By Parris Chang 張旭成
As the Soviet Union collapsed in the late 1980s and Russia seemed to be embarking on a process of democratization, 36-year-old American academic Francis Fukuyama had the audacity to assert that the world was at end of the story “.
Fukuyama asserted that democratic systems would become the norm and peace would prevail worldwide.
He publishes a grandiose essay, “The end of history? in the Summer 1989 issue of National Interest magazine. Overnight, Fukuyama became a famous theorist in the United States, Western Europe, Japan, and even Taiwan.
Did the collapse of the Soviet Union mark the end of an era as predicted by Fukuyama?
Not at all.
The fledgling democracy did not survive the rise of Russian President Vladimir Putin, a former KGB agent who rose to the top of Russian politics and sought to restore global power and influence to the former Soviet Union.
Putin’s invasion of Ukraine provides irrefutable proof that autocracy is an eternal threat to world peace.
Fukuyama’s knowledge of communist China was naive and rather misguided. In June 1989, then-Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping (鄧小平) ordered the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to suppress angry students and others who staged a sit-in in the square. Tiananmen in Beijing to protest against the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) government. corruption and autocracy.
In May and June of that year, more than 200,000 university students and other young people staged a sit-in to demand that the CCP government implement its promised anti-corruption program and democratic reforms. The peaceful protest, which the students called a “patriotic democratic movement,” was not intended to destroy the system, but to democratize it.
However, the CCP leadership, led by Deng and other hardliners, saw nothing patriotic in the protests. For them, the protesters were anti-party troublemakers meant to stir up political and social unrest. They had to be stopped by all means, including force.
To consolidate his already weakened status as a leader, Deng acted decisively. As chairman of China’s Military Affairs Council, Deng ordered troops to crush protesters on the night of June 3, 1989, when PLA units marched towards Tiananmen Square from all directions, firing and killing thousands of unarmed civilians who were in the square or on their way there.
Most Americans, myself included, watched in disbelief and shock as television screens showed vivid scenes of the crackdown.
American outrage over the massacre compelled the administration of then-President George HW Bush to impose a series of punitive sanctions on the CCP.
The US immediately cut military relations with China – no more sales of military equipment, no more contact between the US military and the PLA, and a crackdown on US and international loans to China.
Despite the Bush administration’s efforts to restore US-China relations, the US Congress and the public have changed the dynamic of interactions between the two countries. There could be no return to the partnership that existed before the massacre of June 4, 1989.
Did Fukuyama see this? Apparently he didn’t.
Parris Chang is a former deputy secretary general of the National Security Council and professor emeritus of political science at Pennsylvania State University.
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