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Before and After the May 4th Movement

Introduction The so-called "May fourth Movement" or "new culture" movement started in China approximately 1916, complying with the fail of the 1911 revolution to establish a republican government, and also continued through the 1920s. The importance equates to if not surpasses the an ext commonly known political transformations of the century. The movement articulated the contempt for timeless Chinese culture felt by countless Chinese intellectuals. These intellectuals blamed traditional culture for the dramatic and also rapid fall of China into a subordinate global position, and maintained the China"s social values impede China from equivalent the industrial and also military development of Japan and the West. The May 4th Movement takes its name from the huge popular protest that took location in China in may 1919, complying with the notice of the regards to the Versailles Treaty that concluded WWI. According to the treaty, Germany"s territorial rights in China to be not went back to the Chinese, as had been expected, but were rather turned over to the Japanese. The outpouring of famous outrage coalesced in a brand-new nationalism with repetitive cries because that a "new culture" that would reinstate China to its previous international position. The means out the China"s problems, plenty of believed, was to embrace Western notions that equality and democracy and also to give up the Confucian strategy which stressed hierarchy in relationships and also obedience. Science and democracy became the password words that the day.

Chen Duxiu, "Our final Awakening" (1916)

Chen Duxiu (1879-1942) was dean that Peking college in 1916, a leader that the "new culture" movement, and editor of new Youth magazine. In the excerpt below (from his 1916 essay "Our last Awakening") Chen laments the weak of China"s national strength and also civilization, however cautions those who think that democracy and constitutional government can be easily established in China. First, the argues, there have to be a adjust in the thought and also character of the human being such that their perspectives will assistance constitutional government. There is no a new culture, there will be no new political system. (This same dispute can be heard in the China the the 1990s.)

Chen Duxiu, 1879-1942 • "Our final Awakening" (1916)

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Chiang Kai-shek, "Essentials that the brand-new Life Movement" (Speech, 1934)

In 1934, Chiang Kai-shek (Jiang Jieshi, 1887-1975), the leader that China, heralded the "New Life Movement" which to be to rally the Chinese people against the Communists and build up moral in a country that to be besieged v corruption, factionalism, and opium addiction. Quite than turning away native Confucian worths as did the may 4 Movement, Chiang Kai-shek used the Confucian id of self-cultivation and correct living for this movement. Below we see an effort to revitalize what was seen by Chiang together the "essence" of gift Chinese.

Chiang Kai-shek (Jiang Jieshi), 1887-1975 • "Essentials that the brand-new Life Movement" (Speech, 1934)

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Mao Zedong, "Reform ours Study" (Speech, 1941)

Mao Zedong"s works from the 1930s, prior to the Communists took power, to mark the theme of "borrowing yet preserving" native a different perspective. Mao (1893-1976) was an arch-critic of timeless Chinese culture, yet in using the thoughts of Marx and Lenin (which are Western) to China he still cautioned the the Chinese Communists should not forget their very own history, and also that Communist ideological background must have actually Chinese characteristics.

In the decided excerpted below, Mao is scolding those in the Party who are blindly following the principles of Marx and also Lenin without adapting it come the Chinese situation, which Mao assumed would be made "better" by a transformation to wipe the end the old ways and establish new ones.

... ake the study of history. Return a couple of Party members and sympathizers have undertaken this work, it has not to be done in an arranged way. Many Party members room still in a fog about Chinese history, even if it is of the last century or of old times. Over there are many Marxist-Leninist scholars who cannot open up their mouths without citing ancient Greece; however as because that their own ancestors — sorry, they have actually been forgotten. There is no climate of serious study one of two people of current conditions or of previous history.

Third, take it the examine of worldwide revolutionary experience, the examine of the universal reality of Marxism-Leninism. Countless comrades seem to study Marxism-Leninism not to accomplish the demands of revolutionary practice, but purely because that the benefits of study. Consequently, despite they read, they can not digest. They can only cite odd quotations from Marx, Engels, Lenin and also Stalin in a one-sided manner, however are unable to apply the stand, philosophy and technique of Marx, Engels, Lenin, and also Stalin to the concrete study of China"s existing conditions and also her history or to the concrete analysis and systems of the difficulties of the Chinese revolution. Such an mindset towards Marxism-Leninism does a good deal that harm, specifically among cadres of the center and higher ranks.

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The three facets I have actually just mentioned, neglect of the examine of existing conditions, overlook of the study of history, and neglect the the application of Marxism-Leninism, all constitute an extremely bad format of work. The spread has actually harmed plenty of of our comrades.

There are some who space proud, rather of ashamed, of discovering nothing or very small of our own history. What is particularly far-ranging is that very few really know the history of the Communist Party that China and also the background of China in the hundred years due to the fact that the minus War. Fixed anyone has seriously taken up the examine of the economic, political, military, and social history of the last hundred years. Ignorant of their very own country, some human being can just relate tales of ancient Greece and other international lands, and also even this knowledge is fairly pathetic, consist of of odds and also ends from old international books.

For several decades, many of the reverted students from abroad have actually suffered indigenous this malady. Coming house from Europe, America, or Japan, they have the right to only parrot points foreign. They end up being gramophones and forget their duty come understand and also create brand-new things. This malady has also infected the Communist Party.

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From Selected functions of Mao, Beijing foreign Languages Press, 1971.

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Discussion Questions and Suggested Activity


What was meant by "Chinese essence" and "Western techniques?" Why was it important for Chinese thinkers at the finish of the century to build their proposal for change in this way? In each of the selections, what was basically Chinese around the proposed changes? What principles were adapted from abroad? just how does the nature and also proportion the the mix adjust over time? Why execute you think that, in the twenty century, China was receptive to a change and the foreign principles of Marxism?


Compare the situation of China in this duration with that of the footrest Empire, Japan, and Russia. Just how were their situations similar? Different? exactly how were their reform program similar? Different? to compare reformers such as Rammohun Roy the India, Muhammed Ali the the ottoman Empire, or Ito Hirobumi the Japan through the Chinese thinkers in this readings.

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