May 35th

I have nothing special to add about the events in China 22 years ago, except simply to observe that they happened. It is worth continuing to note this anniversary in the rest of the world, since the authorities have all but effaced its memory within China. (Photo from May 1989; source here, via Kathleen McLaughlin.)

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In my experience in talking with college students in China, it's not a question of having to be "careful" when referring to the events in Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989, or using code like "May 35th." Even if you refer specifically to that time and place, most young Chinese that I've met have no idea what you are talking about. This is just an arbitrary date to them -- not one with resonance, like September 11, 2001, or November 22, 1963.

As Robert Sullivan has pointed out, the main Chinese news organs have room today to talk about the ongoing drought, and the epidemic of cheating on college-entrance exams, and the international good-will tour of Xi Jinping, the next-president anointee. But not for wallowing in an awkward part of the country's past. (English version of People's Daily front page today.)

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The Democracy ReportLet's look on the bright side. Conceivably "June 4" will become a noted date in China once more, as the day when a Chinese player won a Grand Slam tennis championship for the very first time. Nothing against the plucky Francesca Schiavone, but Li Na of China -- who as I write is a few hours away from meeting Schiavone in the French Open women's finals -- is of course a talented athlete but also an immensely charming personality. For later discussion: how typical the unguarded, unpretentious sense of humor she displays (watch this interview starting at time 1:00) is of many people we met in China. Who deserve full recognition and remembrance of the ups and downs their country has been through.
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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.

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