June 4 marks the 30th anniversary of the massacre in Tiananmen Square, where the People’s Liberation Army killed thousands of students who were protesting how the Chinese Communist Party was running the country. That it was a human rights atrocity is obvious. It was one more deadly incarnation of Mao Tse Tung’s belief that “Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.”
As atrocities go, however, it paled in comparison to the mass murder commited by the Chinese Communist Party and their Red Guards during the Great Leap Forward (1958-1962) and the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), where it is believed that 40 to 70 million people died to remake China into the country we see today.
The difference, of course, was that Tiananmen was in 1989 and America had embraced the People’s Republic and had fully endowed this new relationship with the belief that economic liberalization would lead to political liberalization and democracy was soon to follow.
However hopeful observers may have been, the events in Tiananmen Square demonstrated that the viciousness of the Chinese Communist Party was not about to subside. Talk of democracy and reform was not going to be tolerated including from university students who included, it should be noted, the children of China’s ruling elite. It was a lesson meant to be learned by both the ruling elite and the common people: the Chinese Communist Party was to be put before anything else.
Although American leaders voiced symbolic protestations at the time, their understanding of the nature of the Chinese Communist Party proved wholly inadequate. Not merely would the United States look the other way during China’s ongoing trampling of human rights, but would transfer to them, during the Clinton administration, our most advanced nuclear missile technology, grant them most favored nation status, and share with them technological advances that would propel China into the 21st century as a superpower competitor to the United States.
Today, far from liberalization, we witness the perfection of China’s communist system into the most sophisticated and ruthless political organization the world has ever seen. They can control 1.4 billion people through controlling the media and the internet, and an internal security service that does not abide dissent.
They easily blend what appear to be free markets with aggressive mercantilism. They deploy state intelligence services as an arm of the nation’s state-owned enterprises, steal hundreds of billions in intellectual property, and force technology transfers from American and western companies.
The PRC has built a modern nuclear arsenal, advanced fighter aircraft, and a modern navy capable of lethal war-fighting in the Pacific. As capable as the American military is, the United States today does not have a ballistic missile defense capable of stopping the PRC and protecting the U.S. homeland.
Our Air Force and Navy, however impressive and capable compared to other nations, would be hard-pressed, in the close confines of the Asian Pacific, to engage in conflict with the PRC without significant loss of men and material. Given the sheer numbers of aircraft and ships the PRC is capable of deploying, a serious conflict could well lead to a nuclear confrontation.
One cannot be surprised that this is what the PRC has become. The Chinese are a great people, capable of great sacrifice and hard work. They wish to be the preeminent power on earth. That is the logic of their communist ideology and their view of China’s role in the world.
What is surprising is the corruption of American business and political elites who continue to defend the PRC despite these developments. Wall Street interests, with the prospect of big profits, and a network of academics and economists, sponsored by or ideologically aligned to the PRC, serve as a powerful lobby against any attempt by the U.S. government to check their actions. whether it is the building of military installations in the South China Sea or unfair trade practices.
Americans are told that these are merely the growing pains of an otherwise peaceful rising power. To push back against the PRC will not only lead to a more nationalistic, and therefore more dangerous, adversary but will also harm the U.S. economy.
The test for President Trump will be to see if he can keep America the preeminent economic power in the world and remake American defenses against this political war CCP is waging. So far, he has exercised both courage and common sense in requiring reciprocity on trade relations and an end to the PRC’s theft of America’s intellectual property. His decision to build a U.S. Space Force and to rebuild the military could come none too soon.
That he should have to do so, and that he is opposed by American political and business elites who cannot see the danger of the Chinese Communist Party, is also the the legacy of Tiananmen Square.