- Commemoration of June 4: Tank Man shows the “power of the nameless”
- Shanghai lockdown ends
- Agreement with Pacific Rim nations stalls
- Five-year renewable energy plan unveiled
- Taiwan and US hold new trade negotiations
- Premier Li voices concern about power security
- VAT cut on car purchases
- Prestigious real estate rots away in Frankfurt
- Profile: Inga Heiland – IfW expert on trade and container ships
Despite everything we know today about what happened on the night of June 4-5, 1989 in Beijing: There is no footage from the events on Tiananmen Square itself. But one image has burned itself into the collective memory: The Tank Man. The photo shows a man in the distance, standing in front of a tank column, stopping them in their tracks. This made Tank Man the epitome of the “power of the nameless,” writes Marcel Grzanna to mark the 33rd anniversary of the massacre this weekend. Tank Man has influenced pop culture and is even considered one of the 100 most influential people of the 20th century. However, China’s government deliberately keeps his identity a secret to avoid creating a hero. But this is precisely how it nurtures the myth of the ordinary citizen who courageously stood up to precisely this government power.
Millions of Shanghai residents regained some of their everyday freedom on Wednesday. Right off the bat, public transport capacity returned to 75 percent of its normal level. However, our author team in China asked around a little more closely: Many people feel cheated because they are still not allowed to go outside despite the lifting. As long as everyone sat at home equally, acceptance was still higher than it is now amid the inequality between neighborhoods. In a democracy, those responsible would have been voted out of office long ago.
“Tank Man changed the world”
It was only about three minutes on the morning of June 5, 1989, that turned one man into a hero. An unknown man stands in the way of a Chinese army tank column on Chang’an Jie in the heart of Beijing, near Tiananmen Square. Whether the man is an active member of the democracy movement, which paid with many lives for its demand for political participation the night before, remains unclear. Regardless, his courage will go down in history as the last act of open resistance of those days and weeks in the spring, 33 years ago.
These few moments on the Chang’an Jie have burned themselves into the memory of the global public. To this day, they exude a fascination that has created a global culture of remembrance that makes it impossible for the Chinese Communist Party to dismiss the Tiananmen massacre against its own people as a side note of history. The identity of the man is unclear, as is whether he was punished after several men pushed him off the street. And yet his pseudonym is still on everyone’s mind today.
His impact goes far beyond the memory of the CP’s crimes of 1989. “This young man changed the world,” says Professor Bruce Herschensohn in the 2006 documentary “Tank Man”. Herschensohn was once an advisor to Richard Nixon’s US administration and dealt extensively with communist regimes. “Tank Man’s actions supported the transformation of the Soviet Union,” believed the now-deceased Herschensohn, who traveled to various Eastern European countries shortly after the events in Beijing.
- Civil Society
- Human Rights
- Tiananmen Massacre
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