2. November 4th: Yuan Shikai declares the Guomindang an illegal organisation. Delegates from the Soviet Comintern visit Shanghai and meet with left-wing activists. to promote the creation of a Beijing student union. Intellectual Revolution in Modern China (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University), 1960. That this challenge is now framed in the name of Marx and Mao makes it even more worrisome for the Party-state, which, under Xi Jinping, has pushed to reintroduce the mandatory study of state-interpreted Marxism at all levels. October 6th: Comintern agent Mikhail Borodin arrives to advise both the CCP and the Guomindang. The representatives of the Chinese government put forth the following requests: The Western Allies dominated the meeting at Versailles, and paid little heed to Chinese demands. In 1919, China had no effective national government, meaning that Chinese negotiators in France found it difficult to push their claims.

On the other hand, May Fourth gives us a historical case in which it was exactly the voluntary overcoming of social categories that allowed the students to be most innovative and revolutionary—in other words, the students’ decision not to behave as ‘students’ but to insist that they were citizens was, for the state, the most radical element of their protest. As a consequence, China refuses to sign the Treaty of Versailles.

China was responsible for its own political development and its own fate.

The Chinese Communist Party traces its origins back to the tumultuous weeks of mid-1919. Tensions only eased after the government released student prisoners, sacked several key ministers and instructed its negotiators in Europe not to sign the Versailles treaty. The next day, students in Beijing as a whole went on strike and in the larger cities across China, students, patriotic merchants, and workers joined protests. During the May Fourth era (1915–1925), Chinese intellectuals waged the New Culture Movement, questioning the relevance and validity of the Confucian tradition while searching for new ideas from abroad. “Reform and Opening,” the program Deng Xiaoping launched 40 years ago, is in many ways a reimagining of “Chinese essence; Western application” to mean economic growth without political reform. As an anti-imperialist, he was skeptical of western ideas and literature. Fabio LANZA is Professor of Modern Chinese History in the Departments of History and East Asian Studies of the University of Arizona.

March 21st: As Nationalist troops approach Shanghai, they are assisted by Zhou Enlai and other communists, who organise a general strike and urban uprising. At the forefront of this was the New Culture Movement, a broad collection of scholars, writers and intellectuals, based mainly in Beijing and Shanghai. 1916-27: the Warlord Era. But the narratives of vacuous nationalism and failed liberal democracy reproduce only two strains of the complex political legacy of May Fourth. Finally, the modern relevance of Confucianism was centered on the notion that Confucian values were better than Western ones. In response to western culture's primary concentration on rational analysis, China's neotraditionalists argued that this was misguided, especially in the practical, changing milieu of the world.


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