Ten years ago today I sat in Bella Napoli near Xinjiekou in Nanjing chatting with a good friend of mine about something I'd seen that day. Between mouthfuls of the excellent seafood salad they serve there, I described how suddenly, for reasons not immediately apparent to anyone, police vans had showed up outside each of the gates of South East University, where I was studying Chinese, and the same appeared to be happening at other universities in the city.
He just leaned across the table and said "Guess what happened 15 years ago today?". Even then it took a little while to click - you see, whilst the 1989 massacre in and around Tiananmen Square in Beijing is commonly mentioned in histories of the country, it is hardly kept present in the minds of people living in the People's Republic of China, even those who normally try to keep on top of events.
The defensive posture of the government is therefore a bit contradictory given their largely-successful efforts to keep the people of the country from even thinking about the massacre, in which perhaps as many as 3,000 people were killed. Probably very few of the Chinese-born students at South East University had even thought about the massacre that day in 2004, so to prepare for potential trouble in the fashion they did was to risk reminding them.
The response then, and perhaps more so now, speaks a of deep-seated fear amongst China's rulers that people will remember what happened, and call the communist party to account for it. If China really was as politically stable as it's leaders try to present it as being, if young people really were as forgetful as this preposterous article in Global Times presents them as being, they would not be busy trying to censor even oblique references to an event that happened 25 years previously, nor arresting foreign journalists for showing photographs of it, nor would they be "inviting" foreign students on compulsory trips announced on short notice to take them out of the capital on that day.
Instead, China continues to be a country in which the government at least behaves like its rule is insecure. Perhaps they're right about that.