Last week at Hong Kong’s Chinese University, a crowd gathered around a replica of the statue Goddess of Democracy. Beneath hand-lettered banners calling on fellow students to “shoulder their historic mission,” several generations of student union presidents discussed a proposal to boycott classes. Read more at: https://www.thenation.com/article/what-hong-kongs-occupy-movement-can-learn-history/.
In between memory and forgetting, there is commemoration. Twenty-five years ago this month, a protest in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square ended in tragedy. As historical event, the contours of the Tiananmen student movement have long since entered textbooks in the West.
Last Saturday, April 26, marked the official opening of Hong Kong’s June 4th Museum, the world’s first permanent exhibition on the 1989 Tiananmen student movement. On the eve of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the pro-democracy protests and Beijing’s brutal crackdown, the museum—sponsored by the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements—opened with another kind of protest on its doorstep.
As the 120th anniversary of his birth approaches this month, Mao Zedong has been reinvented. Shaoshan, the village in Hunan Province where the Chinese leader grew up, has spent over 1.9 billion yuan (about $312 million) to restore his former residence and a nearby memorial plaza, and is planning festivities such as a mass singing of the Cultural Revolution anthem, “The East is Red.”
To conclude my Chinese history lecture course at the University of Kentucky, I introduce my undergraduates to the concept of “soft power” and suggest that Confucius Institutes are emblematic of China’s cultural diplomacy, which aims to project a peaceful image abroad.
One of the wonderful things about studying Chinese history is that the field is so vast, the language so complex, and the contemporary interest so great that I will never be bored. In teaching a course on modern China, one always gets to add to the syllabus.
To launch the second semester of the “Year of China,” the University of Kentucky invited John Kamm, founder and director of The Dui Hua Foundation, to be our keynote lecturer. Like our keynote speaker for fall semester, Jeffrey Wasserstrom, Kamm’s career has spanned several decades and his work has also been inspired by the student movement in 1989.