Tiananmen Square, June 5, 1989
By Pierre Lemieux
Tank Man is a just-released 15-minute drama film by Robert Anthony Peters, a young libertarian producer. It dramatizes the decision and action of a young Chinese man to stop (temporarily) a column of tanks one day after the very violent attack against Tiananmen Square demonstrators in June 1989. You can watch the film on You Tube.
Sarah Skwire, a senior fellow at Liberty Fund, wrote:
It made me cry. It’s a beautiful story. If you get the chance to see it, you should.
After watching Peters’ film, I watched the 2006 PBS documentary The Tank Man, on the same tragic and heroic event. Although the documentary is a bit dated, it is also worth watching. Just ignore the few comments by social justice warriors who understand little about economics—for instance, that nobody can get immediately rich in a previously very poor society and that the Chinese economy did not grow because of tyranny. If economic growth were caused by tyranny, the whole world would have become rich some time ago; and China would have become much richer than Hong Kong. The documentary does confirm some conclusions of the economic analysis of tyranny, such as the difficulty of collective action and the oft-noted fact that when the tyrant uses all his force decisively and the soldiers shoot, topping the regime is very difficult.
Many questions remain unanswered about why a regime in the process of liberalization, as Deng Xiaoping’s government was pushing the Chinese state, would resort to such savage repression. Internal politics and infighting, as well as the interests of some factions in the state apparatus, must have played a role. (I raised some related questions in my Regulation review of Ronald Coase and Ning Wang’s book How China Became Capitalist; as well as in my more recent Regulation feature on “Peter Navarro’s Conversion.”)
One minimum conclusion: beware of Leviathan.