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June 2, 2009

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Lost Memory of Tianenmen

God, this is amazing. James Fallows writes:

I have spent a lot of time over the past three years with Chinese university students. They know a lot about the world, and about American history, and about certain periods in their own country’s past. Virtually everyone can recite chapter and verse of the Japanese cruelties in China from the 1930s onward, or the 100 Years of Humiliation, or the long background of Chinese engagement with Tibet. Through their own family’s experiences, many have heard of the trauma of the Cultural Revolution years and the starvation and hardship of the Great Leap Forward. But you can’t assume they will ever have heard of what happened in Tiananmen Square twenty years ago. For a minority of people in China, the upcoming date of June 4 has tremendous significance. For most young people, it’s just another day.

Emphasis mine. It’s one thing to have an event downplayed, recast, mythologized, whatever. It’s another to have it erased.

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Posted June 2, 2009 at 10:58 | Comments (2) | Permasnark
File under: Briefly Noted

Comments

Even if something's erased, the outlines are still there. This reminds me of a story from a couple years back when a newspaper in China mistakenly published an ad marking 6-4 because the young clerk at the paper had no knowledge of the date's significance.

Did you see the NYT photoblog story on the Tank Man photo? It offers a lot of interesting background from the photographers' point of view on the Chinese efforts to cover up the event, including one photographer's story of hiding his film in the tank of his hotel toilet, and another claiming that Chinese official sent fatalities to children's hospitals to hide them from Western media.

It's fascinating that that for all the efforts of officials at the time, not one but four photographs of the event made it out, and that "made it out" means physically smuggled on celluloid.

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