Wednesday, May 7, 2008

NYT Archive 1989: Tactics and Sincerity Of Students

It was a relatively quiet period in Beijing after May 4, 1989. So, New York Times took the time to examine what it had witnessed so far in its May 7 edition. In particular, Nicholas Kristof observed something odd:
For anyone tempted to think that rebellious Chinese students must be fighting for capitalism and multi-party democracy, a banner fluttering over People's University marchers on Thursday was a rude shock. It read, ''We firmly support the correct leadership of the Communist Party.''
If South Korean university students are at the militant extreme, totally rejecting the Government and battering lines of police with firebombs and wooden staves, then Chinese demonstrators are at the peaceful extreme.
They sometimes go out of their way to say nice things about the Communist Party, even when it is clear they do not believe them, and they overwhelm the police as much with courtesy as with force.
Certainly, anyone would be amused by such tactics:
When approaching lines of the police, the students try to ingratiate themselves by chanting, ''The people love the people's police; the people's police love the people.'' After some hard pushing, but never any blows, the police usually give way to the students.
That is when the demonstrators pause to bellow, ''Thank you, police.'' A few students are even assigned to pick up any shoes lost in the shoving and return them to their owners, be they police or protesters.
Such tactics, which resemble those employed in the Philippine uprising rather than those in South Korea, have been enormously successful so far. It has been difficult for the Communist Party to crack down on those who politely call on the party to uphold its own ideals of honesty and democracy. And the students' charm has won grins and support from many ordinary workers.
But Kristof was also correct when he pointed out that students' pro-Communist rule declarations were not entirely sincere. It was done at least partly for tactical reasons. Or at the best, the students were simply recognizing the reality, as Wang Dan was quoted in the article:
Several of the student movement's leaders have said that they would consider joining the Communist Party at some point in their careers. Even Wang Dan, the Beijing University student leader who is regarded as among the most aggressive in the movement, scarcely paused when he was asked if he supported the leading role of the Communist Party in China.
''You can say I support correct leadership by the Communist Party,'' Mr. Wang said, putting emphasis on the word ''correct.'' He seemed to mean that he was willing to tolerate the leading role of the party, so long as it was upright and permitted greater democracy.
In other news on that day, NYT focused on the on-going reconciliation across the strait with the visit of Taiwan's financial minister, as well as the status of Tibetans in Nepal.

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