June 1989, Tiananmen Square, Beijing. November 2022, Haizhu District, Guangzhou. Only three decades separate these dates and places, but in political terms the distance is sky-high. Then thousands of students protested in the heart of the Chinese capital demanding democracy, freedom and the end of corruption. The response of the communist regime was the murder of hundreds of youths massacred under the chains of the Red Army tanks. These days, citizen mobilization is against the zero covid policy, an aberration that keeps millions of Chinese locked up in their homes while 30,000 more infected are added every day. But the government's response against the demonstrations at the moment is different even compared to the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong of 2019, which were suppressed with a clean club. Now, although the arrests, the controls and the police deployment have increased, they are combined with new vaccines, a slow opening of the confinement and a restrained intention of amendment.
Let's cross our fingers, but for the moment there is no indication that heralds a bloodbath to suppress the mobilization. The key is the core of the protest. Despite blaming the untouchable Xi Jinping for the health catastrophe, the objective of the complaint is to recover normal life and, except for some spontaneous flashes, the fall of the dictatorship does not appear among the main demands.
Something has changed between that autarkic and rural China of thirty years ago and the current one, modern and one step away from the global economic podium. Censorship and government control remain suffocating, torture and re-education camps work abysmal, respect for freedom and human rights are a dream, but millions of Chinese have been lifted out of poverty and living standards have risen. dizzily. Of course, it is not enough, and the Government will have to decide if it gives its arm to twist or castles. The first option can be interpreted as a weakness that opens the door to other demands, and the second, a return to a heavy hand without contemplation. Something is moving in China, the question is where.