Russia’s “Tank Men”, 1991

This is a response to comment number 2 made by “Matthew Tan” in our recent post about China’s “Tank Man”.

In his comment, Matthew Tan posted a link to a PRC propaganda video, a pastiche of several clips of video footage of the events in Beijing on June 4 1989.    We do not challenge the validity of the video footage, and we see nothing really “new” in the video of “Tank Man”.

But what we do challenge is the Chinese narration which argues that the Chinese Army (PLA) exercised “restraint” on that day.

Yes indeed, the Chinese who drove the tank in front of which “Tank Man” risked his life, exercised restraint.    He did not kill “Tank Man”, and so he deserves to be honoured for his basic human decency.

But is it such a surprise that one Chinese soldier exercised restraint and acted with basic human decency?    Only the most vicious racist would say otherwise.   Of course there are many morally decent men in the PLA!

But the existence of one act, or several acts, of charity and decency among the PLA on that day, can not logically be extrapolated as evidence that the PLA as a whole acted with restraint.    It is a logical fallacy to argue so.

The existence of some PLA acts of decency and charity on that day does not change the fact that on the whole, the PLA did not act with restraint.    And the simple evidence of this is the fact that at least hundreds, or perhaps thousands, of Chinese citizens were massacred by the PLA on that day.

To put this in proper perspective, let’s take a look at a photo of several of Russia’s “Tank Men”, Russians who risked their lives to stop the Soviet Army tanks that the Communist Party sent into Moscow on 19 August, 1991:

Notice the Russian soldier still sitting in his tank turret, overwhelmed with grief and repentance for how he almost turned his guns upon his own people.

You see, when the Soviet Communist Party sent tanks into Moscow in 1991 to silence and to murder their fellow citizens,  there was not just one “Tank Man” in Moscow, but thousands.    Many of them were old women who reproached the Russian soldiers and remonstrated with them to refrain from using violence, and the Russian soldiers listened to their old Grandmothers, and their guns remained silent, and then the soldiers repented.    Consequently, only around three Russians were killed on that day, all of them through accidents like slipping and falling.

So don’t tell me that the PLA acted with “restraint”.   If the PLA as a whole had acted with restraint, then there would have been not just one, but thousands of “Tank Men” in Beijing on June 4 1989, and not thousands of dead but just two or three.

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5 Responses to Russia’s “Tank Men”, 1991

  1. johnsmith9876 says:

    Chinese logic dictates that any one good deed by a Chinese official or soldier will nullify millions of wrong doing by the Chinese government, and any one single wrong doing of an American or the American government justifies all wrong doing of the Chinese people and the Chinese government. It is the power of this logic that make China unique. Any any attempt to not honoring such logic hurts the feeling of all Chinese people, deeply.

  2. Ned Kelly says:


    As I am familiar with ancient Chinese ways of political argument, I will assume that what you meant in your above comment was a sarcastic criticism of the Chinese Communist Party.

    Yes, what you say is true according to the Chinese Communist Party: If JUST ONE Chinese soldier does something honourable, then his deed is to the credit of the Chinese Government… but then if JUST ONE American soldier does something evil, then his deed condemns the entire USA and all “Western” civilisation (except for some parts of what Karl Marx wrote ;-

    But one of the greatest things about the Chinese people, is that the best of them are TOO INTELLIGENT to think in such ways!

  3. C.A. Yeung says:

    John Smith,

    I disagree too. What you’ve mentioned is CCP logic. Not Chinese logic. I won’t use myself as an example because I am more of an Australian than a Chinese culturally. But people like: my late father, who was educated in China before 1949, HK pro-democracy activist Szeto Wah, Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo and 2000 Nobel Price in Literature recipient Gao Xingjian, just to name a few, they do/did not seem to share such logic.

    The tragedy is that many non-thinking young people in China today seem to be the ones who will easily fall victim to this kind of illogical logic. When I taught in China, every time a student tell me “westerners” did not understand China, I felt like putting his/her head in a bucket of water so that he/she would wake up and start to think for themselves. Of course there are many exceptions to this rule. But most of the really intelligent young people in China also learn very quickly to keep their mouth shut.

  4. Ned Kelly says:

    Catherine, you’re not pronouncing “understand China” correctly.

    To pronounce it correctly, you have to shake your head slowly while nodding downward in implied dismay, and slowly declare,

    “Whaaawwww, you don’ understan’ Chinaaaahhh”,

    and then that makes you a “Chinese intellectual”. Tsinghua University and CASS are swarming with them.

  5. MyLaowai says:

    Besides, the driver of that tank was himself executed as a result of his cowardice.

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