The 1989 Tiananmen Square protests are often described in the left liberal media as a pro democracy popular movement that was brutally crushed by the Chinese communist government. The student-led protests kicked off on April 15, 1989 with tens of thousands of student occupying the iconic Tiananmen Square in downtown Beijing. If the Western media is to be believed, on the night of June 4, 1989, the communist regime sent in tanks and heavily armed troops to clear the iconic Beijing square, killing thousands of unarmed youth.
Here are some snapshots by Westerners of the events of that night.
A BBC reporter watching from a high floor of the Beijing Hotel said he saw soldiers shooting at students at the monument in the centre of the square. US diplomat Richard Solomon claimed he “saw on CNN Chinese soldiers firing on students in Tiananmen Square”. Tim Russert, Washington bureau chief of NBC television channel, referred to “tens of thousands” of deaths in Tiananmen Square.
While there’s no doubt that a killings of protestors did take place, not everyone agrees it was a massacre of apocalyptic proportions as the left liberal media claims. According to Paul Craig Roberts, former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy and ex-associate editor of the Wall Street Journal, says, “Washington and its puppets condemned China for an event that did not happen.” (1)
“There was no massacre in Tiananmen Square,” Roberts writes on his website. “It was just another Washington lie like Gulf of Tonkin, Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction, Assad’s use of chemical weapons, Iranian nukes etc… (Amazingly) the world lives in a false reality created by Washington’s lies.”
What really happened?
The Chinese government admits some 300 were killed. According to American journalist Jay Mathews, who was at ground zero during the demonstrations, that figure may be closer to the truth. Although the murder of 300 students is barbaric by any yardstick, it is in no way comparable with figures of thousands or tens of thousands as bandied about by the Western media.
Mathews writes in a report for the Columbia Journalism Review: “Many victims were shot by soldiers on stretches of Changan Jie, the Avenue of Eternal Peace, about a mile west of the square, and in scattered confrontations in other parts of the city, where, it should be added, a few soldiers were beaten or burned to death by angry workers. Most of the hundreds of foreign journalists that night, including me, were in other parts of the city or were removed from the square so that they could not witness the final chapter of the student story. Those who tried to remain close filed dramatic accounts that, in some cases, buttressed the myth of a student massacre.” (2)
One of the few eyewitness accounts comes from Graham Earnshaw, who spent the entire night near the square, interviewing students till early dawn when the troops allegedly started shooting. “I was probably the only foreigner who saw the clearing of the square from the square itself,” he writes in his memoirs. According to Earnshaw, most of the students had left earlier that evening, and the remaining few hundred were persuaded by the troops to do likewise.
Note that both Matthews and Earnshaw wrote their accounts after they quit their day jobs in the left liberal media. The former was a reporter with the Pentagon mouthpiece Washington Post and the later was a Reuters correspondent. Clearly, they weren’t allowed to write what they saw while they were working at their jobs.
So why did China get so much flak?
Australian diplomat-turned-author and journalist Gregory Clark says the massacre stories were planted by US and British intelligence as part of a disinformation campaign against the Chinese government.
Clark writes on his website that senior members of Deng Xiaoping’s regime had twice tried unsuccessfully to negotiate with the students. “Eventually the regime lost patience and sent unarmed troops into Beijing to clear the square,” he writes. “But those troops had quickly been turned back by barricades set up by the angry pro-student crowds that had been gathering in Beijing for days.” (3)
“The following day armed troops were sent in to do the job. They too quickly met hostile crowds, but this time they continued to advance and this time some in the crowd began throwing Molotov cocktails. Dozens of buses and troop-carrying vehicles were torched, some with their crews trapped inside. Not surprisingly, the largely untrained troops began panic firing back into the attacking crowds. As a result, it is said that hundreds were killed, including some students who had come from the square to join the crowds. But that killing was the result of a riot, not a deliberate massacre. It was provoked by the citizens, not the soldiers.”
Clark suspects the reports that were published by American newspapers, such as the New York Times, were “very likely the work of the US and UK black information authorities ever keen to plant anti-Beijing stories in unsuspecting or cooperative media”.
Photos of solders incinerated or hung from overpasses are yet to be shown by the Western media. According to Earnshaw of Reuters, a photo of a Chinese soldier strung up and burned to death was withheld by the news service. “Photos of lines of burning troop carriers are also used, as if they prove brutal military behaviour against innocent civilians. In fact, they prove the exact opposite, namely some fairly brutal behaviour by those civilians, leading to the deaths of quite a few fairly innocent soldiers,” writes Clark.
Perhaps the most iconic photo — splashed across newspapers around the world — was that of a solitary student stopping a row of army tanks. But the story not told is that the photo was taken as the troops were leaving the Square. The protests had died down and the ‘revolution’ had fizzled out. There were no heroes at Tiananmen.
The real story
In trying to focus on the story, the Western media missed the uprising of the workers and civilians who were undergoing great hardships because of the botched policies of the communist regime. Beholden to their corporate paymasters, these journalists pitched the Tiananmen Square protests as that of an evil regime killing innocent students.
The workers were much more numerous and had much more to be angry about than the students. “This was the larger story that most of us overlooked or underplayed,” Mathews writes.
This basic lack of judgement and scepticism has been a defining characteristic of the Western media. Think about it. The same journalists later went on to swallow and then regurgitate the lies about Saddam’s nuclear bombs. Not having learned from that multi trillion dollar mistake, they bought into the lies about a popular uprising against another Arab leader, Muammar Gaddafi. In the process, they contributed to the destruction of Libya’s prosperous cities and its welfare state. It continues with Syria and Ukraine.
The Tiananmen Square episode has an uncanny parallel to the Gujarat riots of 2002, which was in response to the massacre of 57 Hindu pilgrims, including children, in Godhra. A key source for the original Tiananmen massacre myth was the student leader Wu’er Kaixi, who claimed to have seen 200 students cut down by gunfire at the square. But he was later proven to be a liar. Turns out, several pro-democracy students were feeding such lies to western observers.
Similarly, in Gujarat, the number of Muslims who died in the riots kept ballooning — until it reached “over 3000”. It was a lie peddled by the entire Indian mainstream media, and gleefully picked up by the western press.
In a news item dated 11 May 2005, the Indian Express quoted Congress leader and then MoS (Home) Sriprakash Jaiswal’s statement before Parliament that 790 Muslims and 254 Hindus were killed in the riots.
After the government disclosed the above figures, the Indian media stopped saying “over 3000 Muslims were killed”, although the fact that 254 Hindus were also killed is never mentioned. However, the Western media continues to describe the riots as a pogrom.
Do these commentators have any idea what a pogrom means? From 1933 to 1945, many European nations witnessed riots against their Jewish citizens. Thousands of Jews died without a single German, Ukrainian, Croat, Romanian or Pole dying in retaliatory attacks by the Jews. Those were pogroms.
That such blatant lies hurt their country’s image did not matter at all to the so-called social activists. All they wanted was a pat on the back by the West. Mumbai-based activist Teesta Setalvad was accused of tutoring witnesses of the riots by none other than her former associate Rais Khan Pathan. A court later held that she was only “guiding” the witnesses.
Why target China?
Among all the nationalities of the world that have felt the jackboot of colonial oppression, the Chinese stand alone in wanting to pay the West back — at an opportune time. The West knows this very well. The volley of vitriol directed at the Chinese during the highly successful Beijing Olympics showed the West’s unconcealed envy of Chinese prosperity and fear of its growing influence.
Tiananmen was an ideal opportunity for the West to paint the Chinese as cold-blooded murderers. Indeed, it was part of the standard western game plan of demonising those they consider future threats. It was China then, Indians in 2002, Saddam in 2003, Gaddafi in 2011 and Russians today.
According to Lee Kuan Yew, the late Singapore strongman, and one of the keenest minds of the 20th century, mass demonstrations were happening not in Beijing alone but spreading to other cities. “Deng Xiaoping understood that if you released the forces, unless you do it in a controlled way, the system will collapse. And he did not allow the system to collapse, because if you allow that, nothing is achieved,” he told PBS television. “The Chinese will judge him not from whether he was humane or he was brutal, but whether he saved China, or he allowed China to risk disintegration.”
Consequences of a Chinese collapse
What if China had collapsed in 1989 like the USSR in 1991? From India’s point of view, a diehard communist regime and an increasingly adversarial dragon would have disappeared from the scene. However, this is oversimplifying the nature of the Chinese leadership. The Han political leadership is imperialistic by nature and won’t melt away if the communist party loses control of the country.
A comparable parallel is the US-USSR rivalry – the collapse of the communist country only ended the Cold War and ended the nuclear arms race. However, it didn’t end their mutual rivalry, and Moscow and Washington continue to be geopolitical adversaries.
Had Beijing allowed the demonstrations to snowball into a revolution — like the US-UK engineered “colour revolutions” of Eastern Europe — there would be no Chinese economic miracle today. The BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) group would have remained on paper. It would have been the West rather than the East that would have been rising today.
With China and Russia out of the way, the West would have gone after Hindu India with a greater evangelical fervour than it is doing currently.
Media as news spinner
As in India, the left liberal media in the West comprises mostly liars and charlatans. The only difference is that the Western media also has a lot of racists and evangelical Christians, who are programmed and conditioned to portray non-Westerners as barbarians and people who are not fit to live except at the West’s pleasure. These journalists and commentators are also possessed by deep-rooted envy at the irresistible progress of large and independent countries such as China, Russia and India.
Some media people are also on the payroll of Western intelligence agencies. The tragic case is of German journalist Udo Ulfkotte who wrote a book “Journalists for Hire: How the CIA Buys the News” in which he claimed he was a part of a programme where the US agency hired American and European journalists to plant false stories in the mainstream media to further a disinformation agenda.
Ulfkotte admitted to publishing a story – written by the CIA – in his name about how slain Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi had allegedly tried to build a secret poison gas factory. The German journalist said the CIA fabricated article spread worldwide without any vetting whatsoever. Shortly after the book was released, Ulfkotte died of an apparent heart attack. (4)
In this backdrop, anything that comes spinning out of the left liberal media –whether in India or the West – should be viewed with a healthy dollop of scepticism.
- Paul Craig Roberts, http://www.paulcraigroberts.org/2014/06/17/washington-beating-war-drums-paul-craig-roberts/
- Jay Mathews, Columbia Journalism Review, https://archives.cjr.org/behind_the_news/the_myth_of_tiananmen.php
- Gregory Clark, http://gregoryclark.net/page15/page15.html
- Veterans Today, https://www.veteranstoday.com/2016/12/05/former-german-editor-udo-ulfkotte-german-journalists-are-puppets-of-the-cia-and-the-new-world-order/
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Rakesh is primarily a defence analyst. His articles have been quoted extensively by universities and in books on diplomacy, counter terrorism, warfare, and development of the global south; and by international defence journals.
Rakesh’s work has been cited by leading think tanks and organisations that include the Naval Postgraduate School, California; US Army War College, Pennsylvania; Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Washington DC; State University of New Jersey; Institute of International and Strategic Relations, Paris; BBC Vietnam; Siberian Federal University, Krasnoyarsk; Centre for Air Power Studies, New Delhi; Institute for Defense Analyses, Virginia; International Center for Not-for-Profit Law, Washington DC; Stimson Centre, Washington DC; Foreign Policy Research Institute, Philadelphia; and Institute for Strategic, Political, Security and Economic Consultancy, Berlin.
His articles have been published by the Centre for Land Warfare Studies, New Delhi; Foundation Institute for Eastern Studies, Warsaw; and the Research Institute for European and American Studies, Greece, among others.