Our movement failed 30 years ago because we lacked support and experience in promoting democratic change. Many of us had pinned our hopes on the liberal factions of the Communist Party leadership to initiate changes from within the system, but we underestimated the power of the party elders. The massacre shattered our illusions, helping us see the brutality of China’s one-party rule.
We students were not the only naïve ones. Within a few years of the Tiananmen massacre, many Western governments lifted their sanctions against China. The West’s engagement policy — based on the hope that trade and investment would bring about democratic changes in China — prevailed.
But instead of instigating liberalization, Western capital fattened the pockets of the Communist Party leaders, giving them the power to prolong their rule by silencing dissent at home and expanding the country’s global clout.