscrapers soar, however huge the economy grows, however hurriedly the belt and road girdle the earth, the blemished history of the country’s Communist Party still hangs heavily around its neck. Hidden, unresolved shadows from the past continue to haunt China’s leaders and people — and none more so than the events of 30 years ago that culminated in the deployment of the People’s Liberation Army against students, workers and others on and around Tiananmen Square in Beijing on June 4.
These events retain their significance for the rest of the world, including Australia, since they highlight how often and how easily the Chinese party-state — distinguished by its single-mindedness, its ruthlessness, its focus on survival — has been, and continues to be, underestimated.
After the military actions of 1989 had been followed by paramount leader Deng Xiaoping’s renewed advocacy of economic growth measures, the Western world — seeking business opportunities for itself and believing that it could somehow help change China — soon re-engaged with Beijing.
A decade ago, American author James Mann wrote in his seminal book The China Fantasy: “American and European business and government leaders … foster an elaborate set of illusions about China, centred on the belief that commerce will lead inevitably to political change and democracy”. Such illusions — and the genuine commercial opportunities that emerged alongside them — began in 1976 with the death of Mao Zedong, the great dictator of the People’s Republic. The party-state had then taken the economy-opening route that much of the party elite had urged on Mao before — driving him to counter-attack via the Cultural Revolution.
Please click here to read the full “Ghosts of Tiananmen still haunts” article published in The Australian, written by Griffith Asia Institute Industry Fellow, Rowan Callick.