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Tiananmen redux

The hard truth about the expanded neoliberal world order

Johan Lagerkvist

This book contends that the massacre of civilians in Beijing on June Fourth 1989 was a pivotal rupture in both Chinese and world history. If not for that day, China’s socioeconomic, political and cultural landscape would not have undergone the kind of dramatic transformation that has made China rich but unequal, open but hyper-nationalist, moralistic but immoral and unhappy. Through the lens of global history the book revisits the drama of Tiananmen and demonstrates how it unfolded, ended, and ultimately how that ending – in a consensus of forgetting – came to shape the world of the 21 st century. It offers a theorization on the inclusion of China into global capitalism and argues that the planetary project of neoliberalism has been prolonged by China’s market reforms. This has resulted in an ongoing convergence of economic and authoritarian political practices that transcend otherwise contrasting political systems. With China’s growing global influence, the late leader Deng Xiaoping’s statement that «development is a hard truth» increasingly conveys the logic of our contemporary world.

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Introduction: A blow to our collective conscience

Extract

Every year, the south of China is beset by the monsoon. For Hong Kong, Guangdong province and the coastline all the way up to Shanghai, sum- mertime means constant buffeting by typhoon-force winds. Long into autumn, thunderstorms continue to roll in across the south, forcing the unprepared to hurriedly hail a taxi or buy themselves yet another umbrel- la from the vendors that suddenly emerge out of every nook and cranny. On Thursday 13 October 2011, the monsoon swept in across the city of Foshan in Guangdong. Qu Feifei, mother of two-year old Yueyue, rushed out to rescue her drying laundry. It was late afternoon and as her mother’s back was turned, the little girl toddled off. Suddenly, Yueyue found her- self on a narrow street crowded with hardware shops selling construction material. The leaden storm clouds looming overhead had plunged the cramped alley into twilight. It was the kind of commercial road that can be found in millions of villages and cities across China. Hustle. Bustle. Rushing. Yueyue was hit by a white van and ended up under one of the ve- hicle’s front wheels. The driver paused for a second, then immediately pushed on. The back wheel slowly rolled over the little girl, and the white van was gone. The girl lay prone, feebly moving her arms and legs ever so slightly. Crying, she clutched her bleeding head. Eighteen people passed the seriously injured child without attempting to help her, without calling an ambulance. Eighteen people. Some stopped...

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