Crowds throng around the Bran­denburg Gate fol­lowing the struc­ture’s official opening on December 22nd. | Wiki­media Commons

On November 9, 1989, the Berlin Wall fell. For nearly 30 years, the wall had been a daily reminder of the deep division between com­munism and lib­er­alism, a physical barrier to keep Western ideas, people, and resources from threat­ening the ironclad grip of the total­i­tarian gov­ernment.

The wall sep­a­rated fam­ilies, friends, lovers. The wall sep­a­rated people from their jobs. The wall kept people trapped in the stag­nating, oppressed, des­perate com­munist state — it had to, or else there would have been no one left to rule. Some were still so des­perate to flee that they attempted to escape, and upwards of 200 people were mur­dered trying.

For many in the West, the breakdown of the barrier between the free and oppressed people of Berlin sym­bolized the triumph of liberty over total­i­tar­i­anism. We thought that the rising stan­dards of living, entre­pre­neurial spirit, and increasing wages in West Berlin and the com­plete eco­nomic dis­parity of East Berlin would cause a uni­versal recog­nition that liberty were more con­ducive to the wealth and health of the people. After all, nobody was fleeing West Berlin.

But now, 30 years after the fall, the con­tinuing exis­tence of socialism and com­munism abroad would suggest oth­erwise.
In our cel­e­bration of the destruction of the Berlin Wall, we cannot overlook another 30th anniversary this year — that of the Tiananmen Square Mas­sacre. In the same year that liberty tri­umphed in Berlin, the Chinese gov­ernment brought in mil­itary men and tanks to quell student-led pro democracy demon­stra­tions asking for free speech and free press.

Tiananmen, in stark con­trast to the lib­er­ation of the people of Berlin, demon­strated the per­sisting will­ingness of total­i­tarian regimes to oppress and even murder their own people to remain in power.

In main­stream culture, we are led to believe that China is not an ide­o­logical threat to the West, that it will lib­er­alize with eco­nomic pros­perity, that the lives people live in China are not all that dif­ferent from those we will live in the United States.

This is a lie.

The cit­izens — rather, the sub­jects — of China are not able to enter a church until they’re 18 years old, they are required to profess their atheism to hold certain jobs, and they are only per­mitted to attend ser­vices that have been approved by the Chinese Com­munist Party (CCP). Muslims in China are being tar­geted and arbi­trarily detained in “re-edu­cation” camps, where they are forced to renounce their reli­gious beliefs, man­dated to assim­ilate into Han Chinese culture, and coerced into singing the praises of the CCP along the way. The Falun Gong Prac­ti­tioners, another spir­itual minority in China, have been the targets of forced organ har­vesting for decades, with an esti­mated 60,000 to 100,000 victims each year.

The devel­opment of China’s sur­veil­lance tech­nology has allowed the scope of sur­veil­lance to expand expo­nen­tially in the last decade. In some regions, the CCP has travel check­points every few miles, sur­veil­lance cameras on every corner, and facial recog­nition which allows them to monitor where you go, what you say, and whether you behave.

And this is only the beginning. The “court system” is merely an extension of the will of the CCP. The gov­ernment man­dates when and how many children you are allowed (a policy enforced by invol­untary abor­tions). The Chinese people are inter­ro­gated if they leave the country for “national security reasons”— and if your social credit score is too low, you aren’t allowed to travel at all.

The scariest part is that the West has grown indif­ferent to China’s actions, so long as they say the right things and promise future change.

We need to rec­ognize that when the CCP claims to value the rule of law, promote national security, and work for the bet­terment of the Chinese people that they don’t mean these things in the same way that West­erners do. To the CCP, the estab­lishment of the rule of law does not involve a reflection of the laws of nature and nature’s God, but an arbi­trary enactment of the will of the Com­munist Party. To the CCP, pro­moting national security means pro­tecting the total­i­tarian authority of the com­munist gov­ernment from Western ideas which would threaten it. To the CCP, working for the bet­terment of the Chinese people means man­dating assim­i­lation to their model of a perfect citizen who does not speak, act, or think out of turn.

Just because there’s not a wall doesn’t mean there’s not a dif­ference.

We cannot make the dan­gerous mistake of believing that the fight against com­munism has already been won. To believe that the fall of the Berlin Wall sig­nifies the ultimate victory of liberty is to igno­rantly overlook the reality of the world today and under­es­timate the strength of our adversary.

What we need is a new gen­er­ation that is willing to pick up the torch, act in accor­dance with the prin­ciples we profess to believe, and stand up to total­i­tar­i­anism in all forms, in all places. The people trapped under com­munist regimes today are equally as deserving of the ability to exercise free speech, practice their religion, and govern them­selves. And we need to be equally as willing to fight for their rights as we would be to defend our own.

Gwen Hel­lickson is a George Wash­ington Fellow and a senior studying eco­nomics.