Thursday, June 4, 2009

Western media are abusing Tiananmen legacy

First off, I should say that China's state of denial about the events that took place in June 1989 in Tiananmen Square is equally frightening and hilarious. Check out this ever-so-polite BBC reporter attempting to report from the Square today.

CNN had the same experience, with plain-clothed police using umbrellas to block the camera.

But it has also to be accepted that elements of the media and political aparatus in the West have consistently distorted the Tiananmen incident for their own purposes.

I read a shockingly biased feature in the Sunday Times magazine a few weeks ago in which Tiananmen was weaved into a narrative about how communist nations fell in 1989 and how China would have been next if it hadn't been for the crack down.

It was a neat story but not really true. The story of Tiananmen is much more complex than simply being an uprising against communism.

First of all, the protesters were an assortment of groups - students, unions, farmers - with range of grievences. Some complained of corruption, lack of transparency, inflation, inequality.

There was no single alternative political vision. And if there had been, it probably wouldn't have been "We'd like China to look like the U.S. or Europe."

Indeed, some protesters were concerned that China's policy of 'Opening up' its economy to the global market was not communist enough.

That Sunday Times piece appeared to be wistfully reminiscing about the glorious 1980s when Thatcher and Reagan sowed the seeds for the unregulated financial markets which have brought us to where we stand today. Having read plenty of China newspapers, I've come to recognise blatant propaganda when I see it - and this was blatant propaganda.

It's simplistic and untrue to say China would now be a Western-style democratic state if the students had been given what they wanted.

It's also a bit rich to hear the U.S. saying today that China has to face up to its own history. That's true, China does need to do that. But seriously, the U.S. doesn't exactly have a great record in...South America, Africa, the Middle East, S.E. Asia, slavery...and so on.

China is on a slow road to improved transparency and ending corruption by local officials. Indeed, it seems to take a step backwards ever June 4th when it overreacts by censoring the media and arresting trouble makers.

But, having spoken recently to somebody who was in Tiananmen Square in 1989, and is now part of the Party aparatus, it's clear there is a growing willingness to discuss this subject amongst the political elite.

The bottom line is that China is less likely to face up to what happened in 1989 if we in the West are dishonest about the meaning of those events.


Kathy Podgers said...

Nice post. I found the link on HP. I lived in China at the time, so I know what actually happened.

As for transparancy, or facing up to the truth, HP has not posted my comments that have links attached, that support my statements. I am repetedly accused on being a "Chinese Communist" paid to lie, and otherwise abused.

As am American, I am ashamed at the complete failue of the MSM to be able to cover Tiananmen without bias.

The best way to get others to open up and tell the truth, is to do it oneself. The western press could start the process, by apologising for all the false and inflamitory stories they have been publishing, which they use to bash China, in their exercize of their latent racism.

Gary Finnegan said...

I was in the U.S. last week and noticed quite a few stories that genuinely seemed to have an anti-China tone.

Fox News seems incapable of mentioning China without referring to it as "Communist China". As you know well, 'communism' and 'socialism' are pretty heavy words in the States, not least because of the propaganda spread during the cold war.

These days they are less worried about communism (China isn't communist in the way that the USSR was) but they do fear Beijing as a new source of power - partly because they own China so much money!

I wouldn't agree that the West should make the first move by apologising for poor reporting on Tiananmen and other China-related stories. Whatever really happened in Tiananmen in 1989 was done by elements of the Chinese leadership not by Washtington, London or Paris. They don't have to apologise to the West but should seek reconciliation at home.

By the way, the HP might post your comments in a few hours. Mine didn't appear for a while.