Tiananmen Square protests 'made the government more responsive to people's needs'

China will never witness another June 4, says sales director Wu Mufeng, 25.

The reason has little to do with the Chinese Communist Party’s attempt to control information or suppress democracy activists.

Rather, the Guangdong native believes the rapid development of capitalism in China in the past 25 years has changed the character of Chinese people like himself. 

“We care about jobs and quality of life. Our perspectives are not like those of the earlier generation who believed in broad principles.”

The protesters at Tiananmen Square in 1989 were “all equal, all poor”, by which he means they came from broadly similar backgrounds. 

But today’s society is divided, with the poor struggling to become rich and the wealthy striving to get richer, he added.

When put to him that the Tiananmen protesters came from different backgrounds and that one of the driving forces of the movement was rising inequality, he said: “It’s not that students today cannot organise themselves. But people have different standards of living and so little in common, why would they band together to risk their lives like that?”

Unlike many of his peers who do not see June 4 as having any significant impact on their lives, the young man believes that June 4 left a positive legacy for China.

For one thing, the government would not be as responsive to the people’s needs as it is now, he said. 

While observers might dispute this, Mr Wu points to the government’s focus on economic reform, fighting corruption and tackling pollution as showing that the voices of the laobaixing, or common folk, have been heard. 

“What happened was sad,” Mr Wu said. “If today’s government governs well and can improve the people’s lives, they can make up for the sins of the past.”

rchang@sph.com.sg