Sort of fitting for Memorial Day, too: to keep the peace, let's try to figure out what lies we've been told by whom. However, this has to do with the events at Tiananmen Square, which happened 16 years ago this week. In the post below, I referenced this op-ed, in the Japan Times, which had the surprising paragraph:
That the Western media have largely gone along with Tokyo's claims over Yasukuni is further proof of just how easily they accept distorted views of China. Other examples include the Tiananmen massacre myth (check the now declassified cables from the U.S. Embassy in Beijing at the time for the true story), the claim that China's claims over Taiwan are expansionist (check the terms on which every major power has accepted Beijing's sovereignty over the island), or Beijing's constant reference to Taiwan as a "renegade province" (check the English-language Web sites for the main Chinese newspapers to find the reality). And so on.
Well, I took up the author of that piece, Gregory Clark, on, so to speak. Here is the declassified history of Tiananmen square.
In addition to providing information on the events of June 4, the cables provide dramatic examples of the kinds of intelligence provided by diplomatic reporting. Document 14, an embassy cable from June 4, reports on confrontations between soldiers and protesters, some of which ended in deaths, and vandalism by military personnel, who one source claimed were breaking the windows of shops, banks, and other buildings. On the same day, another cable from the U.S. Embassy (Document 15) reports, among other things, the statement of a Chinese-American who had witnessed the crackdown who claimed that, "The beating to death of a PLA soldier, who was in the first APC to enter Tiananmen Square, in full view of the other waiting PLA troops, appeared to have sparked the shooting that followed." In addition to these eyewitness accounts of the crackdown, other cables (Document 16) also provide information on PLA troop positions and casualty estimates.
One section of the Secretary of State's Morning Summary for June 5th (Document 17), titled "After the Bloodbath," focuses on developments in Beijing. It reports that "troops continued to fire indiscriminately at citizens in the area near Tiananmen Square." It also notes the destruction of a large number of military vehicles, threats to execute students, and the potential for violent resistance by students. The intelligence report also provides details on the worldwide reaction to the massacre, noting the unanimous condemnation of the "bloody repression" by foreign leaders, "regardless of ideology.
There's much more here. For example, this document shows that what was going on was far more chaotic than what we were told at the time. And this document, which says "civilian deaths probably did not reach the figure of 3,000 used in some press reports," but believes that the figure put forward by the Chinese Red Cross of 2,600 military and civilian deaths with 7,000 wounded to be "not an unreasonable estimate."
Make no mistake about it: this is a black stain on China's leadership at the time, but it was clearly something that was not as controlled and planned as we were led to believe.