'Robocop' To The Rescue

Who can forget the images of 1989, when country-bumpkin Chinese soldiers in rumpled uniforms gunned down students on Tiananmen Square? It won't happen that way again. On the anniversary of the June 4 crackdown, unrest is simmering across China, and Beijing has unveiled a modern new look and tacit new rules for what is now the capital's elite corps of antiriot police. Here's the strategy:

Buy peace if you can. When 2,000 metalworkers who had not been paid in up to two years blocked highways and clashed with police in the "Rust Belt" city of Liaoyang in May, authorities retreated. Quiet returned after the deputy mayor promised that wages and pensions would be paid soon.

Let others do the dirty work. Since last summer, devotees of the banned Falun Gong sect have come from all over China to stage silent protests in Beijing. Now Beijing is asking provincial police to come to the capital and round up their own locals.

Smother student protests with kindness. Last month 2,000 students began protesting an alleged cover-up of the rape and murder of a female student at Beijing University. Authorities banned a memorial service, then reversed themselves and devoted a corner of the campus to commemorations.

If all else fails, scare 'em. Last week Beijing unveiled black high-tech armored uniforms, imported from France at up to $2,700 apiece. The futuristic "Robocop" riot gear provides "head-to-toe protection," according to the state-run Beijing Evening News. They resist water, flame, "even Molotov cocktails." But if it comes to that, the new strategy has fallen short.