Twenty years ago, seven weeks of demonstrations that took place in more than 400 Chinese towns and cities met with brutal repression from the Chinese state, not only in Beijing, but also in a series of operations across the country. The repression in Tiananmen Square on the night of 3-4 June 1989, in which hundreds (or possibly thousands) of people were killed was condemned internationally. "President Bush denounced China for using military force against its own people and implied that the action could damage relations between Washington and Beijing. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher of Britain said she was ‘appalled by the indiscriminate shooting of unarmed people.' The French Foreign Minister, Roland Dumas, said he was ‘dismayed by the bloody repression' of ‘an unarmed crowd of demonstrators.' The West German Foreign Ministry urged China ‘to return to its universally welcomed policies of reform and openness." (New York Times, 5 June 1989). President Bush announced reprisals against China, including the suspension of arms sales.
In the period since there has been no let up in the criticism of China's ‘human rights record'. However, this high-sounding ‘humanitarianism' is utterly hypocritical. We can expect more of it in October with the sixtieth anniversary of Mao declaring the People's Republic of China.
Look back at the ‘condemnations.' The regime that the US sold arms to had not suddenly been transformed one day in June. The reason the US sold arms to China was part of an overall strategy during the period of the Cold War - supporting China as another force pitted against the USSR. And the ‘universally welcomed policies of reform' had done nothing to disturb the dictatorship of the Chinese capitalist state and the exploitation and repression of the working class.
Last year, at the Beijing Olympics, Bush Junior went through the usual criticisms of China but praised the economy as being "good for the Chinese people" and Chinese purchasing power as "good for the world". This is the true face of capitalism - it cares nothing for ‘human rights' and everything for business.
It was, therefore, entirely appropriate for US Treasury Secretary Geithner to be in Beijing on 1-2 June 2009, just before the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square repression, calling for closer ties with China. He was a "gracious guest". He told students: "Our engagement should be conducted with mutual respect for the traditions, values and interests of China and the United States" and "We each have an obligation to ensure that our policies and actions promote the health and stability of the global economy and financial system." In turn his hosts expressed their confidence in the various measures taken by the US government to deal with the recession.
There are clearly many differences between China and the US, and many parts of the world where they could at some point be in military conflict. However, when it comes to the preservation of the world capitalist system, they are united.
For the working class in China, the world capitalist crisis is having an impact with growing unemployment and the mass migration of millions. Official Chinese figures for 58,000 ‘mass incidents' (any strike, demonstration involving more than 25 people) for the first three months of 2009 show that workers are increasingly responding to the attacks of the Chinese state. For the whole of 2008 there were 120,000 ‘mass incidents'. The ruling class in the US and China want ‘stability' for the world economy. The working class has to struggle against the order that its masters want to impose.