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U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, "Hearing: Stability in China: Lessons from Tiananmen and Implications for the Untied States (Webcast)," May 15, 2014

This hearing was conducted by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission on May 15, 2014. The U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission was created by the U.S. Congress in 2000 to monitor, investigate, and submit to Congress an annual report on the national security implications of the economic relationship between the United States and the People’s Republic of China.
May 15, 2014

Thursday, May 15, 2014
608 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20002

Hearing Co-Chairs: Dr. Larry M. Wortzel and Commissioner Carolyn Bartholomew


Good morning and welcome to the sixth hearing of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission’s 2014 Annual Report cycle. I want to thank our witnesses for being here today, and for the time they have put into their excellent written testimonies. Each of their written statements will be submitted for the record and will be available online at the Commission’s website ( Before we begin, let me take a moment to thank the Senate Budget Committee, Chairman Patty Murray, and the Committee staff for securing this room for us today.

If you were in Beijing, China on May 15, 1989, you would have seen the arrival of Mikhail Gorbachev while more than 3,000 people occupied Tiananmen Square on a hunger strike, surrounded by throngs of sympathizers from all walks of life. The protests around Beijing initially involved as many as a million people complaining about corruption in the Chinese Communist Party and government, inflation, profiteering, and nepotism.

Gorbachev’s motorcade could not approach the Great Hall of the People or Party headquarters at Zhongnanhai easily for meetings, deeply embarrassing the Politburo Standing Committee, which was already arguing internally about how to resolve the demonstrations. On the windows of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences’ offices and in military housing areas, posters called for the people to march on the streets in support of the protestors.

By May 20th, the Politburo put martial law into effect. A column of troops and vehicles tried to move from west to east across the city to get to Tiananmen Square but was stopped by a human roadblock composed of thousands of Beijing residents from all walks of life. And of course, on June 4, 1989, ten to twelve Army divisions closed on Tiananmen Square firing rifles, automatic
weapons, and using tanks to clear roadblocks.

The panelists here today will discuss how the Party has tried to address the complaints of the protesters in the intervening years and will compare the political, social, and economic conditions in China today to those that led to the protests in 1989.

Our goal today is to discuss the implications for U.S. policy, American citizens, and the U.S. economy if domestic unrest again begins to destabilize China and to develop recommendations for Congress in case of such an eventuality.

Commissioner Bartholomew and I want to thank our staff that worked so hard on this hearing, especially Katherine Koleski, Ethan Meick, and Reed Eckhold.

I now turn to Commissioner Bartholomew for her opening statement.


Thank you Commissioner Wortzel and thanks to our witnesses for being here today to help us explore the challenges to China’s domestic stability and their implications for the United States. While the events Commissioner Wortzel just described took place 25 years ago, the legacy of the Tiananmen Square Massacre continues to reverberate. The protests leading up to June 4th were not limited to Beijing but occurred in as many as 341 other cities around China. They shook the Chinese Communist Party to its very roots, changed the relationship of the Party to the people of China, and changed the perception of China here in the United States. Many of us watched in horror as the tanks rolled in to attack peaceful demonstrators. The Chinese government’s response to the protestors in 1989 continues to shape events today.

The Chinese government continues to deny wrongdoing in its use of military force in 1989. In fact, it seeks to erase the Tiananmen Square Massacre from the historical record by suppressing any public discussion or reassessment of the crackdown. In preparation for the 25th anniversary of Tiananmen, the Chinese Communist Party has tightened control over the Internet and detained several prominent dissenters such as Pu Zhiqiang (POO jer-CHIANG), a prominent rights lawyer, and Gao Yu (G-OW YOO), a reform-minded journalist and political analyst.

Today’s hearing comes at a time when the Chinese public is increasingly concerned about rising inequality, ethnic tension, corruption, and environmental degradation. According to Human Rights Watch, between 300 and 500 protests occur in China each day. While most of these protests have been attributed to land and labor disputes, protests relating to concerns about environmental degradation and incidents of ethnic unrest are on the rise. Among the questions we will consider today is how the lessons of Tiananmen are being employed by both the Chinese government and dissenters as China faces growing popular unrest.

The Chinese government has invested significant resources in preempting and managing social unrest, strengthening its internal security apparatus, and controlling the media and Internet. Under President Xi, the government has increasingly sought to silence moderate voices in a campaign against the expression of dissent not seen in China since the 1970s. The country’s newly-formed National Security Commission illustrates President Xi’s focus on coordinating internal security responses. Furthermore, the Chinese government has tightened information controls through new Internet regulations and censorship mechanisms. These regulations seek to address the increasing challenges of managing online dissent in China, specifically on social media platforms.

China is our largest trading partner, and its actions in addressing dissent hold broad implications for the United States. In the business world, access to accurate information in real time is critical to businesses. From the human rights perspective, any crackdown on dissent is an attack on basic freedoms, enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and fundamental to our values. And from the national security perspective, the Chinese government’s aggressive territorial moves in the Asia-Pacific region must be viewed, in part, as an act of rising nationalism and an effort to deflect Chinese domestic attention away from internal tensions.

Panel I: Tiananmen and Contemporary Economic, Political, and Social Challenges in China
Dr. Joseph Fewsmith, Professor of International Relations and Political Science, Boston University, Boston, MA
Mr. Xiao Qiang, Adjunct Professor at the University of California-Berkeley, Founder and Editor of China Digital Times, Berkeley, CA
Dr. Stephen Hess, Assistant Professor of Political Science, College of Public and International Affairs at the University of Bridgeport, Bridgeport, CT

Congressional Perspectives
Representative Frank Wolf (VA-10)

Panel II: Expression of Dissent in China Today
Dr. Murray Scot Tanner, Senior Research Scientist, CNA, Alexandria, VA
Dr. Sophie Richardson, China Director, Human Rights Watch, Washington, DC
Mr. Carl Minzner, Associate Professor of Law, Fordham University, New York, NY

Panel III: Freedom of Expression and Media Control: Implications for the United States
Ms. Sarah Cook, Senior Research Analyst for East Asia, Freedom House, New York, NY
Ms. Delphine Halgand, U.S. Director, Reporters Without Borders, Washington, DC
Mr. David Wertime, Senior Editor, Foreign Policy, Washington, DC

You can see a video of the hearing at:



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