May Fourth Movement and the Term Paper

Excerpt from Term Paper :

20. China must consult Japan whenever foreign capital is needed in improving the infrastructure of Fukien Province.

21. China must give Japanese the right to preach in China.

On May Fourth, some 3,000 students from Peking University and other schools gathered together in front of Tiananmen, the Gate of Heavenly Peace that fronts the Forbidden City complex in the center of Beijing, and held a demonstration. They were furious at the news that had just come from the Paris Peace Conference. They shouted out such slogans as "Struggle for the sovereignty externally, get rid of the national traitors at home," "Do away with the 'Twenty-One Demands'," "Don't sign the Versailles Treaty." They demanded punishment of such figures as Cao Rulin, Zhang Zongxiang, and Lu Zongyu, who held important posts as diplomats. Despite the fact that China had sent nearly 100,000 soldiers to the Western front to assist the Allies, the country's delegates were told that the former German colonial territories would not be returned to Chinese sovereignty, but would be handed over to Japan. This news reached China by telegraph, and people in the capital received it quickly, among them students at Peking University. By mid-afternoon, the outraged students were on the march, protesting against imperialism and their own weak government. Finally, they arrived at the house of Cao Rulin, a prominent pro-Japanese minister in the Chinese government -- "and then," in the words of a western reporter of the time, "went mad." The students broke into the house, smashing the furniture and ornaments. The enraged students even burnt the house. The minister himself nimbly climbed over the back wall before the students could catch him, but a guest was not so lucky, and was beaten with an iron bed-leg until he was, in one observer's report, "covered in scars that looked like fish-scales all over his body." He was left for dead, though he did in fact survive. Having set the house on fire, the mob dispersed. The government of the Northern Warlords suppressed the demonstration and arrested many of the students. The next day, many more students in Beijing went on strike, and students in other parts of the country responded one after another.

In early June, to support the students' struggle, workers and businessmen in Shanghai also went on strike. So did workers in other places across the country. The center of the movement moved from Beijing to Shanghai. When Chinese laborers, merchants, and others began supporting the student protest, the movement grew into a national crisis. The working class emerged on the political stage and brought great pressure to bear on the government of the Northern Warlords, but the movement remained an intellectual one. "Far from having set China on the irreversible, glorious path of enlightenment, the event of 1919 marked the first of a series of incomplete efforts to uproot feudalism while pusuing the cause of a nationalist revolution. Intellectuals were at the forefront of this effort."

The six-week standoff between the students and the Chinese government forced the Chinese delegation at the Versailles Peace Conference to reject the peace treaty. As a result, the Chinese representatives in Paris didn't sign on the peace treaty. The May Fourth Movement won the initial victory.

The May Fourth Movement was thoroughly an anti-imperialist and anti-feudal revolutionary movement in Chinese modern history. Young students acted as pioneers in the movement. The Chinese working class went up on the political stage, and functioned as the main force in the later period of the movement. Li Dazhao, Chen Duxiu and other intellectuals directed and promoted the development of the movement, and played leading roles in it.

The May Fourth Movement covered more than 20 provinces and over 100 cities of the country. It had a broader popular foundation than the Revolution of 1911. Its great contribution lay in arousing the people's consciousness and preparing for the unity of the revolutionary forces.

The May Fourth Movement promoted the spreading of Marxism in China, and prepared the ideological foundation for the establishment of the Communist Party of China. The October Revolution pointed out the direction for the Chinese revolution.

The May Fourth Movement marked the beginning of the New Democratic Revolution in China. It also served as an intellectual turning point. It was the seminal event that radicalized Chinese intellectual thought. Previously Western style liberal democracy had a degree of traction among Chinese intellectuals, however the Versailles Treaty was viewed as a betrayal. Woodrow Wilson's Fourteen Points, cloaked as they were by moralism, were specifically, and Western centrist thought more generally, seen as hypocritical and were jettisoned by the Chinese intellectual community.

The adoption of Marxist/Leninism began to take hold on the left. It was during this time that communism was studied seriously by some Chinese intellectuals such as Chen Duxiu and Li Dazhao. "By late 1919 he had become not obly supportive of its aims, but had become something of a true believer in its main doctrines ... In Bejing, Li established the Society for the Study of Maxism at whose meeting he and other faculty lectured on Maxism."

The most radical figures of the era declared that the time had come for a "New Culture" that would utterly reject the old Confucian past which they felt had weakened China. Instead, they should look to the outside world for ways to save China. Among these radicals was the young Mao Tse-tung, who took part in founding the Chinese Communist Party in 1921. After Li befriended him, by finding him a job at Beijing University, Mao returned to his home to found a similar study group.

Mao also founded a journal of discussion called Hsiang River Review, in which he called for the masses to band together in order to get the upper hand, just as the imperialist powers had done. "In a similar fashion the nations of the West had defined themselves by their interaction; now it was time for China, which had been isolated, to do the same."

Correspondingly the right turned to fascism. Ultimately the Kuomintang would prove to be the dominant power on the right and would employ German military advisors through much of the 1930's. Its leader Chiang Kai-shek would even send one of his sons to serve in the German Wehrmacht during the 1938 Anschluss with Austria. While both the left and the right would initially co-operate for reasons of expediency, the irreconcilable philosophical conflict between these two sides, which would dominate the rest of Chinese history in the 20th century, was in many ways caused by the discrediting of moderate political thought.

By 1922, however, the Comintern, which supervised the activities of the CCP, began to press the Communists to cooperate with the Kuomintang in order to facilitate the rise of a Chinese republic. Under the influence of Lenin, and later Stalin, the Comintern argued that China wasn't ready for communism, for it needed to undergo a period of modernization and republicanism. The standing order, then, was for the CCP to ally itself with the KMT despite the rabid anti-communism of the latter.

The marriage was not exactly made in heaven. The Nationalists repeatedly used the CCP in order to mobilize strikes during the Northern Expedition, but then betrayed the communists when they gained control of major cities. The communists themselves began to operate independently as a party after the death of Sun Yat-sen in 1925; in particular, Mao Tse-tung began a party recruitment campaign among peasants that was phenomenally successful.

The relationship between the KMT and CCP eventually broke down completely despite Stalin's wishes. On August 1, 1927, a peasant army numbering 15,000 men attacked and seized the city of Nanchang in Kiangsi in southern China. Although the attack eventually failed, this brought the CCP in direct military confrontation with the KMT.

The Communist Party itself split into two factions. On the one hand were the members directly under the control of the Comintern and Josef Stalin; on the other were the rural agitators that had been raising peasant armies for the communist struggle. Principle among these rural leaders was Mao Tse-tung who had been phenomenally successful at raising a peasant army in Hunan province. Mao began a series of uprisings, but the Comintern severely rebuked him. The Comintern believed that a real communist revolution would be a revolution of workers rather than peasants, so it began sponsoring a series of urban uprisings. When these failed, it became evident that Mao and his peasant army was the real player in communist politics.

The fact remains that in China communism had to adapt itself to very special conditions -- those of a large rural country, deprived of its economic independence and the victim of terrible exploitation, those of a semi-colonized China where the industrial proletariat was too weak and too wretched to play any decisive role; and those of an armed conflict which was to on continuously from 1927 until…

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