June 4th, 2014
09:22 AM ET

Kristof: Pressure for more political participation will grow in China

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.

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Topics: China • GPS Show

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soundoff (3 Responses)
  1. palintwit

    I wonder if there is a Chinese version of Sarah Palin. Those poor people if there is.

    June 4, 2014 at 12:07 pm | Reply
  2. Portlandtony

    Some emerging nations are not ready for democracy.......the US was a plutocracy for years and the brand of democracy practiced in America today wouldn't be recognized by the ancient Greeks who tried to practice it. Democracy evolves. You can't shove a ballot box in front of an illiterate society and say vote. It takes generations to achieve representative government.

    June 4, 2014 at 8:53 pm | Reply
  3. j. von hettlingen

    It may take another two generations to forge political reforms. Xi Jinping is still sticking to the old success formula of the past two decades. If he wants to go down in history as a reformer, he will only opt for gradual reforms, because he doesn't want China to end up like the USSR. He blamed the Soviet collapse for abrupt changes like Gobachev's perestroika and glasnost.

    June 9, 2014 at 11:51 am | Reply

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