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How Tiananmen Square Cemented China’s Obsession With Control

  • Crackdown 30 years ago set path that led to today’s conflict
  • Other developing nations seen leaning toward Chinese system
A tank blocks a street in Beijing on June 6, 1989.
A tank blocks a street in Beijing on June 6, 1989.Photographer: Jacques Langevin/Sygma via Getty Images
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Western capitals are fuming about Beijing’s actions, Chinese companies face unprecedented sanctions and the nation’s exports are being punished. The same was true in 1989 after tanks rolled into Tiananmen Square on June 4 to crush student protests.

In that 30-year interlude, China has gone from global pariah to a nation slugging it out on the international stage with the world’s biggest superpower. Those three decades are a story not just of the transformation of China’s fortune, but of the shift in technology and ideas that altered global politics and is increasingly turning developing nations toward China’s model of central control.