Courtesy Reuters

THE DANGER OF LIVING HISTORY

The memory of a brief conversation nags me whenever I think about Asia's future. The conversation took place shortly after the Tiananmen Square crackdown, during a secret meeting with a leader of China's underground democracy movement. We met in a quiet corner of a Beijing restaurant, where he tapped the table suspiciously to see if it was bugged. This was a man whose vision I admired, so I listened intently when the waitress stepped away and he leaned forward to disclose his plans for promoting human rights.

"We're going to kill Japanese," he said brightly.

"What?"

"We're going to kill Japanese businessmen. That'll scare them so they won't invest here. And then the government will really be screwed!"

"You're not serious?"

"Of course we're serious. We can't demonstrate these days and we can't publish. The only thing we can do for democracy is kill Japanese

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  • Nicholas D. Kristof is Tokyo Bureau Chief for the New York Times and co-author of China Wakes: The Struggle for the Soul of a Rising Power.
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