The ideas was pretty simple and sounded pretty good at the time. Get China to open its economy and embrace capitalism, and the democratic institutions and values would follow. But things haven’t played out how we expected in the decades since Tiananmen Square. The capitalism surely changed China’s trajectory and quality of life. But the values that changed may have actually been ours. Artist and activist Ai WeiWei with a history lesson and some thoughts on today’s showdown. Think ‘sanctions’ will trouble China? Then you’re stuck in the politics of the past. “Did capitalist competition, that ravenous machine that can chew up anything, change China? The regime’s politics did not change a whit. What did change was the US, whose business leaders now approached the Chinese dictatorship with obsequious smiles. Here, after all, was an exciting new business partner: master of a realm in which there were virtually no labor rights or health and safety regulations, no frustrating delays because of squabbles between political parties, no criticism from free media, and no danger of judgment by independent courts. For European and US companies doing manufacture for export, it was a dream come true.”