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07/05/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Nicholas Kristof: China's Political Freedom Likely To Increase

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Interviewee: Nicholas D. Kristof, Columnist, The New York Times
Interviewer: Bernard Gwertzman, Consulting Editor, CFR.org

New York Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristof, along with his wife Sheryl WuDunn, won a Pulitzer Prize in 1990 for their coverage of the events in 1989 in Tiananmen Square where the Chinese government brutally cracked down on pro-reform protestors, killing hundreds. Reflecting on the events twenty years later, Kristof says that Chinese leaders have shown themselves to be exceptional economic managers. "[T]hat is one reason why China has more and more leverage internationally, and why we end up going to Beijing hat in hand." He says that for the majority of Chinese today, events of 1989 are not very significant, but among the elite and intellectuals Tiananmen certainly matters. "[T]here certainly are voices within the Communist Party who would like to see the verdict on Tiananmen changed, but who know that's not going politically anywhere right now--that would be too divisive."

Kristof says China is likely to evolve toward more political freedom, following Asian models such as South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, or Indonesia. "[I]n each of those cases you had a rising middle class, you had increasing education standards, [and] more and more interaction with the rest of the world. As a result, each of those things tended to undermine the dictatorship and create aspirations for more political participation in varying degrees," he says.

This week, while the American media is taking note of the terrible events that the occurred in Tiananmen Square twenty years ago, U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is in Beijing praising the Chinese economy and assuring the Chinese that the U.S. economy will stay strong in this difficult time. I wondered what this tells us about the future.

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