Commentary Magazine


Topic: Tiananmen Square

Tahrir Is Not Tiananmen

One of the more deceptive commentaries out there regarding the Muslim Brotherhood as it faces the Egyptian army’s crackdown is that the Brotherhood protestors are analogous to the Chinese dissidents and freedom seekers who, in 1989, faced down the Chinese Army in Tiananmen Square. It is a theme too good for the media to pass up. Here, for example, is the Guardian and here is the New York Daily News.

No doubt, the Egyptian military has been heavy-handed and has mishandled the media. And the Brotherhood, in contrast, has been media savvy from the very beginning. Just remember all the Brotherhood spokesmen and Brotherhood sympathizers who falsely spoke of the group’s evolution, moderation, and tolerance. The Brotherhood knows how to use the rhetoric of democracy and liberalism for entirely opposite purposes.

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One of the more deceptive commentaries out there regarding the Muslim Brotherhood as it faces the Egyptian army’s crackdown is that the Brotherhood protestors are analogous to the Chinese dissidents and freedom seekers who, in 1989, faced down the Chinese Army in Tiananmen Square. It is a theme too good for the media to pass up. Here, for example, is the Guardian and here is the New York Daily News.

No doubt, the Egyptian military has been heavy-handed and has mishandled the media. And the Brotherhood, in contrast, has been media savvy from the very beginning. Just remember all the Brotherhood spokesmen and Brotherhood sympathizers who falsely spoke of the group’s evolution, moderation, and tolerance. The Brotherhood knows how to use the rhetoric of democracy and liberalism for entirely opposite purposes.

The Tiananmen-to-Tahrir analogy is especially noxious because it slanders the Chinese dissidents who peacefully challenged the Chinese dictatorship’s iron grip.

  • The Tiananmen protestors were non-violent; what we have in Egypt is a two-sided fight that has resulted in dozens of police deaths.
  • The Tiananmen protestors were fighting for democracy; the Brotherhood used their year in power to eviscerate pluralism, which is why so many Egyptians rose up against them.
  • The Tiananmen protestors embraced ideological diversity; the Brotherhood seeks ideological conformity.
  • I don’t remember ever seeing the Tiananmen protestors take their ire out on China’s religious minorities.

That Egypt has turned violent is unfortunate, but it is not the first time: Egypt faced insurgency during the late 1980s and early 1990s. That the Islamists are weaker does not make them right. Nor does it make them democratic. When faced with a stark choice, it is essential to determine which side best protects American national interests and which can best return Egypt to the path of democracy, with all the checks and balances which are inherent in the system. In both cases, the Egyptian army seems the better bet, and the pressure the international community should bring to bear is to encourage a firm timeline to new elections under a new, more pluralistic constitution. What the Western media and Congress should not do is whitewash the Muslim Brotherhood’s brutality, even as it condemns the Egyptian security forces. And if the goal is democracy, it should not throw the baby out with the bathwater. Nor should it embrace facile but false analogies.

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Will Tiananmen Teach Us About Syria?

Today marks the 24th anniversary of China’s Tiananmen Square crackdown and massacre. Chinese actions outraged the world. The Chinese government’s actions were met with widespread disgust in both the United States and Europe, and Bush slapped some sanctions on Beijing—suspending weapons sales for example—the next day.

It was not long before self-described realists in George H.W. Bush’s administration decided to reach out once again to China. Less than a month after the massacres—with martial law still in force—Bush dispatched National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft and Deputy Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger to Beijing. Their trip was secret and did not bear fruit. Nevertheless, within just two and a half years, the Bush administration was undoing the last vestiges of its post-Tiananmen posture toward China. Secretary of State James Baker visited quite openly in 1991. Historians can debate whether the elder Bush’s policy was wise, or shortsighted; whether Bush and Baker’s approach was the Beijing Duck to their Chicken Kiev. No doubt China is an important country, and so it cannot simply be ignored.

But what about Syria? As Syrian government forces regain momentum, it is entirely possible that they can defeat—or at least contain—the rebels. In such a situation, should the United States and Europe reach out once again to President Assad’s regime? Should we re-establish normal relations between Washington and Damascus?

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Today marks the 24th anniversary of China’s Tiananmen Square crackdown and massacre. Chinese actions outraged the world. The Chinese government’s actions were met with widespread disgust in both the United States and Europe, and Bush slapped some sanctions on Beijing—suspending weapons sales for example—the next day.

It was not long before self-described realists in George H.W. Bush’s administration decided to reach out once again to China. Less than a month after the massacres—with martial law still in force—Bush dispatched National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft and Deputy Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger to Beijing. Their trip was secret and did not bear fruit. Nevertheless, within just two and a half years, the Bush administration was undoing the last vestiges of its post-Tiananmen posture toward China. Secretary of State James Baker visited quite openly in 1991. Historians can debate whether the elder Bush’s policy was wise, or shortsighted; whether Bush and Baker’s approach was the Beijing Duck to their Chicken Kiev. No doubt China is an important country, and so it cannot simply be ignored.

But what about Syria? As Syrian government forces regain momentum, it is entirely possible that they can defeat—or at least contain—the rebels. In such a situation, should the United States and Europe reach out once again to President Assad’s regime? Should we re-establish normal relations between Washington and Damascus?

The answer to these questions, of course, should be no. Full stop.

The Syrian leader is directly complicit in the worst abuses and gratuitous violence. If the United States is unwilling to undertake regime change—and certainly I oppose putting boots on the ground inside Syria, not that regime change requires such tactics—then it must be willing to uphold complete and unforgiving isolation of rogue governments. Even a secret trip—such as that made by Scowcroft and Eagleburger—takes the heat off the worst offenders. So long as dictators recognize that they can get away with murder—and at worst be pariahs for a limited duration—then they have no incentive to act responsibly. Diplomats may say that it is sophisticated to engage or that it never hurts to talk, but for tens of thousands of freedom-seeking citizens around the world, it can indeed.

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In Egypt, We Cannot Afford to Repeat Past Mistakes

I fully understand the dangers of what is happening in Egypt. I am as apprehensive as anyone about the possibility of the Muslim Brotherhood exploiting current events to gain power. I am fully aware of how Hosni Mubarak has been a useful ally in many ways. Yet, when I watch pro-government thugs attacking peaceful protesters, I am rooting wholeheartedly for the protesters and against the thugs. I imagine most Americans are, indeed most people around the world — a few Realpolitikers excepted.

The attacks in downtown Cairo, which have left many bleeding and some no doubt dead, are the dying gasp of a discredited regime. This is no Tiananmen Square — this is not the army being unleashed to use decisive force to crush the demonstrations. Instead, it is a motley collection of thugs and mercenaries: many no doubt secret policemen or other government functionaries, others rented for the day for a few bucks. The army’s role seems to be limited to that of a bystander, which is alarming in and of itself. Previously, the army had appeared to be on the side of the people. Now, following Mubarak’s announcement that he would not seek re-election in September — an announcement that did not preclude a Mubarak crony like Omar Suleiman or even the dictator’s son Gamal from running in a rigged vote — the army appears to be up for grabs. Earlier today an army spokesman called on the demonstrators to disperse, but troops are not enforcing that edict. No doubt the army generals are sniffing the wind to figure out which way to go now. Just as clearly, the people of Egypt are demanding an end to the Mubarak regime — now, not in the fall.

The United States, a nation born in a liberal revolution, has no choice but to stand with the people. In many ways, this is a continuation of the same battle fought in the streets of Europe in 1848 and 1989: the quest of a people yearning for freedom against the representatives of a corrupt and entrenched ruling oligarchy. America’s role, as the champion of liberty, should be to usher Mubarak out of power as quickly and painlessly as possible in order to avert further bloodshed and to make it harder for malign elements to take advantage of the disorder for their own nefarious purposes. We did not do enough to aid democrats in Russia in 1917 or in Iran in 1979; in both cases, we stuck with a discredited ancien regime until it was too late and reacted too slowly to revolutionary upheavals. Let us not repeat that mistake in Egypt.

I fully understand the dangers of what is happening in Egypt. I am as apprehensive as anyone about the possibility of the Muslim Brotherhood exploiting current events to gain power. I am fully aware of how Hosni Mubarak has been a useful ally in many ways. Yet, when I watch pro-government thugs attacking peaceful protesters, I am rooting wholeheartedly for the protesters and against the thugs. I imagine most Americans are, indeed most people around the world — a few Realpolitikers excepted.

The attacks in downtown Cairo, which have left many bleeding and some no doubt dead, are the dying gasp of a discredited regime. This is no Tiananmen Square — this is not the army being unleashed to use decisive force to crush the demonstrations. Instead, it is a motley collection of thugs and mercenaries: many no doubt secret policemen or other government functionaries, others rented for the day for a few bucks. The army’s role seems to be limited to that of a bystander, which is alarming in and of itself. Previously, the army had appeared to be on the side of the people. Now, following Mubarak’s announcement that he would not seek re-election in September — an announcement that did not preclude a Mubarak crony like Omar Suleiman or even the dictator’s son Gamal from running in a rigged vote — the army appears to be up for grabs. Earlier today an army spokesman called on the demonstrators to disperse, but troops are not enforcing that edict. No doubt the army generals are sniffing the wind to figure out which way to go now. Just as clearly, the people of Egypt are demanding an end to the Mubarak regime — now, not in the fall.

The United States, a nation born in a liberal revolution, has no choice but to stand with the people. In many ways, this is a continuation of the same battle fought in the streets of Europe in 1848 and 1989: the quest of a people yearning for freedom against the representatives of a corrupt and entrenched ruling oligarchy. America’s role, as the champion of liberty, should be to usher Mubarak out of power as quickly and painlessly as possible in order to avert further bloodshed and to make it harder for malign elements to take advantage of the disorder for their own nefarious purposes. We did not do enough to aid democrats in Russia in 1917 or in Iran in 1979; in both cases, we stuck with a discredited ancien regime until it was too late and reacted too slowly to revolutionary upheavals. Let us not repeat that mistake in Egypt.

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“Please Take a Moment . . .”

The Obami have been no friends to human-rights activists and democracy promoters around the globe. Leading the charge … er … retreat has been Hillary Clinton, who infamously told the Chinese that human rights shouldn’t be allowed to interfere with other, more pressing issues like global warming. (Something real, and tangible, you see.) And this is the administration that stiffed the Iranian democracy protesters and defunded them, while Hillary and crew have been busy “engaging” the despotic regimes of Burma and Sudan.

So you can imagine my surprise when an e-mail from Hillary’s longtime gal-pal and frequent media spinner Ann Lewis came to me (well, me and anyone who signed up to get information from Hillary’s failed presidential campaign). It’s actually a fundraising letter and spin-gram from NoLimits.org — born when Hillary discovered there were limits to the Democratic party’s toleration of the Clintons — touting, yes, Hillary’s “strong commitment to human rights and women’s rights.” December 10 is Human Rights Day, so Lewis breathlessly reminds us:

In the last year, she has appointed the first ever Ambassador for Global Women’s Issues, chaired the first UN Security Council session on violence against women, and offered significant medical help and protection for rape victims in the Congo. Secretary Clinton has spoken out for religious freedom and diversity in Tazakh, LGBT rights in town halls from Washington, D.C. to Moldova, and increased access to technology for grassroots advocates fighting to be heard in Iran. She’s condemned the murder of journalists in Russia, and called on China to release those still imprisoned for their actions during the protests in Tiananmen Square two decades ago.

Hmm. I think the administration isn’t exactly eager to help Iranian protesters with technology, because that might help Chinese democracy protesters. And we can’t have that. But fidelity to details was never part of Hillary’s campaign operation, so let’s not get too deeply mired in facts.

All this seemed rather out of joint, as if dropped from a time capsule. It seems to be from another year, another decade, in which Hillary was out trolling for support and in which human rights topped the agenda. And then I saw the accompanying photo, which seemed indeed to be from another era, five or six hairstyles ago.

box_join_us

Well, perhaps someone has been messing with the space-time continuum. Or maybe Hillary has been watching those Obama poll numbers that look like the hill for advanced skiers (i.e., featuring a really precipitous decline) – and she’s just keeping her options open.

The Obami have been no friends to human-rights activists and democracy promoters around the globe. Leading the charge … er … retreat has been Hillary Clinton, who infamously told the Chinese that human rights shouldn’t be allowed to interfere with other, more pressing issues like global warming. (Something real, and tangible, you see.) And this is the administration that stiffed the Iranian democracy protesters and defunded them, while Hillary and crew have been busy “engaging” the despotic regimes of Burma and Sudan.

So you can imagine my surprise when an e-mail from Hillary’s longtime gal-pal and frequent media spinner Ann Lewis came to me (well, me and anyone who signed up to get information from Hillary’s failed presidential campaign). It’s actually a fundraising letter and spin-gram from NoLimits.org — born when Hillary discovered there were limits to the Democratic party’s toleration of the Clintons — touting, yes, Hillary’s “strong commitment to human rights and women’s rights.” December 10 is Human Rights Day, so Lewis breathlessly reminds us:

In the last year, she has appointed the first ever Ambassador for Global Women’s Issues, chaired the first UN Security Council session on violence against women, and offered significant medical help and protection for rape victims in the Congo. Secretary Clinton has spoken out for religious freedom and diversity in Tazakh, LGBT rights in town halls from Washington, D.C. to Moldova, and increased access to technology for grassroots advocates fighting to be heard in Iran. She’s condemned the murder of journalists in Russia, and called on China to release those still imprisoned for their actions during the protests in Tiananmen Square two decades ago.

Hmm. I think the administration isn’t exactly eager to help Iranian protesters with technology, because that might help Chinese democracy protesters. And we can’t have that. But fidelity to details was never part of Hillary’s campaign operation, so let’s not get too deeply mired in facts.

All this seemed rather out of joint, as if dropped from a time capsule. It seems to be from another year, another decade, in which Hillary was out trolling for support and in which human rights topped the agenda. And then I saw the accompanying photo, which seemed indeed to be from another era, five or six hairstyles ago.

box_join_us

Well, perhaps someone has been messing with the space-time continuum. Or maybe Hillary has been watching those Obama poll numbers that look like the hill for advanced skiers (i.e., featuring a really precipitous decline) – and she’s just keeping her options open.

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Don’t Give Up on Democracy

Gideon Rachman has a good column in the Financial Times in which he argues against the fashionable impulse to ditch democracy promotion simply because President Bush is in favor of it. Rachman, hardly a firebreathing pro-democracy evangelist, says (rightly, in my view) that the problem with Bush’s democracy agenda has not been that it is too radical but that Bush has been too hesitant to back up his soaring words with appropriate actions.
But that doesn’t mean that the goal of spreading democracy should be abandoned by the U.S. or its allies. As Rachman writes:

Historical events usually throw up people who will push for political freedom at crucial moments. When such people emerge—whether they are Chinese students in Tiananmen Square, Burmese monks in Rangoon, Nelson Mandela in South Africa or Ayman Nour in Egypt—they deserve the strong support of the outside world.

Gideon Rachman has a good column in the Financial Times in which he argues against the fashionable impulse to ditch democracy promotion simply because President Bush is in favor of it. Rachman, hardly a firebreathing pro-democracy evangelist, says (rightly, in my view) that the problem with Bush’s democracy agenda has not been that it is too radical but that Bush has been too hesitant to back up his soaring words with appropriate actions.
But that doesn’t mean that the goal of spreading democracy should be abandoned by the U.S. or its allies. As Rachman writes:

Historical events usually throw up people who will push for political freedom at crucial moments. When such people emerge—whether they are Chinese students in Tiananmen Square, Burmese monks in Rangoon, Nelson Mandela in South Africa or Ayman Nour in Egypt—they deserve the strong support of the outside world.

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Hotline to Nobody

Defense Secretary Robert Gates is now in Seoul, after completing two days of meetings in Beijing during the first stop of a three-nation tour (he also will be visiting Japan before heading home). In China, Gates traded compliments with Chinese leaders, issued correct statements on the need for dialogue, and toured the Forbidden City, the imperial palace at the north end of Tiananmen Square. It was Gates’s first trip to the country since succeeding Donald Rumsfeld as Pentagon chief, and senior U.S. officials marked the event by reporting modest progress on a range of secondary issues. The Chinese, for example, promised to provide more cooperation on accounting for American prisoners taken during the Korean War.

Both sides also announced the planned establishment of a military hotline between Washington and Beijing “at an early date.” The initiative was announced during Hu Jintao’s summit in Washington last April and has been the subject of periodic re-announcements ever since, such as one this June when Gates was in Singapore. Despite the apparent signs of progress, the Chinese have been dragging their feet over technical issues. The United States has sought to establish such a hotline for more than five years. Yet the critical issue now is not how such a link will be established. It is whether the Chinese wish to engage the United States in substantive discussions at all—or whether they wish merely to sip tea and waste our time.

There is reason to believe that when we call, no one will answer the phone. (There was, remember, nobody taking Washington’s calls during the Hainan reconnaissance plane incident in April 2001.) The issue is as much about the ability of the Chinese government to make decisions in the middle of crisis as it is about the state of relations between the two countries.

But there’s a more fundamental reason why the phone may not be of much use during the next confrontation. At the same time that Gates was talking with Chinese officials this week, Premier Wen Jiabao was in Moscow talking with President Vladimir Putin about their countries’ “friendship for generations.” While the American defense secretary was arguing about the technicalities of telecommunications lines, Moscow and Beijing were putting together the alliance that will challenge the international community for a lifetime. It seems they have been communicating just fine without a hotline.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates is now in Seoul, after completing two days of meetings in Beijing during the first stop of a three-nation tour (he also will be visiting Japan before heading home). In China, Gates traded compliments with Chinese leaders, issued correct statements on the need for dialogue, and toured the Forbidden City, the imperial palace at the north end of Tiananmen Square. It was Gates’s first trip to the country since succeeding Donald Rumsfeld as Pentagon chief, and senior U.S. officials marked the event by reporting modest progress on a range of secondary issues. The Chinese, for example, promised to provide more cooperation on accounting for American prisoners taken during the Korean War.

Both sides also announced the planned establishment of a military hotline between Washington and Beijing “at an early date.” The initiative was announced during Hu Jintao’s summit in Washington last April and has been the subject of periodic re-announcements ever since, such as one this June when Gates was in Singapore. Despite the apparent signs of progress, the Chinese have been dragging their feet over technical issues. The United States has sought to establish such a hotline for more than five years. Yet the critical issue now is not how such a link will be established. It is whether the Chinese wish to engage the United States in substantive discussions at all—or whether they wish merely to sip tea and waste our time.

There is reason to believe that when we call, no one will answer the phone. (There was, remember, nobody taking Washington’s calls during the Hainan reconnaissance plane incident in April 2001.) The issue is as much about the ability of the Chinese government to make decisions in the middle of crisis as it is about the state of relations between the two countries.

But there’s a more fundamental reason why the phone may not be of much use during the next confrontation. At the same time that Gates was talking with Chinese officials this week, Premier Wen Jiabao was in Moscow talking with President Vladimir Putin about their countries’ “friendship for generations.” While the American defense secretary was arguing about the technicalities of telecommunications lines, Moscow and Beijing were putting together the alliance that will challenge the international community for a lifetime. It seems they have been communicating just fine without a hotline.

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Burma’s Blackout

The New York Times is reporting that the military junta in Burma has shut down the country’s Internet. After nearly a month of protests—avidly covered and documented by native Burmese on the web—the regime cracked down hard on the Buddhist monks and their supporters. Many deaths already have been recorded, and some reports suggest an extremely bloody end to Burma’s push for democratic reform.

During the run-up to this massacre, Burmese bloggers provided photographs, commentary, and even YouTube clips from inside the maelstrom. Stirring photographs of monks clad in orange, and riveting hand-held footage of soldiers firing on protesters, gave the events a harrowing immediacy for Internet-users. The Internet blackout terminated this discourse, blocking the atrocities to come from cyberspace and the outside world.

Censoring the Internet has become a major component of totalitarian control, not just in Burma, but in despotic regimes the world over. The Chinese government devotes significant resources to purging their data flow of dissident material. (At the School of Informatics at Indiana University’s homepage, you can play with a brilliant search tool that compares typical Google searches with Google.cn.)

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The New York Times is reporting that the military junta in Burma has shut down the country’s Internet. After nearly a month of protests—avidly covered and documented by native Burmese on the web—the regime cracked down hard on the Buddhist monks and their supporters. Many deaths already have been recorded, and some reports suggest an extremely bloody end to Burma’s push for democratic reform.

During the run-up to this massacre, Burmese bloggers provided photographs, commentary, and even YouTube clips from inside the maelstrom. Stirring photographs of monks clad in orange, and riveting hand-held footage of soldiers firing on protesters, gave the events a harrowing immediacy for Internet-users. The Internet blackout terminated this discourse, blocking the atrocities to come from cyberspace and the outside world.

Censoring the Internet has become a major component of totalitarian control, not just in Burma, but in despotic regimes the world over. The Chinese government devotes significant resources to purging their data flow of dissident material. (At the School of Informatics at Indiana University’s homepage, you can play with a brilliant search tool that compares typical Google searches with Google.cn.)

Some American businesses, like Google and Yahoo, have been scrutinized recently for placating Beijing by slipping things down the memory hole. A Google image search for Tiananmen Square in the United States results in the iconic photograph of a man standing before a column of tanks, while the same search in China yields smiling faces and touristy long shots of the square. In other regions of the world, as well, the Internet is a battleground emblematic of larger political struggles. Bloggers in Egypt and Iran have been targeted by their governments, while, since the liberation of Iraq, the Internet has exploded in that country as a viable and democratic source of news.

The freedom and availability of the Internet has become a leading index of political freedom. It would have been much more difficult for the thugs in Burma to hide their slaughter if they hadn’t been able to purge unflattering coverage from the world’s desktops. The protection and spread of Internet freedom—and the censure or punishment of American businesses that cooperate in Internet censorship—should feature seriously in any presidential candidate’s foreign policy platform. It is a simple, cost-effective, and bloodless way to let democracy seep into the oppressed regions of the world.

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So Long, Lu Xun

From China comes news, reported in the Chinese-language newspaper World Journal, that the works of Lu Xun—the country’s greatest modern author, a founder of the Chinese League of Left-Wing Writers, and a longtime favorite of the Communists—are being removed from high school curricula. These classics will be replaced by contemporary fantasies about ancient knights and swordplay by the popular Hong Kong author Jin Yong. The reason for this censorship? The Tiananmen Massacre, of which Lu Xun’s works uncomfortably remind the Chinese government.

The most troublesome of Lu Xun’s writings, from this perspective, is In Memory of Miss Liu Hezhen, a story about the death of a student shot as she and her colleagues attempted peacefully to present a petition to the military government of Duan Qirui on March 18, 1926. Lu addresses the events with his characteristic mixture of detachment and suppressed passion:

I did not see this, but I heard that she—Liu Hezhen—went forward gaily. Of course it was only a petition, and no one with any conscience could imagine such a trap. But then she was shot before Government House, shot from behind, and the bullet pierced her lung and heart.

Many a Tiananmen parent could speak similarly of the final moments of their dead son or daughter. Those parents and others may share as well Lu’s anger and despair:

[W]e are not living in the world of men. In a welter of . . . young people’s blood I can barely see, hear or breathe, so what can I say? We can make no long lament till after our pain is dulled. And the insidious talk of some so-called scholars since this incident has added to my sense of desolation. I am beyond indignation.

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From China comes news, reported in the Chinese-language newspaper World Journal, that the works of Lu Xun—the country’s greatest modern author, a founder of the Chinese League of Left-Wing Writers, and a longtime favorite of the Communists—are being removed from high school curricula. These classics will be replaced by contemporary fantasies about ancient knights and swordplay by the popular Hong Kong author Jin Yong. The reason for this censorship? The Tiananmen Massacre, of which Lu Xun’s works uncomfortably remind the Chinese government.

The most troublesome of Lu Xun’s writings, from this perspective, is In Memory of Miss Liu Hezhen, a story about the death of a student shot as she and her colleagues attempted peacefully to present a petition to the military government of Duan Qirui on March 18, 1926. Lu addresses the events with his characteristic mixture of detachment and suppressed passion:

I did not see this, but I heard that she—Liu Hezhen—went forward gaily. Of course it was only a petition, and no one with any conscience could imagine such a trap. But then she was shot before Government House, shot from behind, and the bullet pierced her lung and heart.

Many a Tiananmen parent could speak similarly of the final moments of their dead son or daughter. Those parents and others may share as well Lu’s anger and despair:

[W]e are not living in the world of men. In a welter of . . . young people’s blood I can barely see, hear or breathe, so what can I say? We can make no long lament till after our pain is dulled. And the insidious talk of some so-called scholars since this incident has added to my sense of desolation. I am beyond indignation.

General Duan’s government showed public remorse for the murder of Liu Hezhen. (The junta, in fact, fell from power just one month later.) By contrast, since 1989 Chinese governments consistently have refused to say anything at all about the Tiananmen Massacre, every trace of which they have sought obsessively to remove. Google has agreed not to provide images or information about the massacre for its Chinese service; the asphalt in Tiananmen Square, formerly marked by the prints of tank treads, has been replaced by granite slabs. New flowerbeds have been planted. Bullet marks in walls have been plastered over. Public denial has been complete for seventeen years.

All this denial has had some success. Chinese born after 1989 have only vague notions of what happened at Tiananmen. Foreigners are far too courteous to mention the massacre. The media are silent. But have the bloodstains truly been washed away? Evidently not.

In Memory of Miss Liu Hezhen is being censored, after all, despite it’s once having received praise from Mao himself. (As one of the censors responsible explains, “[W]e are touching things that previously one dared not touch.”) Even the Soviets, no great appreciators of literature, taught Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky. To exile Lu Xun from Chinese school curricula reveals the wide-ranging and desperate nature of the government’s effort to efface completely the memory of Tiananmen.

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Mao Bites Dog

A pet shop owner in Yongin, Korea, about 25 miles south of Seoul, set off an international incident recently with an advertising sign featuring . . . a puppy. In the sign, a dog’s head replaces that of Mao Zedong in the portrait hanging at the northern end of Tiananmen Square. Last Tuesday, China’s Foreign Ministry summoned a South Korean diplomat to protest, and the shop’s owner immediately pulled down the sign and apologized to Beijing.

What’s wrong with this picture? First, China’s authoritarian state tried to censor an image appearing in a democracy—and the democracy bowed. Yet there is something even more far-reaching and disturbing in this incident. Since 1954, the People’s Republic has maintained that the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence—mutual respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, mutual non-aggression, non-interference in others’ internal affairs, equality and mutual benefit, and peaceful coexistence—are essential to its foreign policy.

Beijing always says China’s rise will be peaceful, that it does not pose a threat to anyone else, and that it will never interfere in the domestic affairs of another nation. But if its definition of “non-interference” includes the right to ban advertising for a pet shop in a backwater location in another country, then the world is in for a load of trouble.

A pet shop owner in Yongin, Korea, about 25 miles south of Seoul, set off an international incident recently with an advertising sign featuring . . . a puppy. In the sign, a dog’s head replaces that of Mao Zedong in the portrait hanging at the northern end of Tiananmen Square. Last Tuesday, China’s Foreign Ministry summoned a South Korean diplomat to protest, and the shop’s owner immediately pulled down the sign and apologized to Beijing.

What’s wrong with this picture? First, China’s authoritarian state tried to censor an image appearing in a democracy—and the democracy bowed. Yet there is something even more far-reaching and disturbing in this incident. Since 1954, the People’s Republic has maintained that the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence—mutual respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, mutual non-aggression, non-interference in others’ internal affairs, equality and mutual benefit, and peaceful coexistence—are essential to its foreign policy.

Beijing always says China’s rise will be peaceful, that it does not pose a threat to anyone else, and that it will never interfere in the domestic affairs of another nation. But if its definition of “non-interference” includes the right to ban advertising for a pet shop in a backwater location in another country, then the world is in for a load of trouble.

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