Essays

Could Taiwan Today Be Mainland China Tomorrow?

The shifting river of Chinese politics – Scott Savitt

There is a Chinese proverb: “The Yellow River shifts course every 30 years – three decades east, three decades west – and with it the fortunes of those who live alongside it” (Sanshi nian he dong, sanshi nian he xi 三十年河東, 三十年河西). People say this to comfort each other in times of trouble, the equivalent of “this too shall pass.”

Thirty years ago I was a Beijing-based correspondent in my early twenties, covering the student-led democracy protests in Tiananmen Square and subsequent military crackdown. Those seven weeks of peaceful, celebratory protests were the most hopeful experience of my life, and the slaughter I then witnessed on the Avenue of Eternal Peace the most traumatic. I watched as the army fired machine guns and plowed tanks into crowds to carry out their order to clear Tiananmen square before dawn.