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Generational Dynamics Web Log for 4-Jun-2009
China's people commemorate the Tiananmen Square massacre, June 4, 1989

Web Log - June, 2009

China's people commemorate the Tiananmen Square massacre, June 4, 1989

The paranoid Beijing government has been panicking as June 4 approaches.

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has been rounding up dissidents, sticking them into jail with no charge and no trial. The CCP has shut down Twitter in China. It's also blocked Flickr and YouTube, and other international sites. E-mail messages containing the numbers 6 and 4 have been blocked for weeks.

What is the CCP afraid of? Are they really that scared of a few tweets?

Yes, they are. The Beijing government is easily the most paranoid government in the world. They're scared to death of their own people. They're afraid that the Chinese Communist Party will dissolve, just like the Russian Communist party did in 1991, and they're afraid that they'll lose their Úlite positions, and actually have to work for a living.

I watched the Tiananmen Square demonstrations on CNN in 1989. Nobody had ever seen anything like it. What I remember are scenes of millions of students arriving on bicycles from all over the country, demonstrating in Tiananmen Square in the heart of Beijing for democratic reform and an end to corruption. It was so huge that it couldn't have happened anywhere but in China. It was mostly a party atmosphere, with jubilant students protesting government policies and demanding greater freedoms.

However, May 15 caused a change in mood on the part of the government. Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev was visiting Beijing for a state visit, and government officials were humiliated and embarassed when students protested and blockaded streets, forcing a cancellation of plans to welcome him in Tiananmen Square.

CCP leaders were furious. They made plans to have the army bring the demonstrations to a halt. On the night of June 3/June 4, the huge Chinese army fired on unarmed students and civilians. Thousands were killed.


College student blocks path of a row of tanks in Tiananmen Square in China, 1989
College student blocks path of a row of tanks in Tiananmen Square in China, 1989

If you have five minutes, then watch the Frontline video on the Tiananmen massacre. This is one of the most dramatic videos you'll ever see. Pay particular attention to what happens at the end, when a young man stands in front of a line of tanks, and they all stop.

It's hard to overestimate the impact of this massacre. Mao Zedong had always said that "The Chinese army loves the Chinese people." But here, the Chinese army fired on unarmed Chinese people, in a mass slaughter. The students couldn't believe what was happening -- that the Chinese army was killing them with tanks and live bullets. And yet, that's what happened.

Even so, it's only a coincidence that the outside world knows so much about what happened. Thanks to the visit by Mikhail Gorbachev, there were many representatives of the international press who photographed and filmed these events, which they found as astonishing and unbelievable as the students did.

Since then, the CCP has done everything possible to suppress any mention of the Tiananmen massacre. Today's Chinese youth know absolutely nothing about it, since even talking about it can get you arrested.

Generational interpretation of Tiananmen massacre

And yet, the Tiananmen massacre is the most significant event in Chinese history since the end of the Communist revolution / civil war that ended in 1949. Perhaps no one in China is allowed to talk about it, but everyone over age 25 remembers it, and it still affects the thoughts of everyone.

The CCP panicked in 1989 for several reasons:

A little later, the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, and the Soviet Communist Party was dissolved. The was an enormous shock to the CCP, who had previously believed that they were politically invulnerable.

These fears lead to the massacre, and sent China spinning in a new direction that's at the heart of the China's political problems today.

Awakening era climax events

In Generational Dynamics theory, the Tiananmen massacre was an Awakening era climax event.

A generational Awakening era seems almost always to climax with an event that defines a winner between the older and younger generations. This is sometimes called a "bloodless coup" or a "velvet revolution" or an "internal revolution."

A recent example in American history was the resignation of President Richard Nixon in 1974. This resignation firmly established the political victory of the young Prophet generation (the Boomers) over the older Hero generation (the GIs).

The younger generational almost always "wins" the Awakening era political conflict for obvious reasons -- the older generation dies off, and the kids in the younger generation get their way. But it doesn't always happen like that.

The 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre is a significantly different kind of Awakening era climax -- different because the older Hero generation won, and they won it by slaughtering the students.

A victory by the older generation in an Awakening era is extremely dangerous for a country. It means that the Unraveling era will be spent using violence and force to suppress dissent and enforce the unpopular will of the previous Hero generation. It means a major succession crisis when the next Crisis era arrives, since the older generation is ready to retire, and the younger generations have no governing experience.

Another recent example is Burma (Myanmar). Recall that there were brutal army attacks on demonstrators -- most of whom were unarmed Buddhist monks -- in 2007, when they commemorated the nationwide demonstrations by the "88 generation," beginning on August 8, 1988 (8/8/88). Those demonstrations were also brutally suppressed by a Burmese army massacre of civilians.

It won't be long now before the Beijing government pays the price for the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre. From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, China is headed for a major civil war with absolute certainty.

There are tens of thousands of "mass events" in China every year -- regional anti-government demonstrations involving dozens, hundreds or thousands of people. The CCP's large security force are trained to deal with these regional demonstrations, using whatever force is necessary.

But the CCP is scared to death of these demonstrations, because they know that one day soon, one of these demonstrations will metastasize into a nationwide rebellion. And when that day arrives, the CCP will no longer be able to pretend that the Tiananmen Square massacre never happened.

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the China thread of the Generational Dynamics forum.) (4-Jun-2009) Permanent Link
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