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Like the Berlin Wall, China’s Great Firewall will also fall

Niall Ferguson

By Niall Ferguson (Original source The Boston Globe)

Thirty years ago, I was in love — with Berlin.

“As an impoverished British graduate student paid in weedy pounds not mighty deutschmarks, I could live there more cheaply than in Hamburg or Munich, and so I spent the summer of 1989 in a friend’s apartment in the Kurfürstenstrasse, dividing my time between the archives and journalism. West Berlin was not only inexpensive, it was fun. But the real attraction was the parallel world of “real existing socialism” next door, on the other side of the Berlin Wall.

In those days, under the four-power agreement between the victors of World War II, a British citizen in Berlin could travel pretty freely from the West to the East and back, though you had to pay for the privilege. But when you boarded the S-Bahn train at Friedrichstrasse on the eastern side of the city to head back to West Berlin, you’d be the only person on the train. It was an eerie journey, riding in solitude past the bullet-riddled Reichstag building. I’d read enough John le Carré to get a cheap thrill every time I made that trip.

And then, in the summer of 1989, things changed. Suddenly, I was no longer the only person on the train. In fact, I was surrounded by Hungarians and Poles because their governments had, for the first time, given them freedom to travel to the West. I got so excited about this that I wrote a story for one of the British papers, suggesting the headline: “The Berlin Wall is crumbling.” ‘

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