On a Tense Anniversary, China Isn't Taking Risks

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"Stability above all else." Ten years after the tanks rolled through Tiananmen Square, that was President Jiang Zemin's directive, echoing through the state-run newspapers, and it seems to be the theme of a few tense days during which Beijing is determined to snip the fuse of protest before it burns too brightly. A Hong Kong-based human rights watchdog reports that authorities have questioned nearly 100 people to warn them against holding any memorials or demonstrations, and have kept at least 34 of them in detention. Police have paid visits to homes of parents who lost sons in the brutal crackdown, turning away visitors and cutting phone lines. In Shanghai, some foreign newspapers delivered to hotels had articles and pictures snipped out. CNN -- which Beijing remembers as the means by which the world watched China's repression live -- has been banned from offices and apartment buildings until next Tuesday, to avoid any news reports or memorials that might stir dissident hearts.

There is literally no chance of a repeat -- Tiananmen Square is being resurfaced, and is blocked off by a wall of corrugated metal. On the spot where a dead soldier's body was burned by an angry mob, a shopping mall now stands -- a sign that priorities have changed. TIME Asia deputy editor Adi Ignatius says that "people in Beijing are no longer hung up on Tiananmen." Capitalism is more important than democracy now, and that's just fine with the government. But with critics in the West watching closer than ever for signs of a China they can hate, official Beijing is on edge. In one of the rare allusions to the anniversary by Chinese officialdom, Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhu Bangzao warned about the West's "anti-China propaganda." "In the political turmoil which took place in 1989, some of the anti-Chinese forces played an inglorious role. They did not have their way, and they will not have their way now." At a time of a slowing economy and rising unemployment, Beijing feels it must have its way this time. Stability above all else.