Another anniversary of the violent protests at Tiananmen has passed in predictable, if melancholy, fashion. The central Government, cracking down hard on potential dissidents, has blocked all efforts inside China to commemorate June 4, 1989, with any kind of organised public demonstration. And beyond the mainland, the passage of time, compassion fatigue and a sense of futility have reduced both the size and fervour of remembrance ceremonies in other places, including Hong Kong. This marks another short-term victory for the Chinese Communist Party. But it is small comfort. Its leaders want their public and the world to forget that, according to the best available estimates, between 700 and 2,700 Chinese were killed in or near Tiananmen Square 11 years ago, mostly by members of their own army. It is clear that, as the years pass, political organisers who try to keep the incident a burning memory and rallying cause receive decreasing active support at home and abroad. But there is little about this trend that should offer Chinese authorities any sense of permanent relief. They rule an increasingly complex and diverse society, and it is an open question how long a small group of self-selected leaders can command it effectively by the Leninist principles they revere. Their methods have both brought China unprecedented economic gains and fostered widespread social discontent; no one can be certain if this contradiction will endure indefinitely or someday erupt into civil disorder, the thing Beijing officials fear the most. Their handling of the Tiananmen anniversary once again demonstrates a continued intolerance towards any appeal for political change. And it would be unrealistic to expect party leaders to modify their public stance near the anniversary date; that might be construed as a sign of weakness. Yet the time has come for them to heed more closely the cries of those who seek peaceful domestic reform, and initiate new moves towards creating a more publicly transparent and accountable civil system. From their narrow perspective, this could help prolong a continued tenure in high office. But, much more importantly, it would be good for the country, its people and the outside world with which China interacts in increasingly complex ways. The intense distrust of Beijing leaders towards those who seek reform is understandable. The Chinese Communist Party was born as a political conspiracy against the established order; its current officials have become today's entrenched authorities, and they do not want new conspirators to supplant them in a rerun of history. Because so many early communists got their start as student protesters, their political heirs are especially suspicious of modern campus demonstrations. They fear the student ranks might include a potential Zhou Enlai or Deng Xiaoping, determined to overturn the ruling order at some future date. Despite outside demands, it is probably impossible for current leaders to reverse their Tiananmen verdict and name those responsible for the deaths; they were too personally involved. But given the passage of time, they could offer something on lesser demands, such as letting families mourn in public or releasing activists still held in prison. However, such things largely involve looking backwards. What is really needed is a more imaginative approach that looks forward. For example, one underlying cause of the Tiananmen protests was public revulsion against flagrant corruption by those in authority. Yet 11 years later, if President Jiang Zemin and Premier Zhu Rongji are correct, things have not improved much and may well have grown worse. Stories abound of bribe-taking officials, pliable judges and broken agreements. Though many convicted cadres have been jailed, and some even shot, the public must often pay for even small bureaucratic favours and remains deeply cynical. To prevent corruption from feeding yet another Tiananmen-type protest, there are many things a serious regime could do. For example, it could put judges on the central Government's payroll, rather than have them depend on local officials with vested interests in the outcome of corruption trials. It could encourage the press to investigate whether state policies are being carried out in reality. (Some of this occasionally does happen, exposing grave injustice.) And the Government could publish both laws and accounts of legal proceedings more systematically, making the rules known to all. Sceptics insist such things will never happen. They contend too many officials remain, above all, obsessed with using power to benefit themselves, their families and friends. But if enough near the top truly have a grander design, they should seize the opportunity to help create a more responsive and responsible society, and prove the cynics wrong.