On this day in 1989, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army opened fire on civilians throughout the Chinese capital of Beijing, killing hundreds of students and activists who had assembled to protest for democracy and reforms of China’s authoritarian government and political system. The incident, now known as the Tiananmen Square Massacre, shocked observers worldwide, resulting in international condemnation and sanctions.
Three decades later, democracy has not come to China. Indeed, the personalized politics of the Mao era has returned with Xi Jinping, who has overseen the introduction of “Xi Jinping Thought” into the Chinese constitution and the removal of term limits. To the east of the country, it is working at a breakneck pace to seize ocean territories in defiance of international opinion; in the west, it has interned millions of Uyghurs in “re-education camps” without trial. The Communist Party has been blunt in its efforts to undermine and dismantle the political autonomy of Hong Kong, China’s last remaining bastion of democracy. The government is notoriously unfair in its conduct of trade: companies hoping to do business in China are pressured to hand over technology, and where such pressure is infeasible, state spies have few qualms about theft.