Remembering Tiananmen Square
Thirty years ago today, Chinese troops opened fire on protesters in Beijing, killing hundreds, perhaps thousands, and crushed a nationwide, student-led movement for democracy.
China’s ruling Communist Party now presides over the world’s second largest economy and appears to enjoy broad popular support at home. It has been so successful at erasing the 1989 massacre from history that many young Chinese have no idea it happened. So does it still matter? Yes, and here’s why:
This past fall, the People’s Republic of China surpassed the Soviet Union in longevity, celebrating a record 69 years of Communist rule. In an essay at the time, I tried to explain how the party defied the odds. A key piece of the puzzle? The protests in 1989 so frightened the party’s leaders — and the army’s violent response proved so divisive and traumatic — that they resolved never to let anything like it happen again.
For 30 years, that fear has served the party well, like a “vaccination” against “political turmoil,” as one state newspaper put it on Monday. The party took risks it otherwise might not have, embracing economic change to deliver prosperity. And it has been ruthless about coming down hard on people who dare seek greater political freedom.
In Hong Kong, where such freedoms are eroding, tens of thousands will nevertheless participate in a vigil for the massacre victims tonight. There are signs of resistance on the mainland too: An army journalist speaking out after 30 years of silence. A fresh leak of party documents about the crackdown. The publication of long-hidden photos.
Nicholas Kristof, whose coverage of the massacre won the Pulitzer Prize, argues in his column that China’s growing middle class will be more difficult for the party “to fool, bully and bribe into perpetual submission.” But the new middle class also has more to lose, while technology has strengthened the security forces. “The future looks more like 1984,” one of the few prominent figures from the protests still active in China told my colleague Chris Buckley.
There is another reason what happened at Tiananmen still matters. For seven dramatic weeks in the spring of 1989, the world saw the best and worst of China — and it has not forgotten. Now, with Washington moving aggressively to confront Beijing as a trade partner and geopolitical rival, the disputes often boil down to this: Can America trust China? The shadow of the massacre looms over the question, in part because the government has never acknowledged it was wrong.
— Phil Pan
If you have 30 minutes, this is worth it
A ‘bridge’ to China, and her family’s business, in the Trump cabinet
The U.S. transportation secretary, Elaine Chao, has boosted the profile of Foremost Group, her family’s shipping firm, which has deep ties to the economic and political elite in China.
A Times investigation found that over the years, Ms. Chao has repeatedly used her connections and celebrity status in China to help Foremost, which benefits significantly from Beijing’s expansive industrial policies — those at the heart of diplomatic tensions with the U.S. [Read the investigation in Chinese.]
Here’s what else is happening
Trump in Britain: On the first day of his state visit, President Trump and his wife, Melania Trump, were given a lavish welcome by the royal family. But online, Mr. Trump juxtaposed the pageantry with feuding, calling London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, a “stone cold loser.”
The Himalayas: Eight climbers who had been missing for more than a week appear to have died in an avalanche, Indian officials said, citing aerial photographs that show bodies in the snow.
The Philippines: President Rodrigo Duterte said that he had “cured” himself of homosexuality with the help of “beautiful women,” a controversial remark that angered gay rights activists.
Trump Tower: A project in Punta del Este, Uruguay — a 25-story condominium with an indoor tennis court and a helipad — was one of the Trump family’s most ambitious. But it has stalled and been hit with multiple lawsuits, serving as a microcosm of the challenges facing the Trump Organization in other parts of the world.
Snapshot: Above, an Apple executive announcing that the company would shut down iTunes. Apple also unveiled new privacy features that restrict the data that apps on its devices can collect. Follow the latest here.
YouTube: The platform’s automated recommendation system began showing innocuous home videos of partly clothed children to users, often after they watched sexually themed content, a team of researchers found.
Sudan: Security forces opened fire on Monday on pro-democracy protesters in the country’s capital, Khartoum, killing several people, according to a doctors’ association and local news media reports.
Canada: A national inquiry into the widespread killings and disappearances of Indigenous women and girls has equated the violence with genocide, according to a long-anticipated report.
North Korea: Kim Yong-chol, a former spymaster, was reportedly seen over the weekend with the North’s leader, Kim Jong-un, despite reports that he had been banished to a labor camp.
Stephen Colbert: The popularity of the comedian and his “Late Show” continues to grow, a trend that he attributes to the public’s increasing unease. “It’s so confusing today,” he said in an interview with The Times Magazine. “And that confusion leads to anxiety, and the anxiety makes the audience want the jokes.”
What we’re reading: This newsletter from The Margins, recommended by Peter Robins, an editor in our London newsroom. “Sweetgreen isn’t in London yet,” he writes, “but what this writer calls ‘The Sweetgreen-ification of society’ — the way that clever branding and market segmentation is changing places where social classes used to mix, like the lunch line — is definitely visible here.”
Now, a break from the news
Watch: The movie monster Godzilla both goes big and goes home in “Godzilla: King of the Monsters.”
Read: In Domenica Ruta’s first novel, “Last Day,” humans behave as if they were just another unconscious species, unaware of their culpability.
Listen: Hollow grunge guitar chords and a stolid, noncommittal hip-hop beat accompany Clairo as she details the way a breakup can clarify things in “Bags.”
Smarter Living: Summoning a ride share is easier than ever, but there are some things you can do to make the ride easier and safer. Rather than heading into the native app, you can have Google Maps, Apple Siri or Google Assistant, and Amazon Alexa or Google Home summon a driver for you. When your ride arrives, ask the driver for the name of the passenger they are picking up. And sit directly behind the driver, where you’re harder to reach.
And the team at Wirecutter, a New York Times company, has pulled together a list of pool necessities.
And now for the Back Story on …
The liberation of Rome
The liberation of Rome by Allied forces in World War II, on this day in 1944, has long been overshadowed in the history books by the invasion of the Normandy beaches two days later.
Half a million people jammed St. Peter’s Square to hear Pope Pius XII express the city’s gratitude for the entry of American troops and the peaceful withdrawal of the Germans.
Rome was freed only because Gen. Mark W. Clark, the American leading the Fifth Army in Italy, disobeyed direct orders to attack the German line farther south.
He may have felt pressure from President Roosevelt for a public relations victory. An American military historian wrote that Clark “considered Rome a gem belonging rightly in the crown” of his forces.
If he had followed his orders, many military experts believe the Germans could have been stopped — and thus World War II ended — earlier than September 1945.
That’s it for this briefing. See you next time.
Chris Stanford helped compile today’s briefing. Mark Josephson, Eleanor Stanford and Kenneth R. Rosen provided the break from the news. Victoria Shannon wrote today’s Back Story. You can reach the team at email@example.com.
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