Posted: March 18th, 2023

The Aftermath of Tiananmen Square Outline

Tiananmen Square

The Aftermath of Tiananmen Square

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To this day, the country of China remains an enigma, isolated from the Western world and shrouded in mystery conceptualized by the Communist Red. Its culture both ancient and modern fascinates one on many levels mainly because it is so completely foreign. Aspects of their way of life, customs and lifestyle elements mirror the Communist doctrines and the absence of pure freedom seems sad to us. Still slowly China is opening its doors to the West. There is a changing tide, a force at work. It is the advent of globalization, mass communication and new technologies that changed the atmosphere of China. The world is forever shrinking due to the marketplace being at the speed of light and commerce taking place over new mediums. This makes possibly happen. People from every nation have yearned to participate in this explosion.

The Chinese have been no exception. They have reached a point in their history where they must not only hold on to their cultural identity but also embrace change from outside. This has been the only way to take advantage of globalization and create a new persona for China. Still the seed of change had to grow from somewhere. This transformation did not happen over night. It can be difficult and frustrating for one to understand yet try to respect. It is out of understanding what one fears that one can be a catalyst for change. Only then can the barriers come down. Much of the emergence of globalization can be attributed to the world economy. China has made steps of change, many with tragic consequences to its global image. The events of June 1989 are still fresh on the minds of many Chinese. Its tragedy remains unspoken yet as an undercurrent for change to be heard loud and clear. As a result, much of China’s progress as a nation has much to do with outside involvement (or lack there of) from international organizations and the nations that form them. China’s progress has been stalled because of the United Nations or UN’s lack of action and response to the Tiananmen Square massacre. This event has changed the United State’s foreign policy toward the country and this has also influenced the UN’s role.

This paper will examine the events of the Tiananmen Square massacre and its aftermath. What happened to the movement? How did Western countries respond and react? What was the UN’s policy? How does this affect China and its image now? Has the massacre changed its internal policies toward its people and their lives? What about Human Rights? This paper will attempt to answer these challenging questions.

Event Profile

In the thousand years spanned by Chinese history, unspeakable atrocities have occurred. Millions have suffered from the machinations of cloistered emperors, empresses and eunuchs; whole cities have been slaughtered by marauding invaders and warlords. Until that Sunday, that all seemed safely in the past. No one quite expected it to happen again. The shock will ease with the passage of weeks. The tremors will be felt for years.

It has been nearly sixteen years since the event. The world marveled “for seven weeks at the restraint demonstrated by both Beijing’s rulers and the thousands of demonstrators for democracy who had occupied Tiananmen Square.”

It has been nearly sixteen year and still no public inquiry into this event that resulted in a blood bath. No public inquiry has been made by the Chinese or by an international governing force such as the UN. It is estimated nearly one thousand people were killed at the hands of the Chinese Army and that two hundred protesters remain imprisoned due to the actions of that day. The world cannot forget the stand taken against a totalitarian regime or the sacrifices made yet still the world remains quiet.

The massacre began June 4, 1989 as a peaceful demonstration by students “urging Chinese leaders to allow a more open, democratic society” and ended as one of Chinese history’s worst moments. “Leveling their AK-47 assault rifles, the soldiers began firing away at the mobs. The gas tanks of commandeered buses exploded. Huge streams of people fled in terror past blazing trees”

for safety. Later the mayhem spread into the streets of Beijing neighborhoods. The shooting filled the air as the troops wounded and killed innocent sleeping people. The city continued to erupt through out the night as “hospitals reported receiving scores of dead and hundreds or even thousands of wounded. When the government radio announced that 1,000 had died, the station’s personnel were quickly removed and no further death toll was broadcast.”

It appears the Chinese government raced to cover up this event quickly as it was circulated that many bodies were being trucked away to be cremated so a real count could never be known

Aftermath

In the days after the tragedy, much of China’s image was tarnished. World leaders were quick to comment on “China’s affair as ugly and chaotic” and as much as George Bush Senior felt sorrow over the loss of life and liberty, he was at a crossroads of foreign policy. As much as it was important for the United States to stand up to China and express the impact and wrongness of their actins toward the students, he did not want to jeopardize the ten-year-old strategic partnership Washington had developed with Beijing. Already there was pressure from Congress for the U.S. To cutoff American military cooperation. It was believed the attack on the students had everything to do with China’s present government and the students’ threat of change. The crackdown was meant to intimidate the people-power movement. This action only created resentments among China’s younger generation as many decided to united underground and seek revenge.

This placed a pall upon the event and destroyed any progress made by the massacre. What it really did was shroud China in a negative global image that it would later struggle to lose.

This event changed how the world saw the country but also has influenced outside action. The United States and the United Nations have pretty much left China to its own accountability of the event. This act of non-action begins with George Bush Senior’s treatment of the situation. He made the choice to remain partial to the Chinese government rather than side with the democratic movement. This set a standard of any outside involvement. It sent the message to the UN that if the United States was not going to invest time in the issue, then it was not a worthwhile mission. As a result of the strategy, Western outside impact on China has remained small over the years. Fewsmith writes, “the issue of China’s relations with the outside world have continued to intrude into Chinese domestic politics throughout the post Tiananmen period as first Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union rejected communism, as relations with the United States have remained generally strained.”

It is China’s isolation with the world since the event has strained its diplomatic relations as it has struggled to open dialogues with countries like Saudi Arabia and South Africa. This has also changed how the Chinese view the world. It seemed that as much as Western countries were unwilling to take action, their silence spoke louder than words. Foreign investment began to wane and the Chinese economy entered a period of deflation. During this time, China also sought a permanent membership to the World Trade Organization or WTO and put in an application for the 2000 Olympic games. Both of these were failures. In retrospect, regarding the denial of entry to WTO, it happened at a time in history when China disagreed with NATO’s actions toward Serbian and Milosovic. China did not believe NATO should be bombing Serbia and it was no surprise the WTO rejected China. It was not a time for China to make its opinions known on world affairs but at the same time, this established the country’s future record regarding the United Nations.

United Nations Role

In the years since the massacre, the Unites States and the United Nations has attempted to assert power over China’s ability to change their policies toward Human Rights and possible violations present in the country. The irony of this situation is that China has been able to slip through the cracks of accountability. Any improvements made in this area cannot be credited to the Clinton administration but does reflect the delicate relationship China has with the outside. In 1998, China was poised to sign the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and this was going to impact relations and advance China’s view on human rights. This move would act as leverage against the United States and the UN to stop resolutions. This covenant is important to China and the world because “once China ratifies the covenant, it will have to report its rights practices within one year and then every five years thereafter” and this would set parameters for China. The issue seemed more important to Bill Clinton as he stressed, “Clearly this is a step forward and the kind of step on human rights that the world has long called for.”

A year later, China had still not signed the document and outside relations were failing. Clinton proved to be adopted Bush Senior’s strategy of non-action. This reflected in Congressional testimony on the part of Amnesty International regarding China’s attitude toward human rights. There has not be been a change according to Kumar, “there were promises by he Government of China to address their human rights record, there has been no fundamental change.”

Furthermore he stresses to the Clinton administration that the UN takes its cues from our foreign policy and if there is to be any chance of change,

The U.S. must have a strong, clear and consistent human rights policy with China. The international community will not take firm action when the world’s leader is engages in a policy of “constructive engagement” which gives priority to trade over human rights. The Chinese government’s policy of dealing with dissent has not changed over the years.

Since then the UN and the European Union have both failed at sanctioning China. Still as of 2000, the United States was determined to “shine the international spotlight on China at the UN Human Rights Commission”

as a way to make China accountable for its actions. This may be been start in the right direction as far as UN interaction. At time, China’s behavior was overshadowed by other issues on the organization’s agenda such as Cuba’s treatment of human rights. It would not be until the following year that the UN would return its focus to China. In 2001, China finally ratified “a United Nations convention on labour and cultural rights, but appears to have opted out of any commitment to allowing free trade unions” and this is significant as it gives rights to the Chinese workers, they did not have before.

It may not make China account for other human rights violations but it is a start. It ends prior Chinese law that allowed on the job abuse and punishment for anti-government demonstrations. It covers work conditions, education, health care and the right to strike. These are all innovations within Chinese society and this bridges the gap for them to be a part of today’s global marketplace.

Conclusion

China still has a lot to learn from Tiananmen Square. Yes, the UN failed to take action immediately following the event but also only was taking cues from United States foreign policy practice. Both the Bush and Clinton administrations chose to preserve awkward relations as best during the years following but still change was inevitable for China. The country has made strides to protect human rights of its people at work. It has not remained accountable for its actions on that faithful day. Unfortunately, the UN has not been able to further change China’s accountability, as the country’s power and influence are strong. The organization once again voted in favor of a “no action” approach to China and its future. However, one positive is that the movement is not dead. “The people in China and their supporters worldwide are fighting and will continue to fight together to expel the totalitarian regime — ruling people by terror — out of China and replace it with a free republic of China in the near future.”

It is clear China’s progress has been stalled because of the United Nations or UN’s lack of action and response to the Tiananmen Square massacre. This event has changed the United State’s foreign policy toward the country and this has also influenced the UN’s role. This paper examined the events of the Tiananmen Square massacre and its aftermath. “Tiananmen was a watershed in Chinese history. It has had an enormous impact on China’s foreign and domestic policy and continues to do so.”

This paper attempted to answer challenging questions that remain within China today.

References

1998. “China to Sign Rights Accord.” Newsday. 13 March.

Chua-Eoan, Howard. 1989. “Despair and Death in a Beijing Square.” Time.

12 June.

Fewsmith, Joseph. China Since Tiananmen Square: The Politics of Transition.

Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001.

Kumar, T. 1999. “Human Rights Situation in China.” Congressional Testimony.

20 Jan.

Miles, James. The Legacy of Tiananmen: China in Disarray. Ann Arbor: The

University of Michigan Press, 1996.

Rennie, David. 2001. “China ‘opt-out’ in UN Deal.” Daily Telegraph (London).

1 March.

“Thousands Remember Tiananmen Square Anniversary in Hong Kong.” [Internet].

4 Feb. 2005. Available at http://www.cnn.com/WORLD/asiapcf/9906/05/china.

01/.

“UN to Dissidents: No Dice, You’re on Your Own.” [Internet]. Available at http://www.chinasupport.net/news126.htm.

Wertheimer, Linda. 2000. “Analysis: United Nations Human Rights Commission

Fails to Censure China for Alleged Human Rights Violations.” All Things Considered.

18 April.

Chua-Eoan, Howard. 1989. “Despair and Death in a Beijing Square.” Time.

12 June, page 5. Available at http://www.highbeam.com/library/doc3.asp?ctrlInfo=Round9d

%3ADOC%3Aprint.

Chua-Eoan, Howard. 1989. “Despair and Death in a Beijing Square.” Time.

12 June, page 1. Available at http://www.highbeam.com/library/doc3.asp?ctrlInfo=Round9d

%3ADOC%3APrint

Kumar, T. 1999. “Human Rights Situation in China.” Congressional Testimony.

20 Jan, page 4. Available at http://www.highbeam.com/library/doc3.asp?ctrlinfo=Round9d%

3 adoc%3Aprint.

“Thousands Remember Tiananmen Square Anniversary in Hong Kong.” [Internet].

4 Feb. 2005. paragraph 11. Available at http://www.cnn.com/WORLD/asiapcf/9906/05/china.

01/.

Chua-Eoan, Howard. 1989. “Despair and Death in a Beijing Square.” Time.

12 June, page 1. Available at http://www.highbeam.com/library/doc3.asp?ctrlInfo=Round9d

%3ADOC%3Aprint.

Chua-Eoan, Howard. 1989. “Despair and Death in a Beijing Square.” Time.

12 June, page 1. Available at http://www.highbeam.com/library/doc3.asp?ctrlInfo=Round9d

%3ADOC%3APrint.

Chua-Eoan, Howard. 1989. “Despair and Death in a Beijing Square.” Time.

12 June, page 2. Available at http://www.highbeam.com/library/doc3.asp?ctrlInfo=Round9d

%3ADOC%3APrint

Chua-Eoan, Howard. 1989. “Despair and Death in a Beijing Square.” Time.

12 June, page 2. Available at http://www.highbeam.com/library/doc3.asp?ctrlInfo=Round9d

%3ADOC%3APrint

Fewsmith, Joseph. China Since Tiananmen Square: The Politics of Transition.

Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001,-page 22.

Fewsmith, Joseph. China Since Tiananmen Square: The Politics of Transition.

Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001,-page 202.

1998. “China to Sign Rights Accord.” Newsday. 13 March, page 2. Available at http://www.highbeam.com/library/doc3.asp?ctrlinfo=Round9d% 3 adoc%3Aprint.

1998. “China to Sign Rights Accord.” Newsday. 13 March, page 1. Available at http://www.highbeam.com/library/doc3.asp?ctrlinfo=Round9d%

3 adoc%3Aprint.

Kumar, T. 1999. “Human Rights Situation in China.” Congressional Testimony.

20 Jan, page 2. Available at http://www.highbeam.com/library/doc3.asp?ctrlinfo=Round9d%

3 adoc%3Aprint.

Kumar, T. 1999. “Human Rights Situation in China.” Congressional Testimony.

20 Jan, page 2. Available at http://www.highbeam.com/library/doc3.asp?ctrlinfo=Round9d%

3 adoc%3Aprint.

Wertheimer, Linda. 2000. “Analysis: United Nations Human Rights Commission

Fails to Censure China for Alleged Human Rights Violations.” All Things Considered.

18 April, page 1 of 2. Available at http://www.highbeam.com/library/doc3.asp?ctrlinfo=Round9d%

3 adoc%3Aprint.

Rennie, David. 2001. “China ‘opt-out’ in UN Deal.” Daily Telegraph (London).

1 March, paragraph 2. Available at http://www.highbeam.com/library/doc3.asp?ctrlinfo=Round9d%

3 adoc%3Aprint.

“UN to Dissidents: No Dice, You’re on Your Own.” [Internet]. Available athttp://www.chinasupport.net/news126.htm, paragraph 3.

Miles, James. The Legacy of Tiananmen: China in Disarray. Ann Arbor: The

University of Michigan Press, 1996,-page 14.


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