Flat White

China is desperate to crush the Tiananmen spirit

29 May 2020

5:00 AM

29 May 2020

5:00 AM

Next week’s anniversary 0f the June 4, 1989, Tiananmen massacre is generating deep concerns in Beijing — hence its lashing out in ugly rhetoric and bullying tactics around the world, not least in Hong Kong. It’s trying to stop the democracy genie getting out of the bottle.  

A clear symptom of China’s desperation is its forceful attempted rape of Hong Kong’s autonomy. As an editorial in The Australian put it earlier this week, President Xi “is imposing a ‘rule-by-diktat’ security law that will allow China’s feared security agencies to take effective control of Hong Kong. They will enforce bans on ‘secessionist or subversive activity’, the organising of so-called ‘terrorist acts’ and ‘activities of foreign and external interference’. 

This objective is designed not just to stomp on Hong Kong’s democracy but to make sure it is contained and isolated from the mainland, where a spark of democracy could rapidly ignite the latent anger already fuelled by the mishandling of the coronavirus outbreak and the brutal manner in which the people were forced to comply with isolation rules. But beneath the surface, there is much more combustible resentment that has built up over years at the state’s authoritarian behaviour. That was what fuelled the Tiananmen Square protests in the first place. 

China has become extremely brittle. Listen to the tone of their propaganda. The coronavirus pandemic has focussed the world’s attention on its true nature as a dissembler, a nasty and amoral regime; it always was, but the West chose not to see it too clearly for fear of having to deal with that reality. Now the West can no longer look away.   


So China is feeling the heat. Britain has finally seen the red light and Boris Johnson has scaled back Huawei’s involvement in Britain’s 5G network to zero within three years.   

Dozens of countries –– including the 27 EU nations — have jointly imposed an investigation into the outbreak in Wuhan and even if its remit is blunted by China, they have slapped China in the face.  

Official Australia showed its backbone and stood firm in its role as a leader in forming a coalition of nations instigating that investigation. The country has confronted the reality of its interlocked trade relationship with China and will work its way through that, notwithstanding China’s aggressive response to a thoroughly responsible and reasonable stand. China has bared its teeth, reminding us that the Chinese Communist Party is thuggish and its objectives are totalitarian.  

The United States has used its considerable megaphone — President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for starters — to denounce China again and again. And this time, not just on its trade practices, but its immorality.  

This is the first display of such large scale public and international antagonism toward China — and if the Chinese people get the full sense of that, the Chinese Communist Party is in big trouble. Existential trouble. 

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