Tiananmen Square and 1989

“We never forget June 4,” said Mr. Jiang, a writer. “And I believe most of Chinese people of my generation don’t forget. They are just tied up with daily routine life.”

New York Times article (from an earlier edition) on the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square protests

Hopefully, for our generation of Americans, we never forget, either. I was a junior in high school getting ready for final exams at the time, certainly a world apart in every way from the happenings in Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989.

The Boomers had their years where history impacted them at a formative age, most notably 1968. And in no way am I downplaying that critical year that was filled with so much sadness.

But we Gen X’ers, too, had our own formative year where history unfolded before our eyes and influenced our developing world view, with 1989 seeing not only the Tiananmen Square protests and its vicious crackdown, but, later that year, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Iron Curtain, along with the beginning of the end of the Soviet Union and the Cold War.

So, like the quote in the Times from Jiang Qisheng, who “was imprisoned for four years in 1999 after he published a letter asking the government to reassess the June 4th crackdown,” I hope my generation of Americans never forgets 1989, especially the image of one lone brave man standing defiantly in front of the tanks of the Chinese government.

For a new angle on that famous image, and a new appreciation of the defiance and inner strength of that one man, see the Times’ Lens blog, which displays for the first time a street-level view of that incredible scene unfolding in the background.


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