Fareed Zakaria speaks with New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his reporting on Tiananmen Square, about the significance of the anniversary. Watch the video for the full conversation.
What do you remember best from that time?
I think that the single most powerful memory for me comes because we always heard how democracy is inappropriate for a poor, developing, poorly educated country. And, of course, there’s some truth to that. Democracy doesn’t take deep roots in such a country.
But that night, when the troops were opening fire, the heroes were these rickshaw drivers who would go and collect the bodies of the kids who’d been killed or injured. And they could not have defined democracy, but they were risking their lives for it.
And that has always chastened me about the notion of being kind of too presumptuous about who is, you know, for whom democracy is appropriate. Because when people are really willing to show that kind of courage, then…
But what happened to those people and the students and that generation of kind of middle class aspiration which said “we have a little bit of money now but now we want a greater voice?”
They’re living a much better life economically than they ever did before. They’re sending their kids through high school and in some cases to college. But they’re scared of the government, so that’s why they’re not protesting.
But when you create a middle class, as you educate people more, as you create more interactions with the rest of the world, then that creates pressure for more political participation. And we’ve seen the same thing in South Korea and Taiwan and Mongolia and Indonesia. That will happen in China. I don’t know when that will be. That will happen.