Tuesday, October 09, 2012

China 1989-2009 Heading for TIANANMEN Square part-II?

The memories are scattered and yet intense in fragments. We (a few young journalists) were sitting inside the decrepit and fashionably shabby Press Club of India in Delhi. The debate was about what exactly was happening in Eastern Europe and China and how Mikhail Gorbachov was bringing radical changes in the world of Communism. The discussion inevitably veered towards China where a group of students had led a protest movement demanding more accountability and more democracy from Chinese leaders. Most of us thought that the presence of hundreds of thousands of protestors at Tiananmen Square would inevitably lead to democracy in China. Just then, a senior sauntered in and gave us a lesson in realism by announcing that tanks had rolled into the square and hundreds of protestors had been killed.

The day was June 4, 1989. The bamboo curtain came crashing down on the Middle Kingdom and censorship ensured that not much was known about what really triggered the Tiananmen Square protests. It is only subsequent research by scholars that revealed why China was ready to explode in 1989. After ten years of rapid growth and growing employment opportunities since 1978 when Deng Xiao Peng unleashed economic reforms, the Chinese economy tanked in 1988-89. The GDP growth rate crashed and unemployment soared. Rapidly rising inflation too added to the woes of the Chinese. Then, there was massive anger at widespread corruption and cronyism in the Communist Party. Educated Chinese started thinking seriously that they were paying a heavy price for the economic downturn while those favoured by the party were having a ball.

The most agonising question that must engage all those who care about the future of the world is: Are conditions in China in early 2009 similar to what prevailed 20 years ago in 1989? The more important follow up question: how intense and widespread will the protests be in 2009? The most important question is this: How will the Chinese State now handle the protests? Will Tiananmen Square of 1989 be repeated or will China ‘manage’ to control the looming unrest by moving towards ‘more’ democracy and personal freedom?

Even die hard supporters of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) agree that trouble is looming over the horizon. Says, Zhou Tianyang, one of the most well known scholars of CCP, “Unquestionably, at present, we are inward bound to a peak stage of mass incidents. This year, Chinese people may face even more divergences and spars that will test all the more the governing skills of all levels of the CCP and administration.” Incidentally, ‘Mass Incidents’ is Chinese State speak for riots, protests and unrest! Adds Mao Shoulong, Public Administration expert at Renmin University in Beijing, “The social unrest is gathering. It may well prove as the most severe test since 1989.” Such comments coming from within the establishment in China show how ominous the signs are for the Middle Kingdom.

Source : IIPM Editorial, 2012.

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