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Thursday, April 27, 2006

The Tank Man

After the Chinese Army massacred thousands of its own citizens, an unknown rebel, by his lonely act of defiance, amazed the world. It is not known what became of him. But 17 years later, China succeeded in erasing this event from its history.

I saw the documentary “The Tank Man” on PBS yesterday. It opened with the narrative “…. Frontline investigates the identity of the tank man”. I was hoping to learn who this brave hero, who captured the imagination of people around the world, was. But as the film rolled on, I was macerated in the images of contemporary China, and the story of how the communist country became a Mecca for western investors.

I was also disturbed to hear stories from a divided China; the tale of the rich urban China and the poor peasant China. There is mass migration from rural areas to the big and specialized cities (There is a television city, a mattress city, a T-Shirt city, a leather city, and an underwear city). Young girls work 16 to 18 hours a day, 7 days a week for a meager 120 dollars a month, to produce cheap goods for Europe and America. Indigent helpless men work for just two meals a day in construction sites, with no pay or prospect. It was sad to watch the real face of the industrial china.

The documentary was also speckled with testimonies from eyewitnesses and journalists on what happened in Tiananmen Square and the Tank man. They recalled the moment, and it’s enduring symbolism. Of all, one story stood out. A journalist on a trip back to China recently showed the famous photo, of the unknown civilian standing alone before a line of tanks, to a group of students. I was equally stunned to see that none of the students recognized the picture.

In the last 15 years China has become the factory of the world. But how long will this last? The brave Tank Man was only a harbinger. Pressure is building, and it is only a matter of time before China explodes.

4 Comments:

Blogger Pradeep said...

China is one country I have been fascinated with. The big diffence they have vis a vis India is lack of democracy. Whether that is advantage or disadvantage, time will tell.

11:36 PM  
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11:13 PM  

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