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Brahma Chellaney: China’s Tiananmen Reckoning: "In a night of carnage on June 3-4, 1989, the Chinese authorities crushed the pro-democracy protests with tanks and machine guns. In Eastern Europe, the democratization push led to the fall of the Berlin Wall just five months later, heralding the end of the Cold War. But the West recoiled from sustaining its post-Tiananmen sanctions against China.... After a long post-massacre boom, China–the world’s largest, strongest, wealthiest, and most technologically advanced autocracy–is entering a period of uncertainty.... The Tiananmen Square protests in 1989 were inspired by the watershed May 4, 1919, student demonstrations against Western colonialism at the same site. But whereas Xi recently extolled the May Fourth Movement in a speech marking the centenary of that event, he and the CPC are edgy about the Tiananmen anniversary. This year also marks the 60th anniversary of a failed uprising in Tibet against Chinese occupation. And it is ten years since a Uighur revolt killed hundreds in the Xinjiang region, where more than one million Muslims have now been incarcerated as part of a Xi-initiated effort to 'cleanse' their minds of extremist thoughts. Then, on October 1, the People’s Republic of China will celebrate its 70th birthday...

...But the anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown is the most portentous.... The party has relied on brute force since its inception, including to seize power. During the rule of the PRC’s founder, Mao Zedong, tens of millions died in the so-called Great Leap Forward, the Cultural Revolution, and other state-engineered disasters. Adolf Hitler was responsible for an estimated 11-12 million civilian deaths, and Joseph Stalin for at least six million. But Mao, with some 42.5 million, was the undisputed champion butcher of the twentieth century. And his blood-soaked rule influenced his successor, Deng Xiaoping, who ordered the savage assault on the Tiananmen demonstrators. The CPC’s survival in power reflects not only its willingness to deploy massive violence, but also its skill at distorting reality with propaganda and snuffing out dissent. But how long can the world’s oldest autocracy continue to sustain itself? By dispensing with collective leadership and orderly succession, Xi has already undermined the institutionalism that made post-Mao China resilient to the forces of change that helped to unravel the Soviet empire....


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