A Day For Us To Remember—and a Day China Wants To Forget

On the lessons drawn from D-Day and Tiananmen Square

T: Omaha Beach, June 6, 1944. B: Tienanmen Square 1989

The anniversaries of two crucial events of the 20th century occurred this week, and the commemorations could not be more different. On Thursday, President Joe Biden joined more than 20 world leaders, including Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelenskyy, for the 80th anniversary of the Allied landings in Normandy during World War II. But on Tuesday, there were no signs or speeches in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square marking the massacre that occurred there 35 years ago.

Both D-Day and Tiananmen exert a powerful influence on global affairs. Americans came away from World War II determined to never need to fight their way into the industrialized heartlands of Europe and East Asia again. The Chinese Communist Party saw that they could lose control of China, and Xi Jinping is determined to squelch ideological threats to his rule. These deeply rooted geopolitical and ideological dynamics are at the heart of today’s Sino-American standoff.

Even though many remember D-Day as a high point in American history, the main lesson most Americans took at the time was “let’s never do this again.” More Americans died on D-Day than in the two-plus decades of fighting in Afghanistan. The following two months of fighting in Normandy were more costly than the contemporary Soviet offensive. Over the 11 months between D-Day and victory in Europe, as many Americans lost their lives every three weeks as have in all the fighting since September 11, 2001.

After the war, Americans realized they could not afford again to let an adversary come close to dominating Europe or East Asia, particularly since the carnage of a nuclear war could dwarf the horrors of either world war. Americans of all stripes have preferred to protect democracies and free peoples and usually dislike dictators, but America’s primary goal has been to make the world safe for its people and allies of all kinds.

The Chinese Communist Party came closer to losing control than it had in decades, and it is trying to suppress that memory. In 1989, student protests began in Beijing and spread across China. The party’s leadership lost confidence that the Beijing garrison would stamp out the demonstrations, so they brought in other units and eventually launched an armored assault on Tiananmen Square. According to the British ambassador at the time, the regime killed more than 10,000 Chinese in one night. Commemorations have always been banned in China, and the government has cracked down on Hong Kong’s memorials since 2020. This year, they arrested several people who had posted on Facebook about Tiananmen for “seditious intent.”

The party may try to make others forget, but its leaders remember well what happened. After taking power, Xi, whose wife sang to the troops involved shortly after the shooting and bayoneting ceased, ordered party members to reflect on the Soviet Union’s collapse. He also issued Document Nine, ordering party members to “see the ideological situation as a complicated, intense struggle,” complete with a list of “false ideological trends, positions, and activities” to suppress. Among them are “Western Constitutional Democracy” and “universal values.” The message: The Americans are a threat, and let’s never come that close to losing power again.

Preventing another Tiananmen-style crisis requires, in the party’s eyes, more control over people around the world. Beijing has pressured Western companies like Marriott and the Houston Rockets to fire employees who comment on China’s human rights record. After Taiwan’s presidential inauguration, China encircled the island democracy with a series of military drills to impose “a strong punishment.” Indo-Pacific commander Samuel Paparo warned that the drills “looked like a rehearsal” for an invasion. Beijing may no longer desire to hoist a red banner over every capital on the planet, but it does want to curb everyone’s freedom of speech. And it wants Taiwan.

Quite a few Americans hope that keeping silent about Chinese communism will lower the temperature on ideological issues and allow for a more gentlemanly chess match with Beijing. Would that it were so simple. Xi released Document Nine when the Obama administration sought Chinese cooperation on climate change and other issues: If even Obama appeared to be an implacable ideological foe to Xi, what will he think about any president that pushes back?

The lessons of D-Day and Tiananmen are bringing the United States and China into a confrontation, but a different lesson from D-Day may reduce the possibility of war. The Allies dominated the air and waters around Normandy and still required great heroism and sacrifice to gain a foothold in northern France. China may not have that around Taiwan, and its amphibious assault would be one of the biggest gambles in military history. Making the battle as grim as possible for Xi is the best way to maintain peace and protect the American people and their allies.

Original News Source – Washington Free Beacon

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