Jubilation and concern: 2019 marks 70th birthday of PRC and 30th anniversary of Tiananmen
2019 will be a year of many anniversaries for China. On October 1, the PRC will celebrate the 70th year of its existence, no doubt providing the leadership with many opportunities for festive speeches and ambitious announcements. But this year will also feature an anniversary the CCP is less keen on remembering. June 4 marks the 30th anniversary of the crackdown on the democracy movement in Tiananmen Square in 1989. Stability maintenance measures will be in full swing, as the CCP will do everything in its power to prevent social unrest or any form of commemoration.
During the jubilee year, party and state leader Xi Jinping will be measured against his plans to establish China as a global political and economic power. He will also have to stand the comparison with his predecessors Mao Zedong, the founder of the PRC, and with Deng Xiaoping, the architect of the country’s economic reform and opening policy.
Despite its confident rhetoric, regime security remains a major concern for the CCP. The Chinese government spends billions on “stability maintenance” each year. According to media reports, these expenditures may even exceed China’s military budget.
Concern for political and social stability will put the CCP in constant crisis management mode in 2019. Repressive actions initiated in 2018, from tightened ideological controls and crackdowns on independent religious groups to the establishment of internment camps in Xinjiang, can be expected to be continued and intensified.
Hong Kong is the only place in China where the Tiananmen crackdown has been traditionally remembered. The Special Administrative Region of China still functions under different rules, though Beijing has been trying to close the gap. The Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China has already announced that it will open a June 4 museum before the anniversary.
But June 4 is not the only sensitive anniversary in 2019. March 10 marks the 60th anniversary of the Tibetan Uprising in 1959. Its anniversary in 2008 saw widespread unrest. April marks the 20th anniversary of Falun Gong protests in Beijing, which resulted in the outlawing and systematic persecution of the movement. Ten years ago in July, major unrest broke out in Urumqi, Xinjiang. And, of course, the CCP also views the various anniversaries related to the dissolution of the Soviet bloc, including the fall of the Berlin Wall in November, as potential sources of political and social instability.