“They were vicious … That shows you the power of strength”

Chinese soldiers fire on student protesters in Tiananmen Square, June 3, 1989.
Chinese soldiers fire on student protesters in Tiananmen Square, June 3, 1989.


As anti-Trump protests continued for second night in cities across the country, we should recall the president-elect’s past praise for the Tiananmen Square massacre in when the Chinese government slaughtered hundreds of student pro-democracy demonstrators on the night of June 3-4, 1989.

In a 1990 interview with Playboy, Trump was asked about his impressions of the Soviet Union after an unsuccessful trip to Moscow to try to make a hotel deal:

I was very unimpressed. Their system is a disaster. What you will see there soon is a revolution; The signs are all there with the demonstrations and picketing. Russia is out of control and the leadership knows it. That’s my problem with Gorbachev. Not a firm enough hand.

The interviewer pressed him: “You mean firm hand as in China?”

When the students poured into Tiananmen Square, the Chinese government almost blew it. Then they were vicious, they were horrible, but they put it down with strength. That shows you the power of strength.

In one of the early Republican debates all the way back in March, Trump defended his Playboy comments:

I was not endorsing it,” Mr. Trump said. “I said that is a strong, powerful government that put it down with strength. And then they kept down the riot.

As the New York Times pointed out the next day, Trump’s use of the word “riot” to describe the pro-democracy protests was exactly the same characterization the Chinese government used in justifying their use of lethal force to quell the demonstrations.

After January we will get to see how a Trump presidency will respond to peaceful opposition to his policies and resistance to the forces of hate and bigotry his election has unleashed.

The paranoid, self-pitying, and defensive reaction he posted to Twitter last night does not inspire confidence.