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Legacy of Tiananmen Square 25 years on


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Legacy of Tiananmen Square 25 years on

This year sees the 25th anniversary of the brutal crackdown by Chinese authorities on pro-democracy protesters in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square.

That is provoking debate on what has happened in China in the intervening years.

In this edition of U-talk the question comes from euronews viewer Michel: “Almost everyone old enough to remember recalls the images of repression from Tiananmen Square in the spring of 1989. Now, 25 years later can we say that the protesters’ demands have been met or have even been heard?”

The response is from Rémi Castets, an expert in Chinese affairs at Bordeaux University/Sciences Po:

“The protesters’ main demand was for the democratisation of the regime and the establishment of a multi-party system. For the time being this demand has not been met yet. In today’s China dissenting opinions continue to be repressed. The fact that the Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo is still in prison shows that freedom for intellectuals remains limited. There is a red line that cannot be crossed: you cannot question the authority of the Chinese Communist Party.

“A second demand was to limit inequalities generated by the introduction of the market economy in China. If we look at the situation today the situation seems to have worsened.

“A third student claim was against corruption and nepotism within the Party. Today the Party is closely tied to business, so currently it hasn’t got the tools to try to solve the problem, which tends to undermine the Party’s legitimacy.

“But there is an area in which the Party has been very successful: and that’s reforming the economy.

“And as long as the Chinese government manages to maintain a growth rate above seven percent, it can control social unrest. Because with a seven percent growth rate, China remains able to integrate newcomers into the labour market.

“I think China is now facing a key moment. And we’ll see if the Communist Party has the tools to implement the necessary systems to reduce the negative effects of the market economy and limit the income gap fuelling discontent among the poor in China today.

“What is very interesting is that you have people who participated in the Tiananmen Square movement and who are now fully benefiting from this income growth.

“I’d say that part of Chinese society has temporarily put aside its claims for democracy as the Chinese Communist Party is providing them with basic necessities, namely an improving standard of living.”

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