Thursday, June 04, 2009

20 Years On

While the US media today is focusing on President Obama's historic speech in Cairo, I find myself flashing back to what I saw twenty years ago on a tiny television while sweating out summer school on the top floor of a musky fraternity house.

I recall vividly that the issue du jour for the fledgling 24-hour media in June of 1989 was the fall of House Speaker Jim Wright. Viewed through the lens of history, Newt Gingrich's debut on the national scene as the leader of this effort is ironic if not comical. It is much harder for me to reconcile the horrors I saw in Beijing with my own experiences in China.

I think this week's editorial from The Economist's new Banyan column offers a good perspective on the impact the June 4 Incident. Here is a great insight:

What nearly no one predicted has transpired. Today, the party (CCP) is as strong at home as at any time since it seized power in 1949. Though still authoritarian, it rules largely by consent, preferring persuasion to violence and intimidation—though these remain handy, as during the crushing of Tibetan riots last year.

Abroad, its prestige is as high: some believe China’s economy is about to save the world. Mr Jiang’s successor, Hu Jintao, has been welcomed at the top table of world leaders. On her first trip to Beijing as secretary of state, Hillary Clinton was as blunt as her husband had been a decade earlier, but with a different message: the United States would not let China’s human-rights abuses obstruct the history being made between these two great states.

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