If you are a faithful observer of my daily meanderings, you will know that I am all about different shades of gray, while trying to stick to decyphering what is right or wrong. That's why this article about Tiananmen has caught my eye a while ago. Since my own research on the matter was not very fruitful, I turned to a more competent authority, namely the Tokyo based far east correspondent of my preferred newspaper, Urs Schoettli. Evidently, I hit a nerve with him, because he returned my request with an invitation to an in person meeting.
This meeting finally took place this afternoon. The discussion took off with a grand tour d'horizon touching on our northern neighbours' poor reform track record in comparison to the Japanese one with both big countries having important elections forthcoming. Then Schoettli gave me an outline of his forthcoming book which will contain a comparison of different approaches to globalisation of Japan, India and China.
From there, the line to a discussion about China's perspectives of development was pretty straight. Despite of recent reforms incorporating certain individual rights and a guarantee of legally obtained property into the Chinese constitution, China will remain inherently unstable politically because of the communist party's absolute claim to power. Given that, rule of law as well as a system of checks & balances will remain illusionary. Nonetheless, the party deals with areas of increasing conflict in a rather transparent and open manner, as long as its preponderance is not questioned. Those battlefields are increasing differences in wealth, environmental issues and energy supply. I was speculating on whether there might be some party-like factions forming within the communist party. Those might gain control of government in a political competition similar to that of open societies, thus preparing a face-saving way out of the communist party's stability dilemma.
Only when time was almost up, we actually discussed Tiananmen. Evidently this is still a festering wound in China herself. Due to the lack of independent and open analysis of the events, Tiananmen seems to have developed a semantic dynamism of its own which is likely to continue until the matter is finally brought out into the open. That's unlikely to happen under the present party regime, though. Nevertheless, it seems to be pretty safe to assume that the death toll at and around the square on June 4th, 1989 was nowhere near the thousands, as suggested my many reports. However, even if there were "only" several hundred casualties, it remains an unforgiveable massacre. At any rate, it would be highly interesting to read a competent analysis of Tiananmen, and maybe also compare open societies' responses to those to more recent events.