Wei Jingshen, chairman of the Overseas Chinese Democracy Coalition. (Photo by Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images)
The May 4th Movement in 1919 and the June 4th Movement in 1989 have many similarities and differences. The first similarity is patriotism, both campaigns were under the banner of patriotism. But the patriotism of the May 4th Movement was a patriotism against foreigners, while the patriotism of the June 4th Movement wasn't. In 1919, it was foreigners who bullied China during the May 4th Movement; in contrast, during the June 4th Massacre, people found out that it was the Chinese government that bullied the Chinese people.
One of the biggest differences between these two was whether one believes in the government or not. The young intellectuals of the May 4th Movement in 1919 did not believe in their government, and launched a campaign against the government. The young intellectuals in 1989 acted as they were against the government, while being in support of the Chinese government in reality. Therefore, young intellectuals in May 4th, 1919, were more real and bolder than students in 1989, due to their rights to speak were more guaranteed.
The biggest commonality between the May 4th Movement and the June 4th Movement were that both held high the banner of democracy and freedom. After that, the trend of Chinese ideology must also hold high the banner of democracy and freedom. Otherwise it will not be supported by Chinese intellectuals. Even the Chinese Communist Party that pursues authoritarianism, holds high the banner of democracy and freedom. Not only did it appear outside the party under the slogan of democracy and freedom, but also the banner of democracy and freedom was held high within the party, in order to gain the following of most literati who can read but do not really understand communism. Many children of this generation of communist intellectuals take names of freedom, universal suffrage, civil rights, etc.
Since the May 4th Movement, two different democracies and freedoms parted ways and started to compete. One is Western-style democracy with a representative system as the basic model. Its laws advocate equality for all, and democracy covers all citizens. Its economic system is based on private property and regulates a huge society through the market. The other is communist democracy based on Marx's theory. Its basic model is to use one class to oppress members of other classes. Its economic system claims to be owned by all the people, distributed evenly, and regulates a huge society with the plan by a government with concentrated power.
Representative democracy has equal rights, but its inequality of the market economy is open, visible and theoretically determined. The partial democracy of the Communist Party does not seem fair, but it claims to include most people. Its communist plan looks fair in theory. Therefore, in peacetime, communism is not very attractive to the Chinese society that was used to a market economy. It was only attractive to a few intellectuals who don't care about daily lives in people's homes.
Therefore, before the Sino-Japanese War, the communist ideology of property equality and most people oppressing a few was only popular among a few intellectuals in China. Even if the focus was shifted to the countryside, only a few of the poorest people would actively accept it. Most peasants, including many relatively poorer peasants, did not accept the idea of communism, except the idea of equally dividing the land. The Communist Party's Agrarian Revolutionary War was unsuccessful and was almost wiped out in just a few years.
It was a protracted Sino-Japanese war that produced a large number of urban and rural poor. The Chinese Communist Party has also learned to hide its communist nature and won the support of most intellectuals and peasants with its pretended democracy and market economy. Finally, a system of one-party dictatorship and a planned economy was established. The economic essence of this system is a replica of feudal serfdom. The so-called class dictatorship would inevitably move towards a one-party dictatorship or even a dictatorship by a few people.
In 1979, under the resistance of the Chinese people, the economic system of feudal serfdom was overthrown in China. However, the Chinese Communist Party found that the traditional Chinese model of managing the market economy with an authoritarian regime can be used as a reference to maintain the communist one-party dictatorship. Of course, the Chinese people and the foreign experts on China who do not understand China were still fooled with its claim of reforming politics. The pain caused by the continuation of the one-party dictatorship, coupled with the huge inequality brought by half-way economic reforms, was the social basis for the 1989 democratic movement.
The democratic movement 31 years ago pointed out the goal of abolishing the one-party dictatorship for the Chinese people. Although it was suppressed after a huge bloody sacrifice, its clear ideological goals are the direction of the Chinese people's efforts in the future. Today, the retrograde actions of the Chinese Communist regime at home and abroad are a manifestation that this deformed system cannot be sustained. The goal of the 1989 Democracy Movement has won the support of most Chinese people, so it is only a matter of time before it is achieved.
Reprinted by the kind permission of the author.