By Guest Author Frank Li. Bio at end of article.
Twenty-two years ago today, a tragedy occurred at Beijing’s Tiananmen Square: The student led prodemocracy demonstration was brutally crushed by the soldiers. I, like many expatriate Chinese, thought China was finished.
China was not finished. To the contrary, it changed dramatically for the better, lifting some 400 million people out of poverty and becoming the second largest economy in the world. It’s a miracle, totally unprecedented in human history! How can this be explained from June 4, 1989 on?
Looking back with the advantage of 22 years hindsight, three things come to top in my thoughts.
First, let’s acknowledge that what happened at Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989 was a tragedy. I especially feel sorry for those who died on that day.
Second, I must say that ending the demonstration turned out to be a hugely positive thing for China overall. Here are the two main reasons:
(1) The “miracle” has been the best thing ever for China. I simply cannot imagine how it could have happened any other way.
(2) After Mao’s death in 1976, Deng Xiaoping led China’s economic reform. It was hugely challenging, with constant fights between the left (i.e. Maoists) and the right (i.e. the reformers led by Deng). By June 1989, China was already well on its way in the economic reform with good results. But the tragedy not only disrupted the reform, but also set it back by a few years, because it gave the left a reason, better than anything else they could have hoped for, to go back to the old days. Fortunately, Deng got his control back within a few years, and reform got rolling again. There is no way back now!
Third, was the students’ demand for democracy valid? At the time it seemed to me that the answer was ‘yes.’ With the benefit of 22 years hindsight, I now think the answer is ‘no.’ Why? Because the Chinese system has fared far better than other systems over the past 22 years.
Finally, although 22 years are not a lot of time in history, this is long enough to prove that Deng was the greatest leader in China’s recent history, because he set the country on the right course, not only economically, but also politically. (More on politics in my future publications!)
Today, Tiananmen Square is more beautiful than ever. The photo below shows the author and his wife at Tiananmen Square last fall.
The Answer is Democracy; The Question is Why by Frank Li
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About the Author
Frank Li is the Founder & President of W.E.I. (West-East International), a Chicago-based import & export company. Frank received his B.E. from Zhejiang University (China) in 1982, M.E. from the University of Tokyo in 1985, and Ph.D. from Vanderbilt University in 1988, all in Electrical Engineering. He worked for several companies until 2004, when he founded his own company W.E.I. Today, W.E.I. is a leader in the weighing industry not only in products & services, but also in thought and action. Dr. Li writes extensively and uniquely on politics, for which he has been called “a modern-day Thomas Jefferson” (see page 31).